NCF Nation: Jackson Jeffcoat

AUSTIN, Texas -- The blueprint of what Cedric Reed hopes to achieve in 2014 has already been laid out.

That’s because Jackson Jeffcoat did it all last fall: Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, All-Big 12, consensus All-American, Ted Hendricks Award, team MVP, team captain, soon-to-be NFL draft pick.

“Every time I looked up on Twitter,” Reed said, “he was winning a new award.”

[+] EnlargeCedric Reed
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesCedric Reed is ready to grab the spotlight on Texas' defensive line.
And Reed couldn’t have been happier for his teammate and friend. He’d continued a proud tradition of elite defensive ends at Texas, following in the footsteps of the likes of Brian Orakpo, Alex Okafor, Sam Acho, Sergio Kindle and several other NFL ends.

Reed knows he’s next and that he’ll play under Texas-sized expectations in 2014. He chose to return for his senior season because he wants to go out and earn all those things his predecessors achieved.

“There were a lot of goals I set coming into college,” Reed said.

He showed the potential to be as good as any of those former Longhorn ends in his first season as a starter, with 79 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, 16 QB pressures and a team-high five forced fumbles.

For most of the season, Reed was as good as Jeffcoat and sometimes better, with eight of his sacks coming in Big 12 play and typically at critical moments. And that was just the start.

The 6-foot-6 senior is bulking up beyond the nearly 260 pounds he played at last season and believes he’s prepared to take over where Jeffcoat left off. If this all goes as planned, Reed is about to become a national name.

But there is change, and lots of it, to face over the next few months. The most obvious: a new coaching staff and a new defense. New defensive line coach Chris Rumph has already made a big impression after one week of spring practice.

“His credibility comes from Alabama. He has a lot of guys in the league,” Reed said. “But I’m learning from him how to be a man, mostly. He’s got on me these last few days just about little stuff I can fix. It’s not stuff so much I can fix on the football field, but more of as a man that I can carry over to the football field.”

Playing for Rumph means learning a new language and terminology, but Reed says that hasn’t been a stumbling block so far. He’s happy to receive some next-level learning, especially when it comes to technique.

One week in, it’s already obvious to Reed how much this Longhorn program is about to change under Charlie Strong’s watch. That hit the players quickly during their first practice on Tuesday, when Strong and his staff turned the pace up a noticeable notch.

“After the first five periods, I think I was winded,” Reed said. “I was like, yeah, this is going to be different.”

Then there will be mastering the defense that Strong and coordinator Vance Bedford devise. The new head coach knows he’s working with some big-time talent up front as he plans a multiple defense that can roll out 4-3 or 3-4 looks.

“You look at those guys up front with Cedric and Malcom [Brown] and Tank [Jackson[ and [Shiro] Davis, you’ve got some guys you can move around and guys that are in place that are big-bodied guys,” Strong said. “But they’re also athletic enough that you can take your parts and move them around and put them where you need to.”

This is a defensive line Strong can build his scheme around, one he can trust to get pressure. He also needs to be able to trust Reed as a leader in the locker room.

That’s a role Reed is happily accepting. He’s played with enough vocal defenders that he said he got by on being quiet and simply putting in his work. He doesn’t want it to be that way anymore.

He’s speaking his mind now, telling teammates what they need to hear and getting on them for the little stuff. Reed says Rumph has been hinting at this lately. Texas’ defensive line needs starters who aren’t afraid to speak up.

“Guys look up to me more. You can tell,” Reed said. “It is a leadership role that you take as a senior, that you finally realize once you get on the field with all the guys that they give you the pathway to go first and stuff like that. I feel like I am a lot stronger, I am a lot faster, I put on some weight -- a lot of us put on a lot of weight -- and I feel like I know the game a lot more.”

He can thank Jeffcoat and all his predecessors for setting the example. The former Texas defensive end likes to tell Reed: “You’ve got to do better than me.” This fall, Reed plans to prove it.

Big 12's best of 2013

January, 14, 2014
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The college football season is over, and what a season it was. Picked fifth in the preseason, Baylor won its first Big 12 championship. Oklahoma, left for dead in early November, rose out of the ashes to win 11 games. Oklahoma State had some of the most puzzling losses and most dominant wins, as well. And Texas, well, the soap opera is finally over.

Here’s a look back at the 2013 season with our Best of the Big 12:

[+] EnlargeBob Stoops
Chuck Cook/USA TODAY SportsBob Stoops and Trevor Knight delivered the Big 12 a signature BCS win in 2013.
Best coach: Art Briles, Baylor. Bob Stoops deserves a bunch of credit for how his Sooners surged late in the season, but Briles' leading Baylor to its first Big 12 championship was no small feat. The Bears led the nation in scoring, and beat Oklahoma and Texas convincingly. The bowl game was disappointing. The season overall was not.

Best player, offense: Even though he cooled off later in the year, Baylor’s Bryce Petty still finished fifth nationally in QBR in his first season as a starting quarterback. He threw 32 touchdown passes and did a masterful job taking care of the ball, tossing only three interceptions.

Best player, defense: There wasn’t really anyone who clearly stood out here. TCU cornerback Jason Verrett, Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State linebacker Caleb Lavey, Kansas State defensive end Ryan Mueller and Baylor linebacker Eddie Lackey all had their moments. Texas defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat, however, was the only defensive player from the league to win a national award. He was given the Ted Hendricks Award, which goes to the defensive end of the year in college football. Jeffcoat tied for third nationally with 13 sacks.

Best moment: The league has been waiting for a signature victory to hang its hat on. Oklahoma finally gave the Big 12 that victory in the Allstate Sugar Bowl with a stunning 45-31 win over Alabama. Behind freshman quarterback Trevor Knight, the Sooners controlled the game from the second quarter on. Defensively, linebacker Eric Striker and end Geneo Grissom were unblockable, combining for five sacks of Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron. Offensively, Knight carved up the Crimson Tide for 348 passing yards and four touchdowns. It wasn’t even that Alabama played poorly. It was that Oklahoma played terrifically.

Best rivalry game: Maybe new Texas coach Charlie Strong will bring some more juice to the Red River Rivalry. Lately, it’s been second fiddle to Bedlam. In quality. In drama. In impact. Once again, Bedlam carried major Big 12 title implications, and once again, the game delivered a thrilling ending. Backup quarterback Blake Bell found Jalen Saunders in the corner of the end zone with 19 seconds remaining for the Sooners’ first offensive touchdown of the game, lifting Oklahoma to a win and spoiling Oklahoma State’s shot at a Big 12 title.

Best play: Late in the third quarter of Kansas State’s game against Baylor, Mueller stripped Petty while simultaneously recovering the fumble near the sideline. The acrobatic play gave K-State good field position in Baylor territory, and the Wildcats would go on to take a 25-21 lead. Baylor ultimately outlasted the Wildcats, but Mueller, who also had two sacks in the game, was a big reason why the Bears' high-powered offense was held in check most of the afternoon.

