NCF Nation: Justin Tuggle



GLENDALE, Ariz.-- Collin Klein could only stare and watch as the final seconds of his college career ticked away. Oregon would hand him a 35-17 loss at the Fiesta Bowl in his final game, an ugly offensive performance that featured a pair of interceptions, a pair of touchdowns and one painful finale.

With glassy eyes shadowed underneath his helmet, he congratulated a few of the Ducks before joining his teammates and locking arms, grabbing a spot on the front row in the middle of the final CatPack of his life.

He and his teammates trotted off the field for the last time. Together.

"It's hard," Klein said, "It's not the way any of us wanted to go out."

Coach Bill Snyder collected his team in the locker room and delivered his final address of the season. He thanked his players for the work they put in, but most importantly, he reminded them that no one thought they'd be playing in this game. No one thought these seniors would end their careers as Big 12 champions, even if they couldn't be Fiesta Bowl champions, too.

He finished his remarks and dismissed the team before sharing a few words and a hug with Klein before the two went out the door to answer questions at a postgame news conference.

"Everybody might not see us as the most talented team in America, but we hang our hat on toughness, giving the greatest efffort we can do and this dude sums it up," linebacker Arthur Brown said of Klein. "Probably one of the toughest dudes I ever met."

He was tough enough to carry his team to 10 wins a year ago when some wondered if the 'Cats were good enough to reach a bowl game. He was tough enough to carry K-State to 11 wins and a Big 12 title this season when it was picked to finish sixth in the league. Along the way, he finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting.

Thursday's bittersweet performance won't be easy to swallow, but as players dressed, there were a whole lot more hugs than tears. A whole lot of promises to stay in touch as careers ended and brothers went their separate ways.

[+] EnlargeCollin Klein, Bill Snyder
Jennifer Stewart/USA TODAY SportsThe final go-round for K-State QB Collin Klein didn't go quite as he and coach Bill Snyder had hoped.
"This was a fantastic year for us, we did a lot of things when people didn't believe in us," running back John Hubert said. "It was great. We like proving people wrong. Every year since I've been here, we always hear we couldn't do this or couldn't do that. Just to go out and prove people wrong and win is a great feeling."

That's what these Cats will always be remembered for. They're the team that did what no other in K-State history did: Reached No. 1 in the BCS standings. They're also a team that lost two of its final three games and let a chance at a national title slip through its fingers, but time will provide perspective, and many of the Wildcats already possessed it not long after their season had ended.

"The Big 12 championship, when we got that 11th win and beat Texas, seeing that crowd rush the field," Hubert said. "Holding up that Big 12 Championship Trophy and for it to be in our locker room is one of the greatest things we've done."

Added linebacker Justin Tuggle: "I hope we're remembered for the good things we did, and not for the two slip-ups we had."

These Wildcats absolutely will be remembered for those moments. Klein's interception on the final pass attempt of his career will fade away. So will Cornelius Lucas' second-quarter false start on fourth-and-1 that led to a missed field goal by Anthony Cantele and the loss of every bit of momentum the Wildcats had built after falling behind 15-0 and giving up a 94-yard return for a score from Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas on the game's opening kick.

"It had a significant impact on the outcome of the ballgame," Snyder said of the false start.

Well, Snyder had a significant impact on the individual lives of his players and the community in Manhattan, too. Those false starts and missed tackles and missed opportunities will fade away. That Big 12 trophy and Klein's memories from a trip to the Heisman Trophy presentation never, ever will.

Kansas State's season ended with a difficult loss and the extension of a bowl drought that now stretches beyond a decade. K-State wishes it could have won this game. Any one of the Wildcats would have told you that. But they'd also tell you that a loss in this game does little to diminish the accomplishments of the 2012 team, which will go down in history as one of the best in school history.

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Whether it was true or not, you've got to applaud the effort. Kansas State kept a straight face when it was over.

A few guys eyed the scores in pregame, they admitted, but nobody knew that a win at Amon G. Carter Stadium for Kansas State held an extra special significance only moments after the game began. Alabama's home loss to Texas A&M more than 600 miles away went final just after kickoff, and a win would likely land Kansas State the school's first No. 1 ranking in the BCS.

On the field, Kansas State looked like a team doing what it had done most every week this season: It played sound defense, grabbed a double-digit lead and coasted to a casual win. This one was a 23-10 yawner against a young, scrappy but ultimately overmatched TCU team that clawed its way to bowl eligibility with a double-overtime thriller a week ago.

Still, Bill Snyder said he didn't find out about the result that might have changed Kansas State's season until he was safely in the locker room. His reaction? Little more than a shrug.

A few more found out on the field after the game, but not many -- if any -- Wildcats were fessing up to having the results spoiled before their domination of the Frogs was complete.

"The fans were yelling at us, but they weren't yelling about the Bama game," linebacker Justin Tuggle said with a laugh.

Tuggle and the rest of the defense walked off the field to "K-S-U" chants from a sizeable purple contingent that stood out among the TCU "Blackout," an impressively loud crowd of 47,292.

