NCF Nation: Jason Smith
After this weekend, it's clear the Lions wasted their first-round pick. Watkins stuck around Baylor for his senior year, and on Thursday night, was selected 23rd overall by the Philadelphia Eagles, one of two Bears first-rounders this year.
But according to Baylor, he's not the first player to pull the double dip.
Back in 1986, Mike Schad of Queen's University in Ontario was drafted fourth overall by Ottawa. He was also selected with the 23rd pick of the NFL draft by the Los Angeles Rams. (For our younger readers, yes, L.A. did have an NFL team once. Two of 'em, in fact. Now, they have to settle for USC being the only pro football team in town.)
Quite the coincidence that both players were selected with the same picks in both drafts: fourth in the CFL and 23rd in the NFL.
Watkins can't begin his career until the NFL lockout is lifted, but he'll do so as just the fourth Canadian NFL draft pick ever.
Schad was the first. Famed offensive line bust Tony Mandarich is still the nation's highest pick ever after being selected second overall by the Green Bay Packers in 1989.
The Carolina Panthers selected Michigan running back Tim Biakabutuka with the sixth overall pick in the 1998 draft.
Watkins, a 26-year-old British Columbia native, was pegged by some as the most NFL-ready of the draft-eligible linemen. Here's a bit more on the humorous circumstances surrounding his selection.
Before Art Briles' arrival, Baylor hadn't had a first-round pick in the Big 12 era. After Phil Taylor and Watkins were drafted this year, the Bears have had three in three years. Offensive lineman Jason Smith went No. 2 overall in the 2009 draft.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
A fast finish made Baylor running back Jay Finley wish that the 2008 season could have lasted a few weeks longer.
Finley capped 2008 with 100-yard rushing efforts in the Bears' final two games, finally showing the potential he had longed to meet since arriving at college.
|Karl Anderson/Icon SMI|
|Jay Finley averaged 5.8 yards per carry last season and rushed for seven touchdowns.|
The closing spurt started with 116 rushing yards in the Bears' impressive victory over Texas A&M and was followed with 105 yards in Baylor's season finale against Texas Tech.
"I have confidence that I can keep doing it and going into the offseason, those games have made me work extra hard," Finley said. "We were rolling and I hated to see the season end."
Finley's late charge came after he made a conscious decision to relax in the backfield, waiting on his blocks rather than attempting to blast through holes that weren't there.
"To tell you the truth, it was just the case of trying to be more patient and letting my blocks come to me," said Finley, who finished with a team-high 865 rushing yards to finish fifth in the conference. "It's made me work hard in everything I'm doing. I'll keep working hard. My personal goal is that I want to be a 1,000-yard back this season."
That aim appears doable as Finley enters his junior season as the Bears' featured back. But his supporting cast will be much stronger with the arrival of transfer Terrance Ganaway, who rushed for 550 yards and scored six touchdowns in 2007 at Houston in Art Briles' final season coaching there.
Briles' arrival at Baylor has transformed the Bears' attitude into a more blue-collar rushing team, emphasizing the run after several seasons of neglect.
Finley and other Bears chafed at the lack of rushing production in 2007 under former coach Guy Morriss. It made Finley, a 5-foot-11, 205-pounder from Corsicana, Texas, feel like he was being used as much as a receiver and pass-blocker as a rushing threat. The Bears ranked 113th nationally in rushing that season, averaging a paltry 3.13 yards per carry.
That philosophy was transformed last season as Briles emphasized a physical nature in the trenches. The result was that the Bears finished the season with an average of 195.8 yards per game, good for 21st nationally.
In the process, the Bears improved their yards per carry by 1.75 yards per tote from 2007 last season. And Baylor's rushing improvement of 117.9 yards per game rushing from 2007 to last season ranked as the nation's second-biggest jump behind only Army's 154.0 yards-per-game rushing improvement.
"I think it will be more of the same this year," Finley said. "We were able to grind it out when we needed to, but still have our receivers and a passing game when we needed them, too."
Any improvement will come despite the loss of former starting tackles Jason Smith and Dan Gay, who both are on NFL rosters.
"Our line will be physical and we'll be able to do everything we did last season," Finley said. "It's going to be hard to replace guys like Jason and Gay, but I'm confident in the new guys that we have. During the spring, it doesn't look like we've missed a step."
