NCF Nation: Josh Lenz

There was no midgame switch like last season, when Jared Barnett came on for Steele Jantz in the middle of a loss to Texas A&M.

After Jantz accounted for four turnovers in a 24-13 loss to Texas Tech in Week 4, Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads opened the competition during practice for the starting quarterback job and Barnett won it.

[+] EnlargeJared Barnett
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireJared Barnett took advantage of his first opportunity to start, throwing three TD passes against No. 15 TCU.
It didn't take long for the switch to pay off. Barnett hit a streaking Josh Lenz in the first quarter for touchdowns of 51 and 74 yards in a 37-23 win over No. 15 TCU. The victory moved the Cyclones to 4-1, just two wins short of a third bowl berth in four years under Rhoads.

"What goes through my head is ‘Finally.’ Plays that were called in the Texas Tech game but never even got thrown, because of protection possibly, because of team cover, because of not pulling the trigger, so 'finally' is what goes through my mind," Rhoads said. "Glad we got them executed successfully."

The opening script of plays turned explosive quickly, with Barnett hitting Albert Gary for a 19-yard gain on his second pass and Lenz for the 51-yard score down the right sideline on his third attempt.

"You go into every game with some shots, big-hit plays, explosive plays if you will, and we finally were able to connect on them," Rhoads said. "The opening touchdown was a play that as a part of a sequence, we thought we might get a one-on-one opportunity and Jared was able to deliver the ball and Josh was able to win."

Rhoads made the decision last week to switch starters and sat down Barnett and Jantz on Friday, making it clear that the move was only for one week. Barnett's performance all but assured himself a second week as starter, but Rhoads wanted to make sure that part of the message sunk in for Jantz, who led Iowa State to a 3-0 start in consecutive seasons, including a pair of wins over rival Iowa.

Barnett played one of the best games of his career in Fort Worth, Texas, a short drive from his hometown of Garland, a northeast suburb of Dallas.

"Going back to Texas was a factor in the decision, the fact that he’s always led our team when he’s played quarterback," Rhoads said. "Hasn’t always made the plays, necessarily, but he’s led our team and we were at a point where that’s what we needed. We needed somebody to make good decisions and steer the ship and not necessarily go out and win the game. He did what we asked for on Saturday."

Even on the one play when Iowa State had to pull Barnett -- his helmet came off, and by new NCAA rule, he had to sit for a play -- offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham had enough confidence in his senior to have him test TCU's defense deep.

"I think Steele appreciates that," Rhoads said.

Saturday, a much tougher challenge awaits, and with it, a much smaller margin of error. TCU turned the ball over five times on Saturday and was playing without all three of its 700-yard rushers from a year ago. The Frogs also didn't have quarterback Casey Pachall, who was suspended indefinitely after a DWI arrest, and left the team to seek treatment at an in-patient facility this week.

No. 6 Kansas State will come to Ames at full strength, led by a Heisman candidate in Collin Klein.

"You’ll struggle to find a finer-coached football team and a better prepared football team in the country than a Bill Snyder-coached Kansas State ball club," Rhoads said. "There’s no way we can count on five turnovers to help us win this game."

Instead, he'll have to count on Barnett.

Big 12 helmet stickers: Week 6

October, 7, 2012
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Time to hand out a little hardware for a job well done. Your stickers are in the mail, gentlemen. I expect they'll be on your helmets next week.

Josh Lenz, WR, Iowa State: Lenz made Jared Barnett's first start of the season a memorable one, torching TCU's defense for touchdown catches of 51 and 74 yards during the 37-23 win. He wasn't done. He caught another TD for 1 yard and threw a 15-yard touchdown on a trick play.

John Hubert, RB, Kansas State: Hubert touched the ball only 10 times, but he turned those touches into 101 rushing yards and four touchdowns in the Wildcats' Sunflower Showdown 56-16 romp over Kansas. Well done by the Big 12's most underrated back.

Andrew Buie, RB, West Virginia: Buie was a workhorse for the Mountaineers, logging 207 yards on 31 carries, both career highs, in WVU's 48-45 win at Texas. On West Virginia's final offensive drive, Buie carried the ball seven times on the eight-play scoring drive, amassing 63 yards and icing the game with a 5-yard touchdown run. West Virginia wouldn't have won that game without him, and Geno Smith would have taken even more hits than he already took. Without the running game, West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen suggested Texas' defense might have had 12 or 20 sacks instead of four.