[+] EnlargeTyler Lockett
Jasen VinloveUSA TODAY SportsKansas State's Tyler Lockett had seven 100-yard receiving games this season, including two games with more than 200 yards receiving.
Best performance in a loss: The Wildcats eventually lost, but K-State receiver Tyler Lockett could not be covered by the Sooners in their game in late November. Lockett kept the Wildcats in the game, reeling in 12 catches for 278 yards and three touchdowns, prompting Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops to go ballistic on the sideline multiple times. Lockett was also a monster against Texas and Michigan. All told, he totaled 35 catches, 631 yards and six touchdowns against those three programs alone.

Best individual defensive performance: Mueller against Baylor, Verrett shutting down Baylor wideout Antwan Goodley, and Gilbert picking off Texas twice all deserve honorable mention. But Striker gets the nod for wreaking havoc on the two-time defending national champ in New Orleans. Striker had three sacks and forced a fumble after barreling around the edge to slam into McCarron’s blind side. The ball popped loose and Grissom returned the fumble for the game-winning touchdown.

Best true freshman: Texas Tech quarterback Davis Webb had to split time with fellow true freshman Baker Mayfield for most of the season. When Mayfield left unexpectedly in December, the job was finally Webb’s to run with. And run he did. Actually, he threw. Against No. 14 Arizona State in the National University Holiday Bowl, Webb completed 28 of 41 passes for 403 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions in one of this year’s best bowl performances from a quarterback. Webb had a solid freshman season, leading the Red Raiders to fourth-quarter wins over TCU and West Virginia. But if the bowl was any indication, the best is yet to come.

Best quote: “So much for the big bad wolf, huh?” -- Bob Stoops, after the Sooners defeated Alabama.

Instant Analysis: Oregon 30, Texas 7

December, 30, 2013
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SAN ANTONIO -- No. 10 Oregon beats Texas 30-7 in the Valero Alamo Bowl. A few thoughts on the game:

It was over when: Oregon safety Derrick Malone picked off a Case McCoy pass over the middle midway through the fourth quarter, then went 39 yards for the score. The Ducks went up 30-7 on McCoy’s second pick-six of the night.

Game ball goes to: Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, who was masterful both on the ground and through the air, throwing for 253 yards and a touchdown and rushing for 133. A month off to heal a nagging knee injury did him plenty of good.

Stat of the game: McCoy finished with 48 passing yards and no touchdowns. The two passes he completed to Oregon defenders were returned for a total of 75 yards and two touchdowns.

Unsung hero: Oregon safety Avery Patterson, who gave the Ducks a 7-0 lead just 68 seconds into the game when he picked off a McCoy pass and scored on a 37-yard return. The senior added nine tackles in his final game.

Best call: The Ducks’ first score on offense came when Mariota, with Jackson Jeffcoat fast approaching, flipped to Josh Huff on a shovel pass and he found the end zone from 16 yards out. Huff finished with 104 receiving yards and a school-record 1,140 in 2013.

What Oregon learned: If Mariota makes good on his promise to return in 2014, Oregon should once again have a preseason top-10 team and plenty of firepower to make a run at a college football playoff bid.

What Texas learned: Nothing it didn’t already know, really. Its Case McCoy-led offense can pound the rock but couldn’t keep up with elite teams and capitalize on opportunities. The Longhorns couldn’t give Mack Brown a satisfying sendoff. Now it’s time to find his successor.

To watch the trophy presentation of the Valero Alamo Bowl, click here.

Conference wrap: Big 12

December, 16, 2013
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Dealing with the likes of Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden and Landry Jones had become commonplace for Big 12 defenses in previous seasons. In 2013, defensive coordinators around the conference got their revenge, kind of, as the Big 12 scoring average dropped to 31.7 points per game, the lowest since 2010.

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsBryce Petty proved he was a worthy successor to past Baylor quarterbacks.
Uncertainty at the quarterback position was the overriding theme throughout the Big 12 except at one school: Baylor. The Bears featured the best quarterback in the league in Bryce Petty, the junior who took control of Art Briles’ offense and looked like a veteran in his first season as a starter while leading the Bears to their first Big 12 championship. While quarterback troubles handcuffed several offenses, playmakers such as Kansas State’s Tyler Lockett, West Virginia’s Charles Sims and others around the conference still found ways to impact games.

The defenses became the foundation of Big 12 title runs as Baylor, Oklahoma State and Texas used improved defenses to put themselves in title contention on the season’s final day. Baylor safety Ahmad Dixon, Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert and Texas defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat were among the Big 12’s best defenders.

The season began with Oklahoma State as the favorite in a wide-open race but few foresaw the Bears’ 11-1 season and outright conference title. BU played the role as the Big 12’s most impressive team week after week until a disappointing loss in Stillwater but didn’t let it derail their hopes for a title, defeating TCU and Texas to capture the title when OSU lost to Oklahoma to end the season.

Things weren’t quite as rosy at TCU, where a combination of injuries and turnovers took the Horned Frogs out of the conference title race early in the year. Cornerback Jason Verrett & Co. did their job on defense but got very little help from the offense on the way to a disappointing season for a team that Big 12 players picked as the league favorite.

Offensive MVP: Petty. The quarterback position was the lone question about the Bears' offense heading into the season. Could their new triggerman excel like Griffin and Nick Florence? Petty passed the test with flying colors, passing for 3,844 yards and 30 touchdowns with just two interceptions.


Defensive MVP: Jeffcoat. The Longhorns’ senior didn’t run away from the competition for this award the way Petty did for the offensive version. But a strong end to the year and sitting atop top the Big 12 in sacks (12) and was second in tackles for loss (18) made him the Big 12's top defender in 2013.


Newcomer of the year: Sims. The Houston transfer didn’t envision the struggles he experienced during his lone season in Morgantown, W.Va. Yet, he was one of the league’s best and most consistent playmakers despite the musical chairs alongside him. His 129.1 all-purpose yards per game average was second in the Big 12.

Biggest surprise: Baylor. The Bears finished fifth in the Big 12 preseason poll as question marks about Petty and their defense dragged them down in the minds of many. Yet Petty and the defense rose to the occasion, becoming the driving forces behind the program’s breakthrough season that sees them playing in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.


Biggest disappointment: TCU. Bigger things were expected from Gary Patterson's squad. Injuries to Casey Pachall and Devonte Fields hurt TCU’s chances but sloppy, uncreative offense did more damage. While the defense played well enough to be in the title hunt, the offense dragged the squad into the bottom half of the Big 12 standings.