[+] EnlargeKansas State's Collin Klein
Jim Cowsert/US PRESSWIRECollin Klein and Kansas State appear headed for the top spot in the BCS. Klein rushed for two touchdowns against TCU.
It's a great irony, this willful ignorance of the Snyder CopyCats. Without Alabama's loss, Snyder could have pieced together a perfect 12-0 season and still been shutout of the BCS National Championship Game. Instead, the odds are high that the Wildcats would meet Oregon in the game's season finale, boxing out an undefeated Notre Dame team. (Imagine the laughter that sentence would have produced hardly more than a decade ago.)

Kansas State, though, turned its blinders on to outside factors that could have a profound impact on its future fortunes. Do otherwise and those same outside factors might very well be rendered irrelevant by a Kansas State loss. Either way, the first No. 1 ranking in school history seems imminent after an "any questions?" type of performance that featured a 23-0 fourth-quarter lead and a final score that might indicate the game was closer than it really was.

"There's a lot of work to be done," Tuggle said. "...Being No. 1 in the BCS doesn't mean anything. You don't get anything, any trophies for that or anything like that. There's still a lot of work to be done."

Kansas State's done that work so far this season, leaving little to no doubt about the best team on the field for 10 Saturdays running now. The Wildcats led by double digits late in a 24-19 win at Oklahoma, and didn't allow Iowa State's possible game-winning drive to cross midfield in a 27-21 win in Ames earlier this year.

The other eight wins on Kansas State's spotless résumé? Saturday's 13-point win is the closest, followed by a pair of 14-point wins over Oklahoma State last week and North Texas all the way back on Sept. 15.

"We've been going now for almost 3½ months now without any let-up," Snyder said. "The fact that you're winning, I think, keeps the mental freshness to a certain degree."

Kansas State has looked like mentally fresh every week, offering little to no evidence that a letdown like the double-overtime heartbreaker back in 1998 is coming. A 4-5 Baylor team awaits next week. Then two weeks to prepare for a hot Texas team in Manhattan. The Longhorns might just be inside the top 10 and provide a boost in the BCS rankings that K-State almost certainly doesn't need anymore. Get passed up by Oregon at some point? Who cares? Win, and Kansas State is in.

After the game, TCU coach and K-State alum Gary Patterson had a simple request for the man who built a program from nothing in The Little Apple: "Go win it," he told him.

Meanwhile, Snyder is shrugging on the doorstep of territory Kansas State has never tread upon. He's doing it with a blank look on his face, a freebie windbreaker from last year's Cotton Bowl on his back and a hot cup of coffee in his hand while tackling postgame questions and dodging those who request injury information.

"I apologize for being noncompliant," Snyder said before leaving the podium. Think again if you expect an update on the status of two very important ankles: those of starting safety Ty Zimmerman (five interceptions this year, including one on Saturday) and receiver/kick returner Tyler Lockett, who has returned a pair of kicks for scores this year and ranks second in return TDs in Big 12 history.

Snyder's message to the team after Saturday's win was one that couldn't help but spark his players' imaginations.

"This team has no idea what it's capable of being and where it's capable of going," linebacker Arthur Brown recalled a few minutes later. "We have to continue to focus and continue to focus in on what's gotten us this far, and the sky's the limit."

If by the sky, Snyder means hoisting a crystal football on South Beach in early January, he's got the Wildcats pointed in the right direction.

Defensive redemption propels KSU upset

September, 23, 2012
9/23/12
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NORMAN, Okla. -- Tre Walker climbed the wall in the southeast corner of Owen Field just to reach a few loved ones Saturday. He had to hug somebody, and couldn't wait until his pads were off to do it.

While the Kansas State linebacker took care of his business there, a "K-S-U" chant echoed through Norman after Bill Snyder's Wildcats finished making history. Walker was climbing to get off the field, but the rest of his team never wanted to leave after Kansas State's 24-19 victory over Oklahoma. Coaches and players hugged and high-fived.

Kansas State and Oklahoma players both had glassy eyes, for very different reasons.

"I mean, I was shocked," defensive end Adam Davis said.

Sure, the Kansas State faithful knew they could win. But that they would? History shot disapproving glances the way of anyone who believed otherwise.

Oklahoma was a perfect 14-0 versus ranked teams at home under Bob Stoops, dispatching opponents by an average of 28.2 points dating all the way back to 1999. The Wildcats hadn't beaten the seven-time Big 12 champs in the regular season since 1997.

Those stats, though, hadn't reached Davis. And he was still shocked. So were the raucous 85,276 Sooners fans in attendance who provided the best Big 12 atmosphere to date.

"It feels like you're on top of the world," Davis said of the postgame party on the field.

The big names on Saturday will attract plenty of attention. Landry Jones' shortcomings. Collin Klein's toughness and passing prowess, highlighted by a 12-yard completion on third-and-11 to Tramaine Thompson that all but iced the game in the final minutes.

[+] EnlargeJarell Childs, Ryan Mueller
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireJarell Childs (26) celebrates with Ryan Mueller after recovering a Landry Jones fumble in the end zone for Kansas State's first touchdown.
The real story? A dogged defense that harassed Jones into two game-breaking turnovers and got lucky with a third when a low snap scooted past Blake Bell, leaving the Belldozer broken down on the way back to the sideline instead of into the end zone.