Oklahoma's defense: Landry Jones played outstanding, but nobody could be all that surprised at Oklahoma hanging 41 on Texas Tech. The defense, though? A late garbage-time touchdown aside, Mike Stoops' unit was outstanding and turned Saturday's game into a laugher for the Sooners in a 41-20 rout. Seth Doege didn't throw a TD pass, and Texas Tech gained a whopping 28 yards on its first six drives of the second half. Yikes. Amazing stuff from the Sooners. Over that span, the Sooners' lead ballooned from a pedestrian 24-13 to an impressive 41-13.

Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State: Klein put in another very Collin Klein-like day in the Wildcats' 56-16 win over in-state rival Kansas. He accounted for four touchdowns -- two rushing, two passing -- and led K-State with 116 yards rushing on just 10 carries. He also completed 7 of 14 passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns to lead K-State to a fourth consecutive win in the Sunflower Showdown, and the third consecutive by at least 38 points.

Iowa State swamps undermanned TCU

October, 6, 2012
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TCU wasn't at full strength, but Paul Rhoads didn't take very long to get his first win over a ranked opponent in 2012. He did it on the road in 2009 (Nebraska) and 2010 (Texas); last season, No. 2 Oklahoma State played victim. This time, it was a 37-23 victory over TCU, thanks to a strong start from Jared Barnett, selected to move in front of Steele Jantz. Barnett connected on two long touchdown passes in the first quarter and finished with 183 yards, three touchdowns and an interception on 12-of-21 passing.

It was over when: Iowa State defensive lineman David Irving deflected a pass with his face ... and caught it anyway. The 262-pounder caught the ball off his facemask and raced 21 yards for a touchdown to put Iowa State up two touchdowns with 7 minutes, 51 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

Game ball goes to: Receiver Josh Lenz. The Bifocal was in full focus on Saturday, hauling in touchdown passes of 1, 51 and 74 yards to pace the Iowa State offense. He wasn't done. He later threw a 15-yard touchdown pass. More on that later ...

Stat of the game: TCU lost the turnover battle, 5-1, and two came inside the Iowa State 5-yard line, TCU's seventh and eighth turnovers in the red zone this season. Another was returned for a touchdown. Playing without Casey Pachall, the Frogs couldn't afford mistakes like that.

Best call: Facing a second-and-10 on the TCU 15-yard line, Iowa State ran a flawless reverse pass, finished off by Lenz, who found a wide-open Ernst Brun Jr. for the touchdown that put Iowa State ahead, 30-20. A field goal in that situation would have kept it a one-possession game, but the well-executed trick play wouldn't allow it.

What it means: TCU might need to brace for a long season. Iowa State looked like the better team on the field by far, and to this point, the Cyclones had looked like the ninth-best team in the Big 12. Iowa State's defense continues to be underrated around the league, but it frustrated Trevone Boykin for much of the day. Boykin, starting in place of Pachall, who was suspended indefinitely after a drunk-driving arrest Wednesday, finished with 270 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions on 23-of-40 passing. The Frogs badly missed Pachall, and never established a running game without Waymon James, who's out for the season with a knee injury. Meanwhile, Iowa State went on the road and got yet another victory over a top-15 team under Rhoads. He seems to make a habit of that.

Big 12 spring football preview

February, 21, 2012
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Spring football is already under way at Texas Tech, but in the coming weeks, the Big 12's other nine programs will join the Red Raiders in taking the field as a team for the first time since January, December or November for some.

Here's a preview of what to expect:

BAYLOR BEARS

Spring practice start date: March 19
Spring game: April 14

What to watch:
  • Nick Florence: It's not official, but the Baylor quarterback job is Florence's to lose. That means he inherits the unenviable task of replacing the school's first Heisman winner. He replaced RG3 in 2009 with mixed results, but showed some major potential in a win over Texas Tech when RG3 took a shot to the head and sat out the second half. Can he keep the bowl streak alive at Baylor? We'll get an idea this spring.
  • The defense's progression: You didn't need to see much more than the 67-56 Alamo Bowl win over Washington to know the Bears needed some work on defense. In the month of November, Baylor became the first team in FBS history to win four consecutive games in a single season while also giving up at least 30 points in each of those games. The defense can't make Florence pick up the slack to that level. Year 2 under Phil Bennett must be better. Baylor has no excuses. The Bears have the athletes on campus necessary to be at least a decent defense.
  • The team's attitude/motivation: Baylor played with a lot of purpose the past two seasons, and made history in both, cracking a 16-year bowl drought and winning 10 games this year. Is that fire still there? Baylor has to prove it is without RG3 (and Kendall Wright) carrying the team on the field, emotionally and mentally.
IOWA STATE CYCLONES