Some of the confidence comes because of the return and continued development of sophomore quarterback Robert Griffin, who rushed for 843 yards and 13 touchdowns and passed for 2,091 yards and 15 touchdowns last season.
Despite a promising career in track and field, Griffin has concentrated on football this spring in hopes of leading his team to a bowl for the first time since 1994.
Finley can see a difference in Griffin's approach and in his command of the Baylor offense after concentrating on football this spring.
"Robert already works harder than anybody," Finley said. "And he's just doing what he did last season, only better."
After working together during the spring, Finley said that the Baylor offense is more productive and confident.
"Our rhythm is faster and we're moving faster," Finley said. "You can tell a difference in what we're doing."
Finley and the rest of the Bears have been conducting informal workouts with preparations for the start of training camp in early August.
That early work hasn't been any vacation for Finley or his teammates over the past several days, he said.
"It must be about 120 degrees out there," Finley said after another blistering practice earlier this week. "It's really hard to stay focused because of the heat and the conditions. It's hot out there."
Those blast-furnace conditions have only intensified Finley's determination to lead his team. He exhibits that attitude with a quick needling for his teammates during their work.
"You've got to keep people motivated," Finley said. "I've always found you forget you're tired if you're laughing. That's what we're trying to do to get better is come out and work hard to get ready for the season."
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
As usual, several Big 12 players jumped out of nowhere this spring to make solid contributions and perhaps cement their roles heading into the upcoming season.
Here's a list of some of the more notable players from across the conference:
Baylor T Danny Watkins: The former Canadian firefighter has emerged as the Bears' starting left tackle. He'll fill the big shoes of Jason Smith, the No. 2 pick in the NFL draft.
Colorado WR Jason Espinoza: After arriving at school as a walk-on cornerback, Espinoza hoped to contribute as a punt returner last year before a broken collarbone ended his season. After switching to wide receiver, he emerged as Colorado's top receiver in the spring, punctuating his work with game-high totals for receptions and yardage in the spring game.
Kansas State LB Alex Hrbec: Had the best spring game of any defender in the conference, racking up 19 tackles. That effort should help the walk-on's chances at winning a scholarship before fall practice.
Texas Tech WR Alex Torres: After leaving the Air Force Academy prep school after breaking his wrist, Torres went home to El Paso to work as a server at Red Lobster while he awaited his chance to return to football. He walked on with the Red Raiders, earning the No. 1 slot on the depth chart after spring practice at Michael Crabtree's old flanker position.
Nebraska QB LaTravis Washington: The converted former linebacker emerged as Nebraska's likely backup at quarterback, taking advantage of injuries to Kody Spano and Cody Green to stake his claim for playing time. Washington passed for 191 yards and two touchdowns in the spring game -- perhaps paving the way to enable the Cornhuskers to redshirt Green.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The Sports Nation poll that went with my Big 12 spring wrapup had a few of the bigger questions involving the conference during the upcoming season.
I've gotten a bunch of e-mails from readers wondering how I think on the questions.
Here's a look at the results and my take on whether I agree or disagree with you, the readers.
1. Which Big 12 quarterback will be tougher to slow down in 2009
SportsNation results (15,721 votes)
Sam Bradford -- 41 percent
Colt McCoy -- 40 percent
Robert Griffin -- 10 percent
Zac Robinson -- 6 percent
Todd Reesing -- 4 percent
My take: I agree and by roughly the same margin.
It's a close decision for me, but I would think that Bradford will be the most productive quarterback - by a slim margin over McCoy. Bradford will be playing behind a rebuilt line with a new set of wide receivers. And McCoy will largely have the same returning cast from last season - with the exception of versatile wide receiver Quan Cosby. But I think that both will have big offensive seasons. We likely could see both in New York City again in early December at the Heisman Trophy presentation.
2. Which is the team to beat in the Big 12 this season?
SportsNation results (10,118 votes)
Texas -- 52 percent
Oklahoma -- 48 percent
My take: Agree.