Snyder, ever the exploiter of weaknesses, saw a big one in Jones that plenty of others saw, too.

Asked if Jones was "spooked," Davis replied: "I noticed it in the first half. When we'd get upfield, he'd start jabbing his feet real quick and moving. That let us know that he don't like nobody in his blind side, and we tried to attack it all night."

The Wildcats succeeded. They flushed Jones from the pocket in the first quarter and linebacker Justin Tuggle, playing defensive end on that particular play as part of a specialized package, caught Jones from behind and stripped the ball. Jarell Childs scooped it up just a yard in front of the goal line and scored.

Kansas State's defense believed.

"What we did all week was worked on trying to flush him out of the pocket, because we know he ain't good with pressure," Davis said. "If we get to his blind side, he's going to get jittery and try to move out the pocket and scoot up and stuff. We tried to get our D-tackles to cause pressure on the edge and try to get him."

The Wildcats notched two sacks, but the constant pressure had Jones looking mediocre for most of the night. His second turnover came when tackle Vai Lutui lunged at Jones from his knees. Jones threw off his back foot and promptly sailed a probable completion into the waiting arms of Kansas State safety Ty Zimmerman.

"It was a little bit of a struggle offensively. ... Our defense, I think, created the turnovers that took place, by and large," Snyder said. "I thought they did a heck of a job."

Snyder was a cool customer holding a hot cup of coffee with cream and sugar, taking sips while he answered questions after the victory in his Cotton Bowl windbreaker on a brisk fall night in Oklahoma. At one point during the conference, a cricket flew in and landed an inch from Snyder's left eye. He broke an answer for only a moment to swat away the pest.

Nothing could get to the unflappable SnyderCats on this night.

"When you play somebody as good as an Oklahoma team, it really does mean something special to them, and they feel good about it," Snyder said.

Snyder's demeanor wouldn't have been much different if the 14-point underdogs had gotten waxed by 30, like so many teams at Owen Field before them. Still, his message to the team remained consistent.

"He said he was very proud of us," Davis said with a grin.

Expecting maybe something a little more dramatic?

"Yes, we were, but you never really know what to expect," Davis said.

Well, that just wouldn't be very Snyder. Saturday's win, though? Doing what no team had ever done before and getting outgained in total yardage while doing it?

Could anybody else but Snyder do that?
Today is all about the QBs here at ESPN.com, and here's a look at each of the quarterback races in the Big 12.

IOWA STATE

[+] EnlargeJerome Tiller
Nelson Chenault/US PresswireJerome Tiller is expected to open as Iowa State's starting QB.
The safe bet: Jerome Tiller. Tiller, a junior, has filled in for Austen Arnaud much of the past two seasons, but struggled late last season after Arnaud suffered a season-ending knee injury. Tiller quarterbacked a win at Nebraska in 2009, but didn't look much improved in the game time he earned in 2010.

The wild card: Steele Jantz. Jantz is a speedy transfer from junior college in California who also arrived at Iowa State with his top receiver from the City College of San Francisco, Aaron Horne. Jantz will have to keep learning the offense, but can he inject life into the offense with his legs like Taylor Martinez did for Nebraska? Iowa State's version of The Decision is set for Aug. 20. Who will be taking their talents under center at Jack Trice Stadium? Give me the underdog in this race.

The dark horse: Jared Barnett. James Capello, a fourth contender, transferred, but Paul Rhoads says Barnett still has a chance. Can he make enough noise in fall camp to make that a reality?

KANSAS

The heavy favorite: Jordan Webb. Webb started seven games as a redshirt freshman in 2010, and appeared to take control during the summer, but he struggled last season. He should learn from experience, too. Last year's opening-day starter, Kale Pick, is now a receiver. Webb will almost certainly get the call for the season opener, but if he doesn't improve, that could change fast.

The underdog: Quinn Mecham. Mecham started four of the final five games for the Jayhawks, but the senior and junior college transfer might not be the best long-term option for Kansas. Webb learning on the go could pay off in the future, while any lessons Mecham learns will be out the door after the season. Mecham as the backup might be a better role for the team's greater good.

The wild cards: Brock Berglund and Michael Cummings, a pair of true freshmen. Cummings enters with a bit less talent but much less baggage. Berglund was a blue-chip recruit from Colorado, but legal issues stemming from an April assault charge have him spending much more time back home than anticipated. Berglund also missed summer voluntary workouts because of the charge and went back to Colorado before spring practice began, despite enrolling at Kansas in January, a semester earlier than the rest of the freshman class. Expect a redshirt for one of the two, but the two quarterbacks in front of them haven't exactly set the bar high. If the favorites struggle, don't be surprised to see Cummings or Berglund get a chance.

KANSAS STATE

The heavy favorite: Collin Klein. Coach Bill Snyder has already given Klein the status as Day 1 starter, but the Wildcats have played two quarterbacks before under Snyder, and Klein's backups could benefit from a similar strategy this season. The only rumors surrounding Klein are those of vast development during the summer, but he'll have to prove it during fall camp and early in the season to get a stranglehold on the job.