Best game: Bedlam. Few people gave Oklahoma a chance to knock off OSU, which entered the game with the chance to make its second Fiesta Bowl berth in three years. But OU answered a late touchdown from the Cowboys with a touchdown of its own in the game’s final moments to destroy OSU’s Fiesta Bowl dreams and catapult OU into the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

What to watch in the Big 12: Week 15

December, 5, 2013
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Two games left. A conference title up for grabs. Here we go. The Big 12 storylines to keep an eye on this weekend:

1. Crowning a champion: The Big 12 didn’t need a big prime-time showdown at AT&T Stadium to end up with a marquee final weekend of conference play. The league’s schedule makers should get holiday bonuses for their work this year, pitting the Big 12’s four best teams against each other on championship weekend with a conference title on the line. Odds are Oklahoma State wraps it all up with a victory over Oklahoma, but if the Sooners pull the upset all eyes will be on Texas-Baylor to decide who gets the trophy.

[+] EnlargeMike Gundy
Brett Deering/Getty ImagesMike Gundy has Oklahoma State are focused on beating Oklahoma and earning their second Fiesta Bowl trip in three years.
2. Can the Pokes do it again? Mike Gundy likened Oklahoma State’s run in the month of November to playoff football. You’ve got to win one game to make the next one count. The Cowboys control their own destiny now thanks to the beatdowns they handed Texas and Baylor in back-to-back weeks, and they get the Sooners at home in Stillwater. Now they have to capitalize and secure their second Fiesta Bowl trip in three years.

3. Day of the underdog: Texas fans will be unabashedly rooting for Oklahoma on Saturday. Yep, seriously. They have to. Even Case McCoy admitted he’s pulling for a Sooners victory, even if it makes him “sick to my stomach.” The Sooners have a chance to play spoiler and knock OSU from atop the Big 12 standings. If they pull that off, can Texas notch an even more surprising victory in Waco? The Longhorns have embraced the underdog role ever since starting 1-2.

4. Finishing Baylor’s dream season: The loss to OSU knocked Baylor out of the national title hunt, damaged its hopes of playing in a BCS bowl and might’ve killed Bryce Petty’s chances of winning the Heisman. Yet the Bears still have a ton to play for this weekend. This can still go down as the best season in school history, especially if Baylor wins a share of the Big 12 title.

5. Who’s the DPOY? Good luck finding a consensus about who should win the Big 12’s Defensive Player of the Year honor this season, and this weekend might not change that much. Still, several candidates have a chance to make a strong final impression, including Oklahoma State linebacker Caleb Lavey and cornerback Justin Gilbert as well as Texas defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat.

6. Oklahoma’s next BMOC: Trevor Knight is another guy who could definitely use a strong finale to help his reputation not only for 2013 but, more importantly, for the offseason and beyond. Knight is coming off nice performances against Iowa State and Kansas State. An upset win over OSU could do wonders for proving he is Oklahoma’s quarterback of the future.

7. Mack Brown: What’s on the line? Who knows what this Baylor game means for Brown’s future at Texas, other than this: If Texas wins, good luck firing a coach who brings a Big 12 trophy home after leading his team from 1-2 to 9-3. And if the Bears win a blowout, well, buckle up for another rumor-filled week in Austin.

8. December weather: Introducing the X factor in both of this weekend’s Big 12 games: Winter Storm Cleon. The high and low for Stillwater on Saturday are 28 and 17. Waco is expecting freezing rain and temperatures in the high 20s. We could be in for some very messy, conservative football.

9. Closing out The Case: It’s a historic weekend for Baylor, which plays its final home game at 63-year-old Floyd Casey Stadium on Saturday. The last time a current Big 12 school opened a brand-new stadium was 1980, when West Virginia built Milan Puskar Stadium. The Bears are breaking out retro uniforms and expect the largest crowd ever in stadium history.

10. The Sunday bowl shakeout: The bowl projections for the Big 12’s six bowl-eligible teams are somewhat obvious at this point but could be in for a big shakeup depending on how these final two games play out. You know the committees of the AT&T Cotton, Valero Alamo and Buffalo Wild Wings Bowls will be watching closely and could face difficult decisions if we see some upsets.

Big 12 weekend rewind: Week 14

December, 2, 2013
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Taking stock of Week 14 in the Big 12:

Team of the week: After trailing by three scores for most of the game, Iowa State came roaring back with 17 straight points in the fourth quarter and ultimately prevailed 52-44 in a stunning, triple-overtime comeback. Freshman QB Grant Rohach was terrific in his second career road start, accounting for five touchdowns, including the winning toss on the first play of the third overtime. The defense forced four turnovers to help spearhead the rally. And punter Kirby Van Der Kamp converted a fake punt into a huge first down, igniting the comeback early in the fourth quarter. As a result, Iowa State finished off an otherwise disappointing season with a thrilling road victory and a two-game winning streak to build on for 2014.

[+] EnlargeRyan Erxleben, David Brenner, Keenon Ward
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsTexas Tech punter Ryan Erxleben (26) celebrated perhaps the Red Raiders' only highlight Thursday.
Disappointment of the week: After a fake punt touchdown gave them a 7-0 lead, the Red Raiders basically no-showed the rest of the way in a discouraging 41-16 loss at Texas. The Longhorns obliterated Tech up front, as both Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron topped 100 yards on the ground. On the other side of the ball, Tech couldn't protect its quarterback, as Baker Mayfield was sacked seven times. As a result, a team that once was ranked 10th in the country ended its regular season with a thud -- and a five-game losing streak.

Big (offensive) men on campus: Kansas State running back John Hubert and Iowa State wide receivers Quenton Bundrage and Justin Coleman.

Hubert unleashed a monster performance in his final Sunflower Showdown. The senior rushed for a career-high 220 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries, as K-State defeated Kansas 31-10 for a fifth consecutive victory in the series.

Together with Rohach, Bundrage and Coleman fueled Iowa State's comeback with huge catches down the stretch. After Van Der Kamp's fake punt conversion, Bundrage hauled in a 62-yard touchdown grab to cut West Virginia's lead to 10. Later, Coleman's 19-yard scoring reception tied the game with a minute left in regulation. And on the first play of the third overtime, Coleman reeled in another touchdown, which proved to be the game winner.

All told, Bundrage and Coleman combined for 12 receptions, 184 receiving yards and four touchdowns.

Big (defensive) men on campus: Baylor linebacker Eddie Lackey, TCU cornerback Jason Verrett and Texas defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat.

Lackey played a hand in two turnovers that ultimately led to defensive touchdowns. With the Horned Frogs driving at the end of the second quarter with a chance to take the lead before halftime, Lackey charged up the middle and tagged TCU QB Casey Pachall's legs. The hit forced Pachall's pass to be behind his intended receiver, and Orion Stewart intercepted it and raced 82 yards for a touchdown. Then on TCU's first possession of the third quarter, Lackey picked off Pachall and dashed 54 yards for another score, putting the Bears up 34-17. Lackey added six tackles and a sack in Baylor's 41-38 win.