Again, by a slight margin I favor the readers. I think Texas should be slightly favored because of a productive two-deep secondary, McCoy, Jordan Shipley and one of the nation's best offensive lines. Oklahoma has Bradford, DeMarco Murray, Chris Brown, Ryan Broyles, Jermaine Gresham and nine starters back on defense headed by Gerald McCoy and Travis Lewis. But I think the snub of not making the national championship game, along with Oklahoma's green offensive line , ill be the biggest differences in the two teams.
3. Will Baylor make a bowl game this season?
SportsNation results (10,315 votes)
Yes -- 63 percent
No -- 37 percent
My take: Disagree.
The Bears will be better this season with Griffin back for another season, the return of top rusher Jay Finley, leading receiver Kendall Wright and the arrival of massive transfer defensive tackle Phil Taylor. The Bears have starpower on defense with linebacker Joe Pawelek and safety Jordan Lake back. But they are playing in the Big 12 South. They haven't won at Texas A&M since 1984. Their game against Texas Tech -- a likely pick 'em contest if it had been played in Waco -- has been moved to the new Dallas Cowboys' Stadium in Arlington where Tech will have more fans. They lose experienced tackles Jason Smith and Dan Gay, who combined for 71 career starts. And their non-conference schedule is a tough one with games at Wake Forest and at home against Connecticut. Baylor could be significantly better than last season and still only have a 5-7 record to show for it. So I'm guessing they don't snap a bowl drought that dates to 1994 -- tied for the longest among teams in BCS-affiliated "Big Six" conferences.
4. Which of these teams has the best shot at moving up in the Big 12 standings?
SportsNation poll (10,060 votes)
Baylor -- 53 percent
Texas A&M -- 18 percent
Colorado -- 18 percent
Kansas State -- 11 percent
My take: Disagree.
As mentioned above Baylor will have a hard time jumping past Texas Tech if they don't beat them. My pick as the Big 12's surprise team among the four listed is Colorado, which could be just below Nebraska and Kansas among Big 12 North contenders if they can remain healthy. I'm not buying their 10-2 record that Coach Dan Hawkins predicted at the end of last season, but it wouldn't surprise me to see the Buffaloes winning seven or eight games and returning to a bowl game.
5. Which Big 12 defender will have the biggest impact in 2009?
SportsNation results (9,851 votes)
Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh -- 44 percent
Oklahoma DT Gerald McCoy -- 34 percent
Texas DE Sergio Kindle -- 23 percent
My take: Agree.
I think that Suh and McCoy are virtual equals at defensive tackle and easily the two best inside players in the conference. I give Suh a slight edge because of overall production. He'll also play some offense and likely stand out more for the Cornhuskers because his surrouunding teammates on defense won't be as good as McCoy's are with the Sooners.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The NFL draft is over and spring practice is almost finished when Kansas State finishes up.
Most head coaches take the month of May off as they can't recruit anymore.
But there's still some stories from across the Big 12 to analyze this morning.
Here are some of the more notable:
- Dave Sittler of the Tulsa World predicts that Oklahoma State could start the season 11-0 next year.
- Michael Crabtree tells Tom Monkovic of the New York Times that boxing workouts help condition him for football.
- Stephen McGee tells Tim MacMahon of the Dallas Morning News that if he had been playing in a pro-style offense all four years in college, he guarantees he would have been a first-round draft pick.
- Former Nebraska defensive end Jason Peter candidly talked with North Platte Bulletin reporter James Parrish about his recovery from drug addiction.
- Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury-News shows how recruiting services can whiff on their evaluations coming out of high school. How much? Consider that both Jason Smith and Michael Crabtree were two-star recruits coming out of high school.
- Texas fans expecting a cakewalk for their game at Wyoming might notice this: The Cowboys' No. 1 offense racked up three touchdowns in their spring game on Saturday.
- The Omaha World-Herald provided an extensive post-spring practice wrap-up of Nebraska.
- Mack Brown won't change his approach as he attempts to snap Oklahoma's record-breaking streak of three-straight Big 12 titles, John Hoover of the Tulsa World reports.
- John Hillman of realfootball365.com writes that Texas A&M leaves spring practice with many unanswered questions.
- Former Nebraska linebacker Cody Glenn tells the Washington Post's Jason La Canfora that his three-game suspension at the end of the 2008 season was a punishment for ticket scalping.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
One day and counting to the NFL draft. I guess that means we can still consider players like Michael Crabtree, Jason Smith, Josh Freeman and Jeremy Maclin as Big 12 players for at least one more day, can't we?