The hype man: Justin Tuggle. Tuggle replaced Cam Newton at Blinn Junior College and transferred to Kansas State before spring practice after originally playing for Boston College out of high school. Tuggle sounded like a strong contender entering spring practice, but didn't make it happen. We'll see if his status changes during fall camp.

The backup plan: Sammuel Lamur. Lamur was the No. 3 quarterback last season, and took over the No. 2 spot on the depth chart ahead of Tuggle during the spring. We haven't seen much of Lamur during his career, but this might be the year.

TEXAS

The favorite: Garrett Gilbert. Gilbert, despite his struggles in 2010, never got pulled and started all 12 games for the Longhorns. He looked unimpressive in the spring game, but indications from his teammates are that he's embodied the leadership aspect of the job, something coach Mack Brown covets. That might earn Gilbert the job, but if he doesn't look like a vastly different player this season, he'll lose it.

The wild card: Case McCoy. McCoy, the younger brother of that other McCoy kid you might have heard of, has taken on a bit of a fan-favorite role after his performance in the spring game, when he outplayed Gilbert. Despite his good numbers in the spring game, however, he looked uncomfortable and must make up for his lack of experience to oust Gilbert for the reins of the offense.

The mystery man: Connor Wood. Wood is a former high school All-American, but redshirted in 2010 and played sparingly in the spring game. Outside of a few snaps in spring, no one outside the locker room has had much of a chance to see Wood play, but if he starts making noise during fall camp, you'll hear it.

The young gun: David Ash. Coaches lauding true freshman quarterbacks in the spring is rare, but Ash arrived in Austin early and got a lot of compliments from the new Longhorns coaches. He's the long shot in this race, and Brown apologized to him for not getting him enough snaps in the spring game, but the coaches indicate he's still alive in the race.
We wrapped up our position rankings by team on Thursday, but today, we'll start ranking the 10 best players at each position. Obviously, the quarterback rankings won't look vastly different, but we'll get plenty of variance in the other positions.

This is a good group this year. There's a big dropoff after the first four, but plenty of others could join that group by season's end.

Also, I picked each team's representative according to who I picked to win the job in fall camp.

So, without further ado, let's get it on.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Weeden
Chuck Cook/US PresswireOklahoma State's Brandon Weeden seems destined to deliver dominant statistics again this season.
1. Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State -- We've been over this several times, but Weeden and Jones' numbers are extremely similar when you factor in Oklahoma's deep love for the bubble screen, and heading into this season, I lean toward Weeden because he's less likely to make a back-breaking mistake. Jones threw for almost 500 more yards, but Weeden had 106 fewer attempts, and averaged nearly a full yard more (8.4 vs. 7.6) per attempt than Jones.

2. Landry Jones, Oklahoma -- That said, my bet is on Jones taking the No. 1 spot from Weeden by season's end. We'll see a much more confident Jones this season, further development in his naturally quiet personality. I expect that to manifest on the field and Jones has enough talent around him to mount a serious Heisman campaign, as well as come close to or exceed his 4,718 yards and 38 touchdowns last season. It won't be for a lack of confidence. Jones threw the ball more than any quarterback in the nation last season.

3. Robert Griffin III, Baylor -- Griffin made big strides as a passer in 2010, and I'd expect that to continue this season, especially with the likely emergence of Josh Gordon as a big target with more experience. People peg Griffin, a junior, as a dual-threat quarterback, and there's no denying his speed, but if you took that away from him, he'd still be No. 3 on this list after throwing for 3,501 yards and completing 67 percent of his passes, the highest percentage of any returning quarterback in the Big 12.

4. Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M -- Tannehill will try to avoid the Texas A&M senior quarterback curse this season, but you have to love his chances with the way he played in the Aggies' final seven games of 2010, including a 5-1 record in his six starts. Tannehill, like Griffin, has the luxury of returning almost his entire receiving corps. Just nine receptions from last season's team won't return in 2011.

5. Seth Doege, Texas Tech -- The risk with Doege is significantly less than the risk that comes with James Franklin at Missouri. To me, it boils down to experience. Doege has been in the program for three seasons already, and he'll finally get his chance to start in his fourth fall on campus vs. Franklin in his second. He might not have the support at the skill positions that Franklin has, but he'll have five returning starters on the offensive line and an offense that's provided success for a lot of quarterbacks before him, even more than Missouri's.

6. James Franklin, Missouri -- Franklin, a sophomore, has a bit more upside than Doege, but I'd expect Franklin to learn a lot more during 2011 than Doege will. Franklin's thrown 14 passes at Missouri, but he might surpass that in the first half against Miami (OH) in the opener. Tyler Gabbert's departure after spring didn't help the Tigers' depth, but here's guessing it did wonders for Franklin's suspect self-confidence.

7. Collin Klein, Kansas State -- Klein was a big, versatile piece of Kansas State's offense last season, integral in a satisfying 39-14 stomping of Texas in Manhattan. He'll need to develop more as a passer to be the complete quarterback Kansas State needs, but for now, it looks like he'll hold off Justin Tuggle and Sammuel Lamur to win the job officially.