Spring practice start date: March 20
Spring game: April 14

What to watch:
  • The quarterback battle: Or is it? Jared Barnett looked like the man of the future in Ames late in the season, leading the Cyclones to an historic upset of No. 2 Oklahoma State. But in the ugly Pinstripe Bowl loss to a mediocre Rutgers team, Barnett's inaccuracy posed big questions. He was benched and Steele Jantz stepped in, though he didn't play much better than Barnett. Turnovers were an issue for Jantz early on, but Barnett has to bounce back in the spring to make sure the job doesn't come open.
  • The receivers: Darius Reynolds was the big-play man for the Cyclones, but he's gone. It's going to be tough to replace him. Slot receivers Aaron Horne and Josh Lenz were productive, but did little to stretch defenses like Reynolds did. Can ISU find someone to fill the void?
  • The new man at left tackle: Iowa State had the luxury of having a future pro, Kelechi Osemele, at left tackle for the past three seasons. He earned All-Big 12 nods in each of those seasons, but he's gone now. Junior Carter Bykowski was behind Osemele on the depth chart, but will the converted tight end be the new man at tackle for the Cyclones?
KANSAS JAYHAWKS

Spring practice start date: March 27
Spring game: April 28

What to watch:
  • Uh, everything?: I mean, what's not to watch at KU? Charlie Weis steps in for the fired Turner Gill and tries to build KU up from nothing. The Jayhawks were one of the worst teams in Big 12 history last season, losing six games by at least 30 points. Weis will speak his mind and watching him rebuilding the Jayhawks is going to be fun. It all starts next month -- on the field, at least.
  • KU's new pass-catch combo: Dayne Crist is on campus, and so is Oklahoma transfer Justin McCay, a former blue-chip recruit who didn't quite catch on in Norman. Quarterback and receiver were arguably the two biggest positions of need for KU last year, and we'll get a preview of what could be a productive combo next season. McCay isn't officially eligible for the 2012 season yet -- he needs the NCAA to waive its mandated redshirt year after a transfer -- but the coaching staff is confident he'll have it granted.
  • The uncertainty on the depth chart: When a new staff comes in, you never know what to expect. Kansas' leading rusher in its final season under Mark Mangino, Toben Opurum, is now one of its best defensive linemen. Look for Weis to shake things up, too. Where? Who knows?
KANSAS STATE WILDCATS

Spring practice start date: April 4
Spring game: April 28

What to watch:
  • Collin Klein's maturation: Kansas State's quarterback could be fun to watch this spring and next fall. His throwing motion isn't pretty, but his accuracy improved in a big way throughout the season. If that continues at a pace anything close to what we saw last year, K-State's going to be a load for everyone. Look out.
  • Developing depth at running back: John Hubert is back, and so is seldom-used Angelo Pease. Bryce Brown is gone, though. Klein handles a lot of the heavy lifting in the running game, but it'd be some nice insurance if K-State could establish some more depth in the backfield. Making Klein carry the ball 300 times again is tempting fate.
  • Stars becoming superstars: Kansas State brings back more starters than all but seven teams in college football, so this team is going to look remarkably similar in 2012 to the way it did last year. However, it should get better. And its two transfers could look dominant this spring. Cornerback Nigel Malone and linebacker Arthur Brown emerged as stars last year, but we could see the duo emerge as true game-changers this spring. Look out, Big 12 offenses.
OKLAHOMA SOONERS