As good as Lackey was, no player was more dominant than Verrett. Matched up one-on-one with Baylor's Antwan Goodley the entire game, Verrett checked the Big 12's leading receiver to just one reception for 12 yards. As a result, Baylor finished with a season-low 206 passing yards.

Jeffcoat also flourished in his final home game, recording a game-high three sacks as Texas shut down Texas Tech's passing game. Jeffcoat also had seven tackles and a quarterback hurry, solidifying his candidacy as an All-Big 12 defensive end.

Special-teams player of the week: Tech punter Ryan Erxleben produced one of the special-teams plays of the year in the Big 12 in Austin. On Tech's second possession, Erxleben took off on a fake punt and raced 51 yards down the sideline for a touchdown, giving the Red Raiders an early 7-0 lead. After the game, coach Kliff Kingsbury confirmed Erxleben called the fake on his own. It proved to be Tech's longest rush of the season, but pretty much its only highlight in the lackluster loss to the Longhorns.

Play of the week: After falling behind 34-17 on two Baylor defensive touchdowns, TCU made a furious rally and drove into field goal range with a chance to either win or send the game to overtime. Instead, with 18 seconds to go, quarterback Pachall's pass to Brandon Carter was tipped away by Baylor nickelback Sam Holl and into the arms of Terrell Burt for the game-clinching interception to seal Baylor's victory.

Stat of the week: By holding Baylor to 370 yards of offense, TCU snapped the Bears' 37-game streak of at least 400 yards of offense. Ball State now holds the longest FBS streak at 12 games.

Quote of the week: "Gary Patterson lives in Fort Worth. If he's got a problem with me, that's where I live."

-- TCU coach Gary Patterson, after a pair of heated exchanges with Baylor coach Art Briles
AUSTIN, Texas -- From the first snap of Thursday's game, Texas Tech quarterback Baker Mayfield had to know trouble was coming. The last thing a freshman quarterback wants to see is a defense he wasn't prepared for, and that’s exactly what Texas unveiled.

Mayfield had seen enough film to know who Jackson Jeffcoat was. He didn’t see any film of Jeffcoat darting around the field as a linebacker. There was no film of Jeffcoat attacking up the middle as a stand-up pass rusher.

“They just didn’t know what to do,” Jeffcoat said.

Before their 41-16 victory over Texas Tech, the Longhorns had never run what defensive coordinator Greg Robinson calls his “Spinner" package. The key chess piece in that scheme was Jeffcoat, who played a hybrid end/linebacker role and did a little bit of everything.

[+] EnlargeJackson Jeffcoat
AP Photo/Eric GayJackson Jeffcoat had a big night in Greg Robinson's "Spinner" package with three sacks.
“It just gives you some different options, you know,” Robinson said. “It creates a different style of defense to the offense, how they block and those kinds of things. We were fortunate most times that it helped us.”

It’s the kind of role that the son of a defensive line coach can get behind. Teammates say Jeffcoat called his new hybrid job the “Viper” position, and by all accounts, Robinson installed the scheme during Texas’ recent bye week.

In his first game at “Spinner,” Jeffcoat made a career-high three sacks and seven tackles. Not bad for a guy who was battling flu-like symptoms last week and even missed practice Tuesday.

Needless to say, Kliff Kingsbury and his staff didn’t see Jeffcoat’s new role coming. Neither did the Red Raiders’ offensive linemen.

“No, that's something they had for tonight, which is smart,” Kingsbury said. “It's just smart.”

Jeffcoat's new role is not new in a Robinson defense. He used “Spinner” as the defensive coordinator of the New York Jets, Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs. He used “Spinner” at Michigan and Syracuse. Robinson even broke out the scheme in 2004, while co-running Texas’ defense, including against Texas Tech.

Said Robinson in 2005, his first year as head coach at Syracuse: “At Texas last year, I really didn’t have a guy who [could be effective in it] … we used it a little bit because it was good against certain teams."

This time around at Texas, Robinson has a guy in Jeffcoat who, at 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, looks the part. He played more than 60 snaps against Tech, and on no more than 16 plays did he line up as a defensive end. He rushed from his “Spinner” role on 23 plays, imitated a linebacker nearly a dozen times and dropped back into coverage a dozen more times.

“I think that’s something he thrived off of,” Texas tackle Donald Hawkins said. “Use your best player the best way you can.”

His new role was just what Texas needed. With Jeffcoat at “Spinner,” Robinson could highlight the Longhorns’ surplus of six defensive ends and compensate for having just two experienced defensive tackles. The three-man front that Jeffcoat lined up behind typically comprised of ends Cedric Reed and Reggie Wilson, with Malcom Brown at nose guard.

Texas’ defensive line produced eight sacks, 10 tackles for loss and nine quarterback hurries.

“I think they came out and really confused us,” Texas Tech lineman Jared Kaster said.

Reed, who recorded two sacks, added this: “Our defensive slogan is ‘QB breakers.’ We knew that if we put pressure on the freshman quarterback, he would lose his flow sometimes.”

Mayfield was benched after throwing for 237 yards and no scores on 44 attempts. He was sacked seven times and had to tuck and run nine times, usually because of pressure.

Texas’ linebackers needed the help, too. Steve Edmond was lost for the season with a lacerated liver in the second quarter. Kendall Thompson exited with a head injury. That left Robinson with Dalton Santos and Peter Jinkens, who also tried playing “Spinner” in the fourth quarter.

Will those depth issues necessitate more “Spinner” packages for Texas going forward?

“That’s just a thing we put in for this game. Who knows if we run it next week?” cornerback Carrington Byndom said. “But it is really useful.”

Byndom believes the scheme works best when going against passing offenses, and Texas expected the Red Raiders to pass 90 percent of the time. That won’t be the case against Baylor on Saturday.

Texas Tech’s running backs combined for eight carries Thursday. Baylor averages 48 rushes per game, and injured backs Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin have returned.

Jeffcoat was the centerpiece of Robinson’s grand plan for stopping Texas Tech. Next up is the Longhorns defense’s biggest test yet. There's no better time than now for everything Robinson has in his playbook.

“Any kind of advantage we can get, we’re trying to take it,” Byndom said.

Big 12 helmet stickers: Week 14

December, 1, 2013
12/01/13
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Recognizing the best of the best from the Big 12 in Week 14:

Baylor Bears defense: Yes, Baylor gave up 38 points against a TCU team that finished 4-8. But the Bears wouldn’t have won this game without four critical takeaways from its opportunistic defense. Two were interceptions for touchdowns by Orion Stewart and Eddie Lackey. Another was a goal-line fumble recovery to set up a 1-yard touchdown. So that’s 21 points. Terrell Burt clinched the win when he picked off a deflected pass in the final minute.

QB Grant Rohach, Iowa State: What a memorable way for Rohach to end his redshirt freshman campaign. In a three-overtime, 52-44 victory at West Virginia, he threw for a career-high 331 yards and four touchdowns, added a 54-yard touchdown run and led a gigantic comeback from down 31-7. Not bad at all for Rohach’s third career start.