8. Garrett Gilbert, Texas -- Gilbert's potential is clear, but it feels like time and quality receivers are necessary for him to start making good on that potential. He might not have either this season. I expect him to be better, but his leash will be much, much shorter if he beats out Case McCoy and Connor Wood in fall camp. He made it through 2010 without being benched, but if he shows any of the same struggles in 2011, he won't get far before McCoy or Wood get a chance, or even freshman David Ash.

9. Steele Jantz, Iowa State -- Jantz's speed is something Iowa State hasn't had from a quarterback since Seneca Wallace, and that playmaking ability can put pressure on defenses and allow Iowa State's backs to make plays and receivers see less blanketing coverage. I'll pick him over the more experienced Jerome Tiller up in Ames, and he'll love playing with former juco teammate Aaron Horne at receiver.

10. Jordan Webb, Kansas -- Webb sounds like he's distancing himself from Quinn Mecham this summer, but he still has a long way to go before he proves he's a quarterback that can get Kansas into the postseason. The position is more important in the Big 12 than in perhaps any other league in college football, and until Kansas improves there, losing seasons will continue.
We'll kick off our look today at the position rankings for each team in the Big 12 before looping back around to rank the top 10 at every position in the Big 12.

We'll start at the most obvious position: Quarterback, a position that I'd argue is more important in the Big 12 than in any other conference.

Depth will be a huge factor in these rankings, though at quarterback, it's the toughest to gauge, considering how little we see of backup quarterbacks.

Here's how each Big 12 team ranks at the quarterback position:

[+] EnlargeLandry Jones
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireLandry Jones leads the Big 12's deepest and best group of quarterbacks.
1. Oklahoma

Oklahoma learned the hard way in 2009 about the importance of the backup quarterback, but even in his limited experience, Drew Allen has impressed Bob Stoops after narrowly losing out on the backup job behind Sam Bradford in 2009. Landry Jones is a great one, and with his opportunities, has become a Heisman Trophy favorite. Could Allen have done the same if he had beaten out Jones in 2009? Blake Bell, the nation's No. 3 quarterback in the 2010 class, will likely be Oklahoma's No. 3 in 2011.

2. Oklahoma State

Brandon Weeden's profile spiked when he led the Cowboys to a comeback win over Colorado on a Thursday night game in 2009. He took over as the starter shortly after, but going into that game Weeden was a third-stringer. Alex Cate transferred after it became evident that Weeden would be the starter in 2010, and behind Weeden is Clint Chelf and two solid recruits: Johnny Deaton and J.W. Walsh, who was the nation's No. 10 QB (just outside the ESPNU 150) in 2011 and enrolled early.

3. Texas A&M

Ryan Tannehill is entrenched at the starting spot, with a lot of youth behind him. Matt Joeckel and Jameill Showers will try to hold off incoming freshman Johnny Manziel for the No. 2 spot this fall. Manziel was impressive during the spring, and will contend for the starting job in 2012, but he'll likely redshirt unless he wins the backup job.

4. Texas Tech

Seth Doege looks ready to grab the reins for two seasons, barring injury. Jacob Karam is probably ready to start in the Big 12 right now, he's just not as good as Doege. Behind them are two promising prospects with upside and development to do: Scotty Young and Michael Brewer. The Red Raiders are the last of the Big 12 teams who have truly solid depth at quarterback.

5. Baylor

Robert Griffin III will probably hold every school record for quarterbacks by the time he leaves Waco, but the Bears need to find a true replacement behind him. Nick Florence filled in well in 2009 when Griffin missed the final nine games with a knee injury, but he's a junior like Griffin and their eligibility will expire simultaneously. Redshirt freshman Bryce Petty and 2012 commit Jared Johnson could battle for the spot in 2013.

6. Missouri

The Tigers depth took a hit after Tyler Gabbert's transfer following spring practice, but expectations are high for sophomore James Franklin, who got a bit of experience in 2010 behind Blaine Gabbert. Senior Jimmy Costello quit the team after last season to focus on an impending fall enlistment in the Army, but rejoined after the Gabbert brothers' departures from Columbia. He's likely to be the backup, with Ashton Glaser and walk-on Ryan Howerton filling out the rest of the quarterback spots. Corbin Berkstresser, a 6-foot-3, 218-pound quarterback from Kansas City that ESPN ranked No. 43 at his position, will arrive in the fall, too.

7. Texas

How long until we see a quarterback make the kind of plays Garrett Gilbert made against Alabama in the national championship? Those kinds of long scores were rare last year, but the Longhorns will have a competition this fall that sounds like it's pretty open heading into camp. If Gilbert wins, he'll likely have a much shorter leash in 2011 than he did in 2010, before Case McCoy or Connor Wood gets a crack, and dark horse true freshman David Ash could make things interesting, too.

8. Kansas State

Collin Klein made a nice move toward winning the job with a strong spring game performance. But coach Bill Snyder says he still didn't see a ton of separation between Klein and his backups, Sammuel Lamur and Boston College transfer Justin Tuggle, who spent last year replacing Cam Newton at Blinn College in Texas.