Spring practice start date: March 8
Spring game: April 14

What to watch:
  • New faces on, off the field: Mike Stoops' arrival as the defensive coordinator was the biggest news this offseason in the Big 12, and Brent Venables, who had been at OU for all of Bob Stoops' tenure, left for Clemson rather than become co-defensive coordinator. Hopes are high that Stoops can revitalize Oklahoma's defense. He was in charge when the Sooners rode a dominant D to the 2000 national title, and the Sooners have the talent to win it all in 2012. Receiver Trey Metoyer joins the team this spring, and could be a major contributor immediately. Two of the team's four new tight ends are also enrolled early.
  • QB Blake Bell's role: The Belldozer is back … but so is full-time quarterback Landry Jones. How will the balance between the duo look this spring? And what new wrinkles will we see in Oklahoma's simple, yet near-unstoppable short-yardage formation that scored 13 touchdowns in the second half of 2011?
  • The battle at defensive end: Oklahoma must fill two huge holes at defensive end. Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Frank Alexander is gone, as is possible first-round pick Ronnell Lewis. R.J. Washington contributed late and has potential, but David King filled in for Lewis in the final three games of the season. The duo could be great, but it could also be pretty pedestrian. We'll get an idea this spring, but Lewis and Alexander set a high, high bar.
OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS

Spring practice start date: March 12
Spring game: April 21

What to watch:
  • The quarterback battle: This will easily be the highest-profile, highest-quality quarterback battle in the Big 12. It won't be at the level of Texas Tech in 2010, but it won't be too far off. Clint Chelf, J.W. Walsh and Wes Lunt will go head to head. All have plenty of potential, though Lunt may have the most. The big-armed true freshman also has the least experience. Anything could happen here.
  • Which receivers rise: Justin Blackmon and Josh Cooper leave huge holes behind. It's not every day a two-time Biletnikoff Award winner walks on campus. Hubert Anyiam is gone, too. Michael Harrison is unlikely to play for the 2012 season, but the school has offered no confirmation on his status. He had the most potential, but OSU is deep at the position. Who emerges as the top target? Isaiah Anderson? Tracy Moore? Josh Stewart? Anything could happen there, too.
  • Defense needs a leader: Safety Markelle Martin has been the heart of the defense the past two seasons, but his big-hitting days are over. Who becomes the new voice of the defense? It needs to find leadership this spring heading into summer voluntary workouts.
TEXAS LONGHORNS

Spring practice start date: Feb. 23
Spring game: April 1

What to watch:
  • The quarterback competition: I still think having a competition at the spot, which Texas says it will, isn't the best option, but David Ash and Case McCoy will go at it alongside early-enrolling freshman Connor Brewer. If Ash secures the job, expect an announcement heading into summer officially anointing the sophomore.
  • More sophistication on both sides of the ball: The progression is natural and likely. Offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin and defensive coordinator Manny Diaz had good first years in Austin, but this is Year 2. The spring won't be devoted to learning the playbook. It's time to master it. Both units could look markedly different, and much more refined next fall. Deny it all you like: Texas is back on its way to the top after a rough two years.
  • Maturing offensive weapons: Last season, the Longhorns relied on two true freshman running backs (Malcolm Brown/Joe Bergeron), a freshman/sophomore rotation at quarterback and its top receiver (Jaxon Shipley) was a true freshman. No. 2 (Mike Davis) was a sophomore. I hope I don't have to tell you what freshmen and sophomores do in college football. Look. Out.
TCU HORNED FROGS

Spring practice start date: Feb. 25
Spring end date: April 5

What to watch:
  • Can TCU shut out the scandal? Four team members were arrested in a recent drug sting and kicked off the team. How much of a distraction will that be for a program undergoing the most monumental change in its history? Quantifying the effects of the scandal will be pretty impossible, and we've got no idea how they'll handle the change, but will it be on players' minds?
  • The offense tightens up: The Horned Frogs' offense is absolutely loaded and ready to go for 2012. Quarterback Casey Pachall returns and brings his top three weapons (Josh Boyce, Skye Dawson and Brandon Carter) with him. Running backs Waymon James, Ed Wesley and Matthew Tucker each topped 700 yards rushing in 2011 and all return. The spring will be all about fine-tuning an already stellar offense, and it'll be fun to watch.
  • Replacing departed starters: All-America linebacker Tanner Brock was among the four football players arrested and booted from the team, as was all-conference defensive tackle D.J. Yendrey and likely starting safety Devin Johnson. Those were unforeseen losses, but TCU can't feel sorry for itself. Gary Patterson has no choice but to find new faces to fill those holes.
TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS

Spring practice start date: Feb. 17
Spring game: March 24

What to watch:
  • Once again, a new defense: Texas Tech sounds like a broken record these days when it comes to defensive coordinators. This time, Art Kaufman will be stepping to the microphone as the fourth defensive coordinator in Lubbock in four years. He's bringing a 4-3, a shift back to what Ruffin McNeil ran in 2009. Chad Glasgow's 4-2-5 and James Willis' 3-4 failed miserably in 2011 and 2010, respectively, the first two years under Tommy Tuberville.
  • The battle at running back: No one knows yet if Eric Stephens will be back next season. There's still a long way to go in his rehab from a dislocated knee he suffered last season in a loss to Texas A&M. DeAndre Washington is also out this spring after tearing his ACL against Missouri. Harrison Jeffers hung up his cleats. Who will prove to be reliable this spring? Look for the Red Raiders to try to use sophomore Bradley Marquez, freshman Javares McRoy and junior SaDale Foster in a manner similar to the way Oregon uses scatback De'Anthony Thomas, with lots of short passes and bubble screens to get them the ball in space, where they can use their speed and shiftiness to make plays.
  • Team health: Tuberville said earlier this month that the team is missing 15 players this spring. It can't afford any more injuries. It's already going to be tough to get enough done this spring, but Tech can't start getting banged up.
WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS

Spring practice start date: March 11
Spring game: April 21

What to watch:
  • Dana Holgorsen's offense in Year 2: Holgorsen didn't get a chance to coach his talented offense at Oklahoma State in its second year. The results could have been crazy. They might be at West Virginia in 2012, and the beginning steps will be taken this spring as Geno Smith & Co. get more and more comfortable with the system and Holgorsen adds more wrinkles.
  • The battle at running back: Sophomore Dustin Garrison hurt his knee in practices leading up to the Mountaineers' 70-33 Orange Bowl win over Clemson, and won't be there for the spring. What does senior Shawne Alston have in store for the spring? Garrison was the featured back last season, but a big spring could help Alston earn a few carries next year.
  • Defense needs help: Najee Goode leaves a big hole at linebacker, and defensive back Eain Smith's exit means the Mountaineers enter the season without two of their top three tacklers from a year ago. Bruce Irvin and Julian Miller's talents on the defensive line will be tough to replace, and in a league that requires a great pass rush, Irvin, Goode and Miller's 19 combined sacks must be replaced somehow.

Big 12 position rankings: Receivers/TEs

February, 14, 2012
2/14/12
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We're continuing our look at the postseason rankings for each position in the Big 12. Here's a look back at where the receivers ranked in the preseason.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big 12 recruiting needs in 2012

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

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

BAYLOR

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

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

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

IOWA STATE

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

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

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

KANSAS

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

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

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

KANSAS STATE

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

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

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

OKLAHOMA

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

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

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

OKLAHOMA STATE

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

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

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

TEXAS

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

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

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

TCU

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

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

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

TEXAS TECH

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

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

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

Cyclones should go with Barnett at QB

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

In his place, a freshman: Jared Barnett.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ISU quarterback play subpar in Ames

October, 22, 2011
10/22/11
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Steele Jantz got benched without completing a pass, including an interception in his first four attempts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weekend rewind: Big 12

September, 19, 2011
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Looking back on the Big 12 in Week 3:

Best offensive player: Seth Doege, QB, Texas Tech. A lot of good offensive performances against a lot of varying competition, but if you're breaking NCAA records, you deserve player of the week honors. Doege set an NCAA record for completion percentage, completing 40-of-44 passes (90.9 percent) for 401 yards and five touchdowns, breaking fellow Red Raider Kliff Kingsbury's record.

[+] EnlargeTom Wort
AP Photo/Chris O'MearaOklahoma linebacker Tom Wort, 21, was all over the field against Florida State.
Best defensive player: Tom Wort, LB, Oklahoma. The Sooners' linebacker looked like the best player on the field for most of the biggest game of the week. He finished with eight tackles, two sacks, 2.5 tackles for loss and an acrobatic interception on a screen pass he tipped to himself.

Best team performance: Oklahoma. The Sooners went on the road against the nation's No. 5 team and got a win, easily the Big 12's best of the year. Oklahoma's defense turned in one of its best performances in a long time, and the offense made plays when it needed them, despite allowing momentum to turn midway through the second half.

Best game: Oklahoma 23, Florida State 13. Anybody else feel like this game closely resembled an SEC slugfest? Oklahoma hasn't played in a game that physical for a long while, but the Sooners punched back. Both teams played outstanding defense and delivered some crushing hits. The result was a well-played, entertaining game with big-time fourth-quarter drama. Runner up: Iowa State 24, Connecticut 20

Most bittersweet night: Cy the Cardinal, Iowa State's mascot. Iowa State knocked off Connecticut on Friday night, 24-20 for a sweet, sweet victory and a 3-0 start. Cy, an All-American mascot, wasn't around to see it. The details surrounding the accident are sketchy, but he fell down some stairs and fractured his wing, er, arm.