DE Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas: The Longhorns got creative in their use of Jeffcoat in a 41-16 win against Texas Tech, lining him up as a linebacker/end hybrid. That move paid off big on his senior night. Jeffcoat racked up three sacks and seven tackles and was flat-out unblockable at times, making a tough night for Tech QB Baker Mayfield even tougher. Jeffcoat now has 10 sacks on the year, all of them coming in Big 12 play.

RB John Hubert and S Dante Barnett, Kansas State: Barnett grabbed two interceptions and recovered a fumble in Kansas State’s 31-10 win over Kansas, while Hubert paced the Wildcats offense by rushing for a for career-high 220 yards in his final Big 12 game. K-State looks destined to end up at the Holiday Bowl, which is certainly an impressive feat after starting the season 2-4.

RB Charles Sims, West Virginia: Lots of others who merit helmet stickers this week, but we’ll honor Sims after another big game to end his college career. Sims rushed for 149 yards and two touchdowns against ISU and finished with 1,095 yards and 11 TDs in his only season in Morgantown. He’ll receive some All-Big 12 honors this month.

Longhorns bounce back to set up big game

November, 29, 2013
11/29/13
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AUSTIN, Texas -- There's no better cure for a 25-point loss than responding with a 25-point victory.

That's not some old Darrell Royal saying or an axiom that coaches have been known to share. It's just a fact. And just when we thought we had Texas and its troubles figured out, this team fought to live another week.

The Longhorns who won six conference games in a row showed up again, keeping their Big 12 championship hopes alive with a 41-16 victory over Texas Tech on Thanksgiving night.

[+] EnlargeJoe Bergeron, Tanner Jacobson
AP Photo/Eric GayJoe Bergeron, wearing No. 32 in honor of injured Johnathan Gray, had 102 yards and a touchdown.
"Proud of our team. Proud of the way they fought," Longhorns coach Mack Brown said. "A lot of guys are banged up. End of the year. At least they've given themselves an opportunity to go to Waco and play for a championship."

There was plenty of talk in the past two weeks that Oklahoma State finally exposed Texas and its various flaws, that the six Big 12 wins that came before it were somehow less meaningful or some kind of mirage.

If the meltdown against the Cowboys revealed Texas' thin margin for error, Thursday's victory reminded how good Texas can be when it achieves everything it sets out to do.

Brown wanted a slowed-paced game, not a shootout. Texas had to control the tempo. Check.

He wanted to pound Texas Tech's recently awful run defense. Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown both surpassed 100 yards. Check.

He hoped Texas' defense could force erratic play by the Red Raiders' young quarterbacks. The Longhorns netted nine sacks, including three each from Jackson Jeffcoat and Cedric Reed. Check.

"It's not a pretty brand of ball. It's not very stylish," Texas co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite said. "But it's what we had to do."

Thursday's performance was about as close to a defensive masterpiece as Texas could have hoped for. The Red Raiders' No. 1 ranked pass offense finished with 5.8 yards per attempt. They went 5-for-18 on third downs. Tech's leading rusher on the night? Punter Ryan Erxleben, who dashed 51 yards for the first score of the night. Texas' special teams gave up that score. Its defense allowed one touchdown the rest of the night.

"It was a good game. I don't know if it was better or not. I guess you guys make those decisions," defensive coordinator Greg Robinson said. "We played real well here against a good offense."

But since so many will discount the result, pointing out that Texas Tech lost five in a row after starting 7-0, let's cut to the chase: If this is Texas, if these are the real Longhorns going forward, can they do enough to beat No. 9 Baylor?

Ask Brown whether his team played up to its formula for victory against Tech and he'll rattle off the things his team didn't do. Texas turned the ball over twice. Other than placekicker Anthony Fera, a Groza Award finalist who's now 19-for-20 this season, the Longhorns are still a mess in several areas of special teams.

His players were no different. They see a need for improvement. They won't celebrate this win much this weekend. They know what they're up against next.

Preparing for Baylor will require that kind of perfectionist attention to detail. Like Texas, the Bears showed their vulnerabilities against Oklahoma State. They're not at all unbeatable. But they have the respect of their next opponent.

"We fully assume Baylor will win [against TCU] and be right there," quarterback Case McCoy said. "It'll be a game that, as a senior class, we want to go out with a chance to put numbers on these walls and have a Big 12 championship."

The Longhorns made their senior night count. They made the next game matter. They're not done yet.

"We're still in the race," Jeffcoat said. "We had to win this one. This was a must-win. And we have to win the next one."

Texas seniors endured tough run, rebuild

November, 28, 2013
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AUSTIN, Texas -- When Mack Brown introduced his latest recruiting class on signing day of 2010, he did so with great pride.

“I've been asked over the last couple of days, ‘Is this the best class that we've ever had?’” Brown said that day. “We feel like it definitely has the potential to be, because from top to bottom it covers every position and that's a very difficult thing to do.”

On Thursday, seven of those signees will take the field at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium one final time. Senior Night has a tendency to elicit mixed emotions, a bittersweet cocktail of pride, sadness and sentimentality.

It’s hard to assess this Texas class with anything else but mixed emotions. You wonder if they feel the same. After all, this four-year run was not what these seniors signed up for or expected back in February 2010.

Of the 13 scholarship seniors being honored during Texas’ Thanksgiving home finale against Texas Tech, more than half came from the 2010 class that ranked No. 2 nationally. They signed after Texas won 13 games and played for a national title. The senior class that departed after 2009 went 45-8 in their four seasons.

Today’s seniors made their debuts for a 2010 team that was No. 5 in the preseason AP poll. Expectations were as high as ever. Brown seemed poised to chase another championship.

Instead, this class ended up inheriting the task of helping lead a rebuilding project, one that still isn’t complete. They hope this is their legacy, that their efforts will get this Longhorn program back on track.

[+] EnlargeJackson Jeffcoat
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesJackson Jeffcoat calls his Texas career a roller coaster ride.
“To their credit, they would tell you they haven’t accomplished what teams at Texas would want to have accomplished as seniors,” Brown said.

The fourth-year seniors enter Thursday night’s home finale against Texas Tech with a career record of 29-19. If the Red Raiders pull the upset, this group will drop to 17-17 in Big 12 games.

They haven’t been particularly successful at DKR, either, with a record of 13-11 at home in the past four years. They’ve won six conference home games and lost nine.

Most of these seniors been playing from the very beginning. Guard Mason Walters, a 2009 signee who redshirted, and receiver Mike Davis were starters on the 5-7 team of 2010. Defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat, cornerback Carrington Byndom and guard Trey Hopkins are three-year starters. All together, this senior class has combined for 266 starts.