9. Iowa State

James Capello transferred after the spring, but Iowa State's race has likely boiled down to two men: Jerome Tiller and Steele Jantz. Jantz, a juco transfer, is the wild card and Tiller will need to show that his struggles in spot duty last season were temporary. He didn't show the progress you'd expect from a maturing player when he played for an injured Austen Arnaud in a few games early and late in 2010. Jared Barnett is still battling in Ames, but him winning the job would be a huge upset.

10. Kansas

The Jayhawks could use a couple more years of Todd Reesing. The Jayhawks saw a huge drop off at the quarterback position in 2010, as Jordan Webb, Quinn Mecham and Kale Pick all got time under center. Kansas will likely run its offense through a strong group of running backs, but unless newcomer Brock Berglund shows potential and proves he's the best of the group, expect Kansas to remain near the bottom of the Big 12 by the end of 2011.
Last month, Nebraska quarterback Cody Green announced his plans to transfer.

[+] EnlargeCody Green
Brett Davis/US PresswireCody Green is leaving Nebraska and a few Big 12 schools are on his list of possible landing spots.
Now, in an interview with HuskerOnline.com, Green says he could end up staying in the Big 12. Texas A&M, Baylor and Kansas State joined Tulsa and Houston as schools Green is considering.

"Mostly the guys who already I had a previous relationship with through high school. They were all right there the minute I declared I was going to leave," he said. "I made a visit to Kansas State this week and it went well. Coach [Bill] Snyder and those guys are a class act. When you have a legend like coach Snyder, everything feeds off of him. He's like coach [Tom] Osborne in that way."

Green signed with Nebraska in 2009 as the nation's No. 32 athlete. Rivals.com ranked him as the nation's No. 6 dual-threat quarterback. Since coming to Lincoln, he's started four games and appeared in 18 in two seasons on the field.

In 2009, he spent most of his time backing up Zac Lee, and in 2010, freshman Taylor Martinez.

The Dayton, Texas native has completed 66-of-122 passes for 657 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions.

Green told the site he had been considering transferring for a year, and planned to switch to wide receiver or tight end until injuries to Martinez and Lee forced him back into a starting role in a win against Iowa State. He also admitted that he played most of the game after suffering a concussion.

"I don't think I got as many quality chances as I could have had. It was just one of those things where I'd go in and make a mistake and get pulled. It was frustrating," he told the site.

Early last season, with Martinez becoming a star and the Huskers getting commitments from 2011 signees Bubba Starling and Jamal Turner, I heard from a few unhappy Nebraska fans when I suggested Green's future as a Husker might be abbreviated. Now, that's the case.

As for his future home, I could see him staying in the Big 12.

Texas A&M is a bit of a stretch. Johnny Manziel and Jameill Showers are the likely favorites to replace Ryan Tannehill next year, and even with Green's experience, I doubt his ability to unseat either of them.

As for Baylor and Kansas State, those could both be attractive options. He'd have to beat out some competition at Kansas State, but the Wildcats haven't had a quarterback with his experience or credentials on its roster. Unless Collin Klein, Sammuel Lamur or Justin Tuggle gets a firm grasp of the job this season, the job could be open again next spring.

Baylor's Robert Griffin III, a junior in 2011, has indicated to me on a couple of occasions that he plans to stay in Waco for all four seasons. Behind him, the Bears are thin at quarterback beyond Nick Florence, who started nine games for Baylor in 2009 with mixed results during a 4-8 campaign. Green could add a lot there if he's willing to wait out Griffin. Like Griffin, Green is a mobile quarterback who Art Briles could build his offense around, though Griffin is clearly a much more talented passer.

Green's future is definitely something to keep an eye on, so even though the Huskers are heading to the Big Ten, we could see a former Nebraska quarterback back in the league very soon.
Three of the most talked-about players in Kansas State's spring camp have never suited up in a Wildcats uniform.

Expectations from fans and media are high for all three, but for now, coach Bill Snyder isn't ready to tell anyone just what to expect.

[+] EnlargeKansas State's Bryce Brown
AP Photo/Wade PayneBryce Brown, now a Kansas State Wildcat, rushed 101 times for 460 yards as a member of the Tennessee Volunteers in 2009.
"These are quality young people, wonderful youngsters and very, very fine players," he said during the Big 12's conference call on Tuesday. "But I wouldn’t go beyond that at this point in time, because they haven’t, in either case, had the opportunity to step up and prove themselves."

Bryce and Arthur Brown are brothers and Wichita, Kan., natives. Bryce, a running back, originally signed with Tennessee before transferring back to Kansas State to be closer to home. Arthur, a linebacker, did the same after signing with Miami originally.

Both were five-star recruits, among the best in their class at their positions. In Arthur Brown's class, ESPN pegged only five players better than him, and four (A.J. Green, Julio Jones, Terrelle Pryor, Da'Quan Bowers) became household names over the course of their careers.

Alabama's Trent Richardson was the only running back ESPN ranked above Bryce Brown.

Neither stuck at their respective program.

Quarterback Justin Tuggle, meanwhile, started briefly at Boston College after leaving high school as the nation's No. 38 player. Last year, he spent the season filling Heisman winner Cam Newton's shoes at Blinn College in Texas.