Worst fan of the week: Mother Nature. Get off our lawns. Oklahoma State made headlines with a three-hour delay that resulted in a 12:15 a.m. local time kickoff and a 3:36 a.m. finish against Tulsa. Baylor's fourth quarter was canceled by storms, and the Bears' game against Stephen F. Austin had no halftime and the third and fourth quarters were shortened to 12 minutes before the abrupt stop. Texas Tech's game was delayed twice for a total of 95 minutes in its win against New Mexico.

Worst quarter: Kansas' third quarter. The Jayhawks trailed just 24-17 at halftime, and didn't allow the Georgia Tech offense to take a snap from inside the red zone for the entire quarter. Exceeeeept, they gave up touchdowns of 63, 67, 52 and 21 yards and were outscored 28-0 in the quarter on the way to an embarrassing 66-24 loss.

Best fans: Oklahoma State. They endured a three-hour delay and took shelter in the basketball gym, among other places. But when the game kicked off after midnight, Chapman Stadium in Tulsa had about 20,000 fans, and the majority were Cowboys fans. My hat is off.
Catch of the week: Josh Lenz, WR, Iowa State. Facing a third-and-9 and trailing by three just inside UConn territory, Lenz went full extension on the sideline and hauled in a 19-yard catch to extend the eventual game-winning, fourth-quarter drive. Big catch, bigger highlight.

Biggest rebound: Steel Jantz, QB, Iowa State. Three of Jantz's first four passes were intercepted and the Cyclones trailed 10-0 for the second consecutive game. But Jantz stayed the course and didn't turn the ball over the rest of the game, leading his team back to an improbable 24-20 win. He finished 18-of-29 for 200 yards with a touchdown pass.

Instant analysis: Iowa State 24, UConn 20

September, 16, 2011
9/16/11
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That was an ugly 60 minutes, but Iowa State got a big 24-20 road win in East Hartford, Conn., over the reigning Big East champs, Connecticut.

Some instant analysis for you:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Offense comes alive for ISU in Ames

September, 10, 2011
9/10/11
2:40
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Iowa State had moved the ball with some consistency, but lacked a big play throughout the day against Iowa, and even last week against Northern Iowa.

Not anymore.

Aaron Horne, a teammate of quarterback Steele Jantz in junior college in California, had a 57-yard catch-and-run to get Iowa State in the red zone. It took a 17-16 lead with an eight-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Josh Lenz on a flag route.

That 57-yarder was the longest play of the season for Iowa State, whose previous long against Iowa on Saturday was a 15-yard run by Shontrelle Johnson. Iowa State has the momentum, we'll see if it can keep it.

The fourth quarter is about to start in Ames. Should be a great one.
The Big 12 might be weak at the top of the running back heap, but it's definitely not at receiver. The conference has at least three of the top five receivers in the country, and the top two. They highlight a very strong group of receivers across the league, and I continue our position rankings with receivers today.

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

Other position rankings: 1. Oklahoma

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

2. Oklahoma State

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

3. Texas A&M

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

4. Baylor

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

5. Missouri

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

6. Texas Tech

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

7. Texas

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

8. Kansas State

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

9. Iowa State

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

10. Kansas

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

Iowa State bowl hopes need some help

November, 13, 2010
11/13/10
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Iowa State turned heads with a pair of wins over then-No.19 Texas and Texas Tech that had the Cyclones in bowl contention.

Now, they may turn heads with a loss that knocks them out of it.

The 5-5 Cyclones trail Colorado 20-7 midway through the third quarter, and with No. 17 Missouri on its way to Ames next week, Iowa State would need to pull a third shocker to qualify for a bowl for the second straight season.

Both of the Cyclones' second-half drives have been three-and-outs and Josh Lenz fumbled a punt to set up a Colorado field goal.

Paul Rhoads' teams seem to be at their best when no one expects much out of them, but all five of the Cyclones losses have come to teams currently ranked in the Top 25.

It seems like his team is falling flat in the one game most expected them to win, against a Colorado team playing its first game since Dan Hawkins was fired.

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