It's a group that, to this point, has endured an awful lot. The first losing season of Brown’s tenure. A coaching staff shakeup. The end of the Texas A&M rivalry. One win and three losses to Oklahoma. No Big 12 championships. No BCS bowl games.

“It's been a roller-coaster ride, ups and downs,” Jeffcoat said. “I think I'm better for that.”

Jeffcoat signed to play for then-defensive coordinator Will Muschamp. Case McCoy has been tutored by three different quarterback coaches and playcallers. These Texas seniors received an education in embracing change.

“A lot of things have gone good, a lot of things have gone bad,” McCoy said. “That's part of the game, that's part of life. One thing I know in this game and in life, you’ve got to battle. You can't give up. That's why I love this team. I love the way they're playing. I love their hearts because we haven't given up.”

They know they had Texas-sized standards to live up to in their careers. When a program bottoms out the way the Longhorns did in 2010, everything achieved since has been in the commitment to getting back on top.

There have been high points along the way, but it all seemed to be building toward 2013. Brown believed Texas had a chance to win every game this season. That didn’t work out.

To the seniors’ credit, he said, they didn’t fold after starting off 1-2 this year. They didn’t give in and they rallied to win six in a row.

“They were very, very strong-willed in stepping up with their leadership and telling the other guys, ‘This is our last time now, we’re going to make this work,’” Brown said. “I’m really proud of them. I’m proud of the way they’ve handled adversity, proud of the way they fought through it.”

And Jeffcoat believes the legacy of these seniors is unfinished. They’ll earn a share of the Big 12 title, and perhaps more, if they win out. Three games left means three more chances to get the Longhorns back in the right direction.

“I think we definitely have that opportunity,” McCoy said. “We have the opportunity right now to put our final stamp on it and put it where we need to go.”

Texas’ seniors have had a rough journey. As the end nears, though, they still believe their story can have a happy ending. And they seem to have few regrets.

“If I had to choose all over again,” Jeffcoat said, “I’d come to Texas.”

Big 12 weekend rewind: Week 11

November, 11, 2013
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Taking stock of Week 11 in the Big 12:

Teams of the week: For the first time this season, we're recognizing two teams here, as both Baylor and Kansas State snagged the biggest wins of their seasons in impressive fashion.

The Wildcats jumped to a 35-10 lead at then-No. 25 Texas Tech, then coasted to a 49-26 rout. QBs Daniel Sams and Jake Waters produced the two-highest Big 12 Adjusted QBRs of the week (98.4 and 94.9), while John Hubert, who had a 63-yard touchdown run on the opening drive, finished with a season-high 157 rushing yards.

Baylor was equally dominant in a 41-12 win Thursday night over Oklahoma. QB Bryce Petty kept his Heisman campaign alive with three touchdowns passes and two touchdown runs. Baylor's defense put the clamps on the Sooners, holding them to just 237 yards, the lowest output from an OU offense since 2007.

Disappointment of the week: Oklahoma traveled to Waco with a chance to gain an upper hand over the Big 12's favorite. Instead, the Sooners were exposed as a second-tier team in the conference. OU was especially dreadful offensively. Blake Bell completed just 15 of 35 passes with two interceptions for a raw QBR score of 5.9 (scale 0-to-100). The Sooners averaged only 2.6 yards per carry on the ground, as well, with just one run going for more than 10 yards. With games at Kansas State and Oklahoma State still looming, the Sooners could be on the verge of their worst season since 2009.

[+] EnlargeShock Linwood
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezThird-team running back Shock Linwood had his third 100-yard game for Baylor on Thursday.
Big (offensive) men on campus: Baylor running back Shock Linwood, TCU receiver/quarterback Trevone Boykin and the Kansas State offensive line.

With Lache Seastrunk banged up and Glasco Martin injured, Linwood kept the Baylor ground game rolling without a hitch, piling up 182 yards while averaging 7.9 yards per carry. Despite being Baylor's third-team tailback, Linwood astonishingly is second in the Big 12 with an average of 89.3 rushing yards per game.

Back in the role he was always meant for, Boykin was excellent at Iowa State as a receiver and change-of-pace quarterback. He scored three touchdowns on five carries, including a one-yard keeper in the final minute to lift TCU to a 21-17 win. Boykin also had four receptions.

Finally, K-State's offensive line obliterated Texas Tech up front, setting the tone for the Wildcats in Lubbock. Behind Cornelius Lucas, Cody Whitehair, BJ Finney, Keenan Taylor and Tavon Rooks, the Wildcats rolled up 291 yards on the ground with an average of almost seven yards per carry.

Big (defensive) men on campus: Texas defensive ends Jackson Jeffcoat and Cedric Reed, Oklahoma State defensive tackle Calvin Barnett and Baylor safety Ahmad Dixon.

The Longhorns gave up 40 points in Morgantown, but Jeffcoat and Reed were swarming West Virginia's backfield all night. The two combined for three sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries, as the defense gave the Texas offense excellent field position for most of the game.

Barnett spearheaded another strong defensive effort from the Cowboys in a 42-6 win over Kansas. Barnett had five tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack.

Dixon led Baylor's shutdown effort of the Sooners. He had a team-high 8½ tackles, a tackle for loss and a pass breakup, as Oklahoma failed to score a touchdown until late in the third quarter.

Special-teams players of the week: Oklahoma State returner Justin Gilbert, Iowa State returner DeVondrick Nealy and Texas kicker Anthony Fera.

With former Oklahoma State great Barry Sanders in attendance, Gilbert pulled off his best Sanders impression, taking the opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown.

Nealy opened the third quarter against TCU with a 98-yard TD return that tied the game.

As he has been all year, Fera was clutch in Texas' overtime win at West Virginia. He converted all five of his extra points and all four of his field goals, including the 24-yarder in the final seconds to send the game to overtime. Fera has missed only one field goal attempt all season, and the four makes at West Virginia were a career-best.

Play of the week: With 59 seconds to play, Texas faced fourth-and-7 trailing West Virginia 40-37. Out of a timeout, QB Case McCoy stepped into the blitz and delivered a first-down strike to Jaxon Shipley a yard ahead of the marker. Fera ended the drive with a game-tying field goal, then the Longhorns prevailed in overtime to win their sixth straight game.

Stat of the week: After surrendering an average of 7.0 yards per carry in losses to BYU and Ole Miss, the Texas defense has held its past six opponents to a combined average of 3.2, with nobody topping more than 4.0 in a game.

Quote of the week: "We're not a tradition. But we're going to be here awhile, the way this thing is going." -- Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Bennett, after the Bears' 41-12 win over Oklahoma

Whaley's rumble sparks another Texas rout

November, 2, 2013
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Few things wake up a bored crowd and a sputtering team better than a 300-pound lineman rumbling for a touchdown.

Chris Whaley just has that knack for stealing scenes and swinging the emotions of nervous Texas fans in an instant. His 31-yard interception for a score was the game-changer in Dallas last month, the kind of confidence-booster the Longhorns needed to finally knock off Oklahoma.