Until then, here are a few lunchtime links that are as tasty as the gorditas, turkey legs and funnel cakes that are available in downtown San Antonio right now at the Battle of Flowers parade.
Only about 300,000 people are attending.
Boy, am I glad I don't have to commute down there anymore.
Here are the links, sans the traffic and parking problems I used to face every year.
- Austin American-Statesman columnist Kirk Bohls disputes the notion that Texas players are too soft for the NFL.
- It wasn't safe for former Texas A&M quarterback Stephen McGee to attend his old team's practice earlier this week, Houston Chronicle/San Antonio Express-News beat writer Brent Zwerneman reports.
- The Omaha World-Herald's Lee Barfknecht analyzes the spring practice of Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert.
- Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman mentioned earlier this week to reporters that the Aggies' opener against New Mexico could be nationally televised. The Bryan Eagle's Robert Cessna analyzes the chances of the Aggies' game being chosen on a busy opening weekend.
- New Colorado offensive line coach Denver Johnson has helped his group develop by keeping its terminology from last season, Boulder Daily Camera beat writer Kyle Ringo reports.
- Former Baylor offensive tackle Jason Smith is set to make history as the school's first first-round draft pick of the Big 12 era, the Waco Tribune-Herald's John Werner reports.
- New Iowa State offensive coordinator Tom Herman has developed a "Wildcat" offensive package that features tailback Alexander Robinson taking direct snaps and quarterback Austen Arnaud as a wide receiver, the Cedar Rapids Gazette's Eric Peterson reports.
- Colorado offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich told the Denver Post's Tom Kensler that there's a "razor-thin" margin separating quarterbacks Cody Hawkins and Tyler Hansen heading into the Buffaloes' spring game on Saturday.
- The pundits from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch analyze whether Jeremy Maclin or Michael Crabtree will develop into a better NFL player.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Every team is green someplace. Here are the specific areas of the most inexperience for each Big 12 team.
Baylor offensive tackle: The Bears need to break in two new starters after losing Jason Smith and Dan Gay.
Colorado defensive line: Help is needed along the defensive front where the Buffaloes lose starting defensive end Maurice Lucas, starting defensive tackle George Hypolite and starting nose tackle Brandon Nicolas.
Iowa State defensive line: Coach Paul Rhoads desperately wants somebody to emerge on the defensive line where the Cyclones lose starting defensive tackle Michael Tate, starting defensive end Kurtis Taylor and top backup defensive back Travis Ferguson.
Kansas linebackers: Even as Mark Mangino is contemplating going to a two-linebacker base defense because of the Big 12's spread offenses, he still needs to find those two players. The Jayhawks lose starters James Holt, Mike Rivera and Joe Mortensen at the position from last season.
Kansas State quarterback: Josh Freeman departed for the NFL early, leaving Carson Coffman and junior college transfer Daniel Thomas to compete for the starting job. It's not a pleasant introduction back to football for returning KSU coach Bill Snyder.
Missouri skill-position players: The Tigers need a quick infusion of playmakers after losing quarterback Chase Daniel, wide receiver/kick returner Jeremy Maclin and tight end Chase Coffman. All of them arguably were the greatest players at their respective positions in Missouri history. Blake Gabbert will receive first look at quarterback and Andrew Jones will work at tight end. It could take several players to fill in for what Maclin did.
Nebraska quarterback: It will be tough for the Cornhuskers to replace all that Joe Ganz did for them, both as a playmaker and a leader at quarterback. Zac Lee will get the first shot, along with freshman Cody Green and redshirt freshman Kody Spano. Maybe the Cornhuskers really could use former Miami quarterback Robert Marve next season.
Oklahoma offensive line: The departure of starting center Jon Cooper, tackle Phil Loadholt and guards Duke Robinson and Brandon Walker means that Sam Bradford will have an inexperienced group protecting him next season. Trent Williams moves to left tackle and Bob Stoops likes his incoming talent, if not its early work habits.
Oklahoma State defensive tackles: The Cowboys ranked last in the conference in sacks last season and lost starting defensive tackles Tonga Tea and Jeray Chatham. It will mean that new defensive coordinator Bill Young will need somebody to step up in the trenches to help shore up that weakness.