Snyder has built a reputation on turning transfers from junior colleges and other Division I programs into stars, and the Wildcats hope that will be the case with their new trio, who will finally get their chance this fall.

"Are they going to step on the field and be instant successes to an extremely high degree? I can’t guarantee that," Snyder said. "I’d like for it to happen, they’d like for it to happen, our players would like for it to happen, and our coaches, but I wouldn’t instill that kind of pressure on either one of them."

The Brown Brothers have been in the program for a year, and Arthur has already drawn rave reviews for his work on the scout team last year. Tuggle, a dual-threat quarterback, arrived this semester and is working on learning the Wildcats offense while competing with Collin Klein and Sammuel Lamur to win the starting job.

"I’d hate to put a ceiling on anybody’s capabilities, whether it’s a transfer student or young people who have been in our program for a period of time. It would be hard to say this is what their limitations are. We try to stress not placing limitations on their abilities to perform successfully," Snyder said. "They weren’t in a position where they were on the field, the kind of repetition that is quality or signifies quick improvement, but they are now and each and all of them are making headway. Where does that take them? That’s certainly up to them."
Baylor, Texas and Texas Tech already have begun spring drills., but I'm kicking off my spring tour around the Big 12 campuses on Wednesday.

Here's a wide-angle look at the Big 12, with the five biggest questions hounding the conference to begin the spring.

[+] EnlargeLandry Jones
Tim Heitman/US PresswireQuarterback Landry Jones is one reason Oklahoma will get plenty of preseason attention. But can the Sooners overcome off-the-field problems?
1. Does it have a national championship contender or not? Oklahoma is by no means uncontested at the top of the Big 12, but it is a clear notch above Texas A&M and Oklahoma State as the favorite to win the conference. Additionally, there's a good chance the Sooners will open 2011 as the No. 1 team in the country. But in the two months before spring drills began, Oklahoma's had plenty of negative headlines off the field. Their best cornerback, Jamell Fleming, won't be with the team in the spring and his future is in doubt. Starting defensive tackle Stacy McGee was cited for misdemeanor marijuana possession. Star freshman Kenny Stills, a receiver, was arrested on a DUI complaint and his close friend, freshman safety Tony Jefferson -- also a California native and the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year, was booked on a complaint for interfering with the official process in the incident with Stills. That's a lot of distractions, but the Sooners will need to end that list now to have the best chance of validating their preseason hype on the field. Oklahoma has no glaring weaknesses as it stands, but if academics or discipline keeps players off the field, that could change. The hype will only grow if the Sooners stay out of the police blotter and book a solid spring camp.

2. Is Texas over its "entitlement?" Is the new staff jelling with players? This should be a fascinating spring in Austin. For the first time in perhaps a decade, the Longhorns have a long, long list of things to prove. They'll try to do it with a youth-infused staff and it all begins this spring. The defense was decent last season, the offense was awful. Both will need to be great if the Longhorns are going to compete for a Big 12 title after a last-place finish in the Big 12 South. Is Texas up to the challenge?

3. Where are the quarterbacks? Think back to 2008. The Big 12 had -- by my count -- eight quarterbacks that could play for about anybody across the country. Sam Bradford won the Heisman. Colt McCoy was one of the best in school history, winning more games than any quarterback in college history and reaching a pair of BCS bowls, including a national championship appearance. Chase Daniel, Graham Harrell, Todd Reesing, Robert Griffin III and Josh Freeman were all solid. That's eight out of 10 teams in the current Big 12 with excellence under center. This year? I count four. Griffin is still around. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are set with Landry Jones and Brandon Weeden and Texas A&M should be fine with Ryan Tannehill. Beyond that? It's pretty slim. Will we see breakout stars at Texas Tech, Missouri or Kansas State? All three have players who could be set for breakout years in Seth Doege, James Franklin and Justin Tuggle, but they'll have to win the job first and try to make a name for themselves if they can pull that off.

4. Are leaky defenses with new coordinators ready to support their teams' high-powered offenses? Texas Tech and Baylor both had offenses good enough to compete for a Big 12 title, but poor defense meant both had to settle for seven-win seasons and lower-tier bowl games. Both are back this spring with new coordinators. Veteran Phil Bennett is in at Baylor, and first-time coordinator Chad Glasgow will try to extrapolate the success he had coaching TCU's secondary into Texas Tech's secondary and defense, which ranked last in the Big 12 last year.

5. Can the Cowboys keep the status quo? Dana Holgorsen was the big story in Oklahoma State's spring camp last year, and he showed why during the season, turning the Cowboys into the Big 12's best offensive team. He's gone, and Todd Monken is taking over. Can the excellence continue? Bringing back all five offensive linemen will make it a lot easier. Skill positions look a lot better when quarterbacks have time and running backs have holes. Justin Blackmon and Brandon Weeden are back, but can their talents be showcased as two of the Big 12's best in 2011. They better be. If not, the Cowboys can rule out a Big 12 title.

Who's set and who's not at quarterback?

February, 17, 2011
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We took a look at the Big 12's spring storylines yesterday, and for several teams, that involves the quarterback. For others, it doesn't. But heading into the spring, which starts as early as Friday at Texas Tech, here's how the Big 12's teams rank in terms of certainty at quarterback.