[+] EnlargeAdrian Phillips, Chris Whaley
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesTexas defense punctuated another strong outing with a fumble recovery score from Chris Whaley.
The senior defensive tackle struck again Saturday, giving Texas precisely the jolt it needed in a 35-13 win over Kansas to improve to 6-2 and 5-0 on the Big 12.

Midway through the third quarter, with Texas up just 14-6 on the conference’s worst team, fate called Whaley’s number once more. Cedric Reed blindsided a panicked KU quarterback Jake Heaps from behind. The ball squirted out.

“I thought, ‘Aw, it’s happening again,’” Whaley said.

The football took two quick bounces off the turf, then off a nearby referee’s knee and right into Whaley’s arms. He rumbled 40 yards untouched, the Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium crowd exploded and the suddenly excited Longhorns rolled from there.

"The strip-sack fumble was honestly the key play of the game where all of the momentum changed in one play, and that was it," Kansas coach Charlie Weis said.

How did Whaley, a former running back, fare in his impromptu 40-yard dash? Maybe 4.4 seconds? He giggled.

“Maybe,” he said.

Maybe not, though Whaley couldn’t help but embrace perhaps the only opportunity he’ll get to high-step to a score.

“He’s definitely not Prime Time,” cornerback Quandre Diggs said. “If he keeps scoring touchdowns, people are going to start trying to imitate him.”

Like Whaley’s moves in the open field, the rest of this game wasn’t exactly pretty. But Texas’ offense churned out two more touchdown drives and held KU to 24 yards and two punts on its next three drives to finish off an otherwise inconsistent showing against the now 2-6 Jayhawks, losers of 26 consecutive Big 12 games.

The ever-optimistic Mack Brown finds the joy in every win.

“It was a great game,” Brown said. “It’s a ‘W.’ We’ve won five straight. We’re 5-0 in the league. We’re leading the league. The objective was to get a ‘W.’ When you can win and have a lot of things to fix, I think it’s wonderful. Better than last year’s Kansas game, too.”

There’s plenty that can be nitpicked in this ballgame. The Longhorn offense got off to a slow start and didn’t seem to overwhelm KU’s well-prepared defense physically, at least not until late. Case McCoy threw two interceptions and admitted he needs to play better.

But Texas’ defense once again took care of business, not allowing a touchdown until less than four minutes remained. This unit has let opponents enter the end zone just once in each of their past three games and is holding teams to 13.3 points and 271.6 yards per game during that span.

“We have to keep doing it. That’s the challenge,” defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat said. “You have to keep doing it day in and day out.”

The last time Texas played in this stadium, 42 days ago, it was trying to convince themselves they still had a chance at playing for a Big 12 title. They’d just beaten Kansas State 31-21 to begin this streak.

Wins were hard to come by back then for a frustrated 2-2 squad. Now they’re back to a more familiar situation: Winning games by decent margins and having plenty to improve upon.

“When you stop celebrating a win, when you start taking them for granted, that’s when the game doesn’t come as fun,” McCoy said. “We’ve learned wins are hard to come by in this conference. People can sneak up on you any time. We’ll take a win any day in this conference.”

Running back Johnathan Gray, typically the workhorse of this team, had his least-effective game since the season opener with 68 yards on 18 attempts. So Malcolm Brown more than picked up the slack with 119 yards and four touchdowns.

And Gray is going home happy, he said, because he’ll take a win. The sting of those early-season losses makes days like these sweeter, no matter the margin of victory.

“This is definitely why I came to Texas,” Gray said. “Guys loving to play football and having a passion for the game -- that’s what we have right now in the room.”

Whaley doesn’t know if he has more rumbling, stumbling scores left up his sleeve. He can't explain why these footballs keep finding his hands. But he does know his Longhorns are ready to keep this run going.

“We’re not done yet,” he said.

Big 12: November stretch run

November, 1, 2013
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The Big 12’s best will finally play each other in November, the defining stretch of the conference schedule. There will be no more doubts about who will be the conference favorite, no more questions about the legitimacy of some teams' résumés heading into December.

Among the conference’s top five teams, only two games have been played, with Texas knocking off Oklahoma and the Sooners topping Texas Tech. Oklahoma State at Texas Tech on Saturday is a terrific primer for Oklahoma at Baylor on Nov. 7, as both games kick things off and a pseudo-Big 12 playoff begins.

Each week in November will feature at least one matchup of the top five teams in the conference. Will Baylor continue to dominate? Can Texas rebound to go undefeated through the Big 12? Will one of the one-loss squads ultimately rise to the top of the standings? It should be an exciting month.

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty
Peter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesBryce Petty and unbeaten Baylor will try to navigate a tough stretch in their schedule.
Team with most to prove: All eyes are on Baylor, as the Bears are the conference’s lone hope to make an appearance in the BCS title game. They’ve been one of the most impressive teams in the country, playing like a top-five team week after week, but their four conference victories are against opponents that have combined to win nine games this season. So doubts remain. The Bears can remove all doubts by cruising through a gauntlet of Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State in their next three games.

Team with the most to lose: Texas Tech. After starting the season 7-0, the Red Raiders face a rough November schedule that will test their ability to play at a high level week in and week out. If they stumble in the season’s final month, the shine on Kliff Kingsbury’s first season will dim considerably.

Three players to keep an eye on:
Baylor’s Bryce Petty. The junior quarterback is putting himself into the Heisman Trophy conversation with exceptional play. His 95.3 adjusted QBR (out of 100, with 50 being average) is second nationally behind Oregon’s Marcus Mariota. Yet, like his team, doubters still remain. How will he perform in a top-10 matchup? Is he a championship quarterback? We’ll find out.

Every other quarterback. Texas’ Case McCoy, Oklahoma’s Blake Bell, Texas Tech’s Davis Webb and Oklahoma State's Clint Chelf are quarterbacks with the opportunity to prove themselves in November and lead their team to a Big 12 title.

Texas defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat. The senior has the ability to dominate games with his pass-rushing skills and his play played a major role in the Longhorns’ impressive victories over Oklahoma and TCU. Jeffcoat has seven sacks in his last four games, so his play, especially if he takes it to another level, could have a major impact on the conference title race.

Biggest trap game: Texas at West Virginia, Nov. 9. Barring a major upset by Kansas on Saturday, the Longhorns will travel to Morgantown, W.Va., with a 5-0 conference record. Oklahoma State already lost at West Virginia and Texas Tech had to make big plays in the fourth quarter to survive against the Mountaineers. The Longhorns could overlook WVU with Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Baylor looming as their final stretch.

Fearless November prediction: One of the teams in the bottom half of the league entering November will have a major impact on the Big 12 title. One of the top five teams will drop a game to Kansas State, TCU, Iowa State, Kansas or West Virginia and reopen a door for a team that entered the day thinking its Big 12 title hopes were slim. If we’ve learned anything about college football, it’s not to assume any game will end up in the win column for the favorite.