Texas defensive line: The major question dogging the Longhorns' national title hopes will be rebuilding a defensive front that loses All-American defensive end Brian Orakpo, defensive tackle Roy Miller, defensive tackleAaron Lewis and defensive end Henry Melton from last season.
Texas Tech offensive line: New quarterback Taylor Potts will be relying on a retooled offensive line protecting his blind side after left tackle Rylan Reed, left guard Louis Vasquez and center Stephen Hamby all departed from last year.
Texas A&M running backs: The Aggies' offensive backfield will need to restock players: Michael Goodson left school early to declare for the NFL draft and fullbacks Jorvorskie Lane and Nick LaMantia are gone. Look for Cyrus Gray to get most of the work this spring with heralded freshman Bradley Stephens arriving in the summer.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Happy St. Patrick's Day.
Have a green beer for me and a double helping of corned beef and cabbage while you are savoring these links.
It will almost make you feel like you're at the Emerald Isle -- at least for a few minutes. And the green foam mustache left from the beer will put in the spirit of today, too.
- Colorado now appears to be headed to play at Toledo to fill its 12th game of the season. The game with the Rockets, coached by former Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Tim Beckman, would be played on Friday, Sept. 11, Kyle Ringo of the Boulder Daily Camera reports.
- Mike Gundy told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that his infamous 2007 rant has helped his school's recruiting.
- Baylor offensive lineman Jason Smith checks in at No. 2 and Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree at 10th on the most recent draft board created by the Houston Chronicle's Lance Zierlein.
- Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com lists the development of Oklahoma's offensive line, the return of Bill Snyder and the return of Oklahoma State coordinator Bill Young to the Big 12 among his 25 story lines to follow this spring.
- Austin Meek of the Topeka Capital-Journal notes that Kansas State earned a pyrrhic victory when the Wildcats finished second to Tennessee in the Bryce Brown recruiting sweepstakes.
- Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp spent some of his spring break last weekend visiting with his old boss, Alabama coach Nick Saban, Austin American-Statesman beat writer Suzanne Halliburton reports.
- Colt McCoy, Sam Bradford, Zac Robinson and Todd Reesing are listed among J.S. Hett's top 10 returning quarterbacks at opensports.com.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are the choices for my All-Big 12 team for the 2008 season.
QB - Colt McCoy, Texas
RB - Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State
RB - DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma
WR - Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech
WR - Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State
TE - Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma
OL - Duke Robinson, Oklahoma
OL - Jason Smith, Baylor
OL - Rylan Reed, Texas Tech
OL - Russell Okung, Oklahoma State
C - Jon Cooper, Oklahoma
DL - Brian Orkapo, Texas
DL - Brandon Williams, Texas Tech
DL - Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska
DL - Jeremy Beal, Oklahoma
LB - Joe Pawelek, Baylor
LB - Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri
LB - Travis Lewis, Oklahoma
DB - Darcel McBath, Texas Tech
DB - Darrell Stuckey, Kansas
DB - Lendy Holmes, Oklahoma
DB - Daniel Charbonnet, Texas Tech
AP - Jeremy Maclin, Missouri
KR - Perrish Cox, Oklahoma State
PR - Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State
K- Jeff Wolfert, Missouri
P- Justin Brantley, Texas A&M
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are a few revelations we learned in the Big 12 on Saturday
1. Baylor tackle Jason Smith and Nebraska coach Bo Pelini probably should learn something about talking smack before facing top-five teams. Smith intimated that Baylor could upset No. 1 Oklahoma and Pelini openly talked about shutting out Missouri. So what happened? Oklahoma scored four touchdowns in the first quarter en route to a 49-17 win over Baylor. And Missouri scored within a minute to set the tone for a 52-17 victory over Nebraska that was the Cornhuskers' worst home loss defeat since 1955. Maybe Smith and Pelini will think before they speak next time around.
2. Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel had a better course of action, waiting until after the game before delivering a stinging retort directed at the Nebraska program. Daniel claimed he had been spit on by Nebraska players before the game and disrespected by the Cornhuskers all week leading up to the game. Daniel exacted his payback after the game started. It certainly delivered the impetus for one of the biggest victories in Missouri history and another low moment for a Nebraska program that has groveled through a bunch of them in the last two seasons. And Daneil's post-game comments likely didn't win Daniel many friends across the Cornhusker state, either.
3. Mike Leach needs to learn that it's not a sign of weakness to use a punter on fourth down on his side of the field. Texas Tech again was burned when Leach went for it on fourth down and failed, setting up an easy Kansas State touchdown drive, allowing the Wildcats to tie the game. Leach's team can overcome those gambles against teams like Nevada and Kansas State. But they likely won't be able to do it against one of the Big 12 powers and live to tell about it.
4. Welcome back Jake Sharp and Mike Rivera. The duo of defrocked Kansas players were among the major reasons the Jayhawks were able to escape Iowa State with a dramatic comeback victory. Both have resided in Coach Mark Mangino's doghouse earlier this season, losing their starting positions. But both had huge games to help spark the comeback. Sharp finished with 186 total yards against Iowa State after getting one carry in the first half. And Rivera rebounded to provide seven tackles to lead a defensive turnaround that helped the Jayhawks overcome a 20-0 halftime deficit. Such play from veteran players isn't surprising and is one of the major reasons that the Jayhawks won their fifth-straight conference road game. Before that, Kansas had won six conference road games in the 11-season history of the Big 12.
5. Oklahoma State's defense stole the show Saturday night against Texas A&M. The Cowboys' offense rightfully gets most of the publicity around the Cowboy program. But OSU's defense was the major reason why OSU claimed a 56-28 triumph over the Aggies. The Cowboys provided five turnovers and three three-and-out series in the first half alone against A&M. It won't always be that easy for the Cowboys, but that kind of defensive performance could propel them into a role as a challenger for their first Big 12 South Division title.
There's been one huge surprise in the Big 12's early games and another game that is playing out exactly to form.
Iowa State is jumping all over No. 17 Kansas, pummeling them for an early 20-0 lead over the Jayhawks at the half. The fans in Manhattan, Kan., are loving the early struggles by their cross-state rivals. You can hear them roaring for big plays, listening to the game while tailgating.
And No. 1 Oklahoma is showing few early struggles, charging to an early 35-14 lead over Baylor late in the first half.
ISU quarterback Austen Arnaud picked up where he left off after a strong second half against UNLV in his last game. Arnaud has completed 15 of 18 passes and also leads the Cyclones with 29 yards rushing.
I felt before the game that the Jayhawks would have more trouble defending their ranking than any of the other Big 12 ranked teams. Gene Chizik has been an underdog five times and claimed three outright victories. But today -- if he can keep this lead -- would assuredly be his biggest win.
Baylor tackle Jason Smith might have chosen to keep his mouth shut when he called out the Sooners earlier this week. The Sooners already have amassed more than 300 yards as Sam Bradford has thrown for two touchdowns and run for another. They've had the ball six times and scored touchdowns on five of the possessions, including their first four.
Looks like the Sooners will be rolling into the Red River Rivalry next week in Dallas. Texas will have its chance tonight at Colorado.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
With my flight for Kansas City fast approaching, I figured this would be my best chance to provide a few Big 12 links that caught my attention. Thanks to the the free wireless at San Antonio International Airport, here they are:
- The Kansas City Star's Blair Kerkhoff compares the Big 12's relatively soft non-conference schedule to the NFL's preseason. But now, the real games begin.
- Oklahoma State safety Quinton Moore is trying to overcome the memory of his critical roughing-the-kicker penalty that helped wrap up Texas A&M's victory over the Cowboys last season.
- Texas players and coaches say they harbor no grudges against Colorado tailback Darrell Scott, who almost ended up playing for the Longhorns and likely would have if Ken Rucker had remained the Longhorns' running backs coach.
- After leading the Big 12 in all-purpose yardage in 2006, Texas Tech running back Shannon Woods was demoted to the scout team last season. Woods has battled back from that adversity to become a key producer for the Red Raiders.
- Colorado defenders are convinced that Texas quarterback Colt McCoy is the real deal. Defensive tackle George Hypolite calls him as dangerous as Chase Daniel, only more athletic.
- Baylor tackle Jason Smith is doing more than calling Oklahoma out this week and being one of the most notable alumni of the team-roping program at W.T. White High School in Dallas. He's also the Bears' top potential NFL draft pick in more than 10 years.