Big 12 helmet stickers: Week 9

October, 27, 2013
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Recognizing the best and brightest from around the Big 12 in Week 9:

RB Desmond Roland, Oklahoma State: Where did this come from? Jeremy Smith has been talked up as the Cowboys’ best back throughout the season, but it was Roland who exploded when given the chance to be the feature man. He rushed for 219 yards and four touchdowns in a win over Iowa State, highlighted by a 58-yard dash for a score in which he eluded a handful of defenders. And if you’re counting at home, Roland’s big day would’ve been worth 45 fantasy points. That ain’t bad.

WR Jalen Saunders, Oklahoma: Big-time players making big-time plays in big-time games. That was Saunders on Saturday. He caught a season-high six passes for 153 yards and two touchdowns in a 38-30 win over Texas Tech, and both scores helped swing this game. His first was a 15-yard score to make it 7-7 in the second, and Saunders followed that up with a 76-yard touchdown to go ahead.

Texas defensive line: The box score says Texas’ defense recorded only two quarterback hurries in its 30-7 win over TCU. But it didn't seem like it. The Longhorns' line of Jackson Jeffcoat, Cedric Reed, Chris Whaley and Malcom Brown is playing at an exceptionally high level right now, just as it did against OU. It combined for five of Texas’ six tackles for loss, Jeffcoat and Whaley recorded sacks, and the Horned Frogs rushed for only 45 yards. More importantly, Casey Pachall had no time to throw on Saturday, as the pressure up front got to him on a constant basis.

RB Shock Linwood, Baylor: Bryce Petty or one of his go-to guys on offense -- Tevin Reese, Lache Seastrunk, etc. -- usually deserve a spot in helmet stickers on a weekly basis. This time we’re going with the Bears’ rising redshirt freshman, who rushed for 106 yards and two scores on only nine carries. Yes, it was against a bad Kansas defense in a blowout. But Linwood merits some attention: He’s the No. 3 back on this roster and yet is also No. 7 in the Big 12 in rushing.

WR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State : What a fourth-quarter finish from K-State after trailing West Virginia 12-7 late in the third quarter. Lockett was a big help in K-State’s 28 unanswered points to knock off WVU, with three touchdown catches and his fourth 100-yard game of the season. His 9-yard score gave the Wildcats the lead back, and from there they never looked back.

Reranking the Big 12's top 10 players

October, 14, 2013
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In August, this blog reviewed the 25 best players in the Big 12 entering the 2013 season. Now, midway through the season and just as conference play really starts to get interesting, it's time to wipe the slate clean and start over.

The No. 3 player in our preseason list, TCU defensive end Devonte Fields, is out for the season. Others have had good or great starts to their seasons but didn't hold onto their top-10 spots. Here, then, is our new take on the 10 best players in the Big 12 at midseason.

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty
Peter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesBryce Petty has efficiently led Baylor's explosive offense.
1. QB Bryce Petty, Baylor (preseason ranking: NR) Petty entered his first season as a starter with impossibly high standards. He’s surpassing them. He’s the Big 12’s leading passer, he had a TD-INT ratio of 13-1 and he leads the nation in yards per attempt (14.8) -- and he’s just getting started. The triggerman of the highest-scoring offense in college football will be challenged more in Big 12 play, but so far, he’s needed fourth-quarter snaps in only one game.

2. CB Jason Verrett, TCU (preseason: 1) He’s the best cover man in the conference, and it’s probably not even close. Verrett leads the Big 12 in pass breakups with 10 and nabbed his first interception against Kansas. He’s well on his way to matching last year’s total of 22 passes defended, which led the nation. Opposing offenses know to avoid the All-American, but he’s still making a major impact for the Horned Frogs.

3. RB Lache Seastrunk, Baylor (preseason: 5) He wants to be a Heisman contender, but right now he’ll have to settle for the title of most explosive back in college football. Seastrunk leads the Big 12 in rushing on 13 carries per game. He’s averaging just a shade under 10 yards per carry. He’s sharing the load right now, but expect Seastrunk’s workload to increase as the Bears’ schedule gets much more difficult late.

4. DE Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas (preseason: 10) Jeffcoat leads the Big 12 in sacks with five, has seven tackles for loss and, most important, he’s staying healthy. The senior is finally playing up to his elite potential and has made big plays for the Longhorns, including the game-clinching interception at Iowa State and two key sacks against Oklahoma. It’s possible fellow Texas DE Cedric Reed joins him on the postseason list: Reed leads UT in tackles and pass breakups and has similar sack/TFL numbers.

5. OG Cyril Richardson, Baylor (preseason: 2) The mammoth 6-foot-5, 340-pound lineman is the star of a Baylor offensive line that consistently bullies opponents and paves the way for 302.2 rushing yards per game. The Bears' line has also kept Petty relatively safe, with just seven sacks in five games. Richardson is one of the best guards in college football and has a long NFL future ahead of him.

6. TE Jace Amaro, Texas Tech (preseason: NR) In a league with so few impact receiving tight ends, Amaro has been an absolute revelation in 2013. He’s developed into a dangerous target in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense with a Big 12-leading 47 catches for 606 yards and a touchdown. He’s put up nearly 200 more receiving yards than any other tight end in the country and makes life easy for Tech’s freshman passers.

7. DL Kerry Hyder, Texas Tech (preseason: NR) Texas Tech's transition to a 3-4 defense this season is working out just fine for Hyder, and the senior end/tackle could end up being a serious contender for Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year if the Red Raiders remain a conference title contender. Nine of his 27 tackles have been behind the line of scrimmage, and Hyder has two sacks and two forced fumbles.

8. WR Antwan Goodley, Baylor (preseason: NR) You can make just as good a case for Tevin Reese making this list, but Goodley gets the nod on better stats and the pure surprise factor. Baylor’s fifth-leading receiver last season has become its best downfield threat. He’s No. 1 in the Big 12 with 669 yards, and his touchdowns catches have gone for 72, 61, 63, 65, 83 and 27 yards.

9. C Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma (preseason: 4) Oklahoma’s line took a bit of a hit against Texas but has otherwise impressed this season, and Ikard is its unquestioned leader. It has helped lead the way for the No. 2 rushing offense in the conference. Ikard is as versatile and accomplished as any lineman you’ll find in this league and should probably be ranked much higher than ninth.

10. RB Johnathan Gray, Texas (preseason: NR) We considered several players for this final spot, and a lot more than 10 merit inclusion. Gray, a true sophomore, is playing up to his five-star potential. He leads the Big 12 in rushes and is No. 2 in yards, with big performances against Oklahoma (123 yards) and Kansas State (141) and has emerged as Texas’ workhorse in the absence of David Ash.

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