LOCKED AND LOADED

Baylor: Baylor's offense runs entirely through the Bears' Robert Griffin III. He rebounded well last season from the knee injury that made him miss most of the 2009 season, and became a much, much better passer. We'll see if that continues in 2011, but it would take a serious injury to knock him off his starting spot.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Weeden
John Rieger/US PresswireBrandon Weeden enters next season as Oklahoma State's starting quarterback.
Oklahoma State: Brandon Weeden started every game for the Cowboys last season and earned All-Big 12 first-team honors. He's back. Look elsewhere for quarterback controversy. The backup race between Clint Chelf, Johnny Deaton and early enrolling freshman J.W. Walsh could be interesting, though.

Oklahoma: Landry Jones will effectively be a third-year starter for the Sooners next season, and a strong contender for All-Big 12 honors and possibly the Heisman. It's his offense for sure in 2011.

Texas A&M: Ryan Tannehill would be the easy front-runner even if he hadn't started the second half of the 2010 season. But he did, went 5-1 in his starts, and has the Aggies sniffing the top 10 in the preseason.

BETTER LOCK IT DOWN, KID

Texas: Garrett Gilbert had a horrible first year as starter in 2010, but he'll need to show his coaches -- new and old -- he'll be better in 2011. Grasping new coordinator Bryan Harsin's system will be key in keeping the junior ahead of his competition, Case McCoy and Connor Wood. Coach Mack Brown said last month that the job was open.

Missouri: James Franklin is the likely lead dog in the race, but only because he got more time and experience playing the game and adjusting to the speed of the game. He'll need to clearly be the best quarterback Missouri has to leave the spring as the projected starter. Tyler Gabbert and Ashton Glaser might steal the title with standout springs, but if all three aren't getting it done, incoming freshman Corbin Berkstresser could theoretically crash the party in preseason camp.

Iowa State: Jerome Tiller has five starts in two seasons because of injuries to Austen Arnaud, including an historic, albeit ugly, 9-7 win at Nebraska in 2009. But Paul Rhoads signed juco transfer Steele Jantz, and he'll have a great chance to win the job, too. James Capello and Jared Barnett will try to make splashes in the spring.

WHICH END IS UP?

Texas Tech: Tech, as usual, is likely to get good play out of whoever wins the job, but it's a near guessing game at this point. Seth Doege and Jacob Karam impressed coach Tommy Tuberville last spring working with the first team after Steven Sheffield and Taylor Potts were hurt, but Doege and Karam will have to hold off younger talents Scotty Young and Michael Brewer to win the job.

Kansas: The Jayhawks never settled on a quarterback, and battled injuries at the position last year. Kale Pick was moved to receiver during the 2010 season, and Jordan Webb and Quinn Mecham will be the main competition this year, despite a lack of truly inspired play for much of 2010. If incoming freshman Brock Berglund, who enrolled early, can show flashes of potential and outplay Webb and Mecham, he might be the guy best suited to help Kansas win right now and in the future.

Kansas State: The Wildcats' presumptive starter might not even be playing the position in 2011, and we've seen very, very little of the three quarterbacks hoping to replace the departed Carson Coffman. Justin Tuggle, a juco transfer, started three games at Boston College and has a good shot to win the job. Newcomer Daniel Sams could win the gig eventually, or it could be the returning Sammuel Lamur, who threw all of three passes last season (completing all three!) as the third-stringer.
Springtime is almost here. And here's a look at what to expect across the Big 12 when it gets into full swing here in the next couple weeks.

BAYLOR BEARS

Spring practice starts: February 28

Spring game: April 2

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

Spring practice starts: March 22

Spring game: April 16

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

Spring practice starts: April 1

Spring game: April 30

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

Spring practice starts: April 6

Spring game: April 30

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

Spring practice starts: March 8

Spring game: April 16

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

Spring practice starts: March 21

Spring game: April 16

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

Spring practice starts: March 7

Spring game: April 16

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

Spring practice starts: February 24

Spring game: April 3

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

Spring practice starts: March 22

Spring game: April 16

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

Spring practice starts: February 19

Spring game: March 26

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

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

Kansas State recruiting analysis

February, 3, 2011
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KANSAS STATE WILDCATS

The class

Signees: 32 (13 enrolled early, eight junior college, three transfers)

Top prospects: Kansas State's highest-rated recruit is four-star defensive end Ian Seau, the nephew of NFL star Junior Seau and the nation's No. 18 defensive end, but he won't be the one K-State fans are most excited to see next year. That title goes to the pair of brothers who transferred to Manhattan after stops at Miami and Tennessee as one of the nation's top linebackers and running backs. Arthur Brown and Bryce Brown, Wichita natives, are part of the hefty class. Defensive tackles Sam Harvill and Lamonte Clark hope to offer help up front with defensive end Hunter Davis and outside linebacker Mike Moore.

Needs met: Kansas State wanted help at defensive tackle, and certainly got it with two of their top recruits occupying the spot at the teeth of the defense. Clark weighs in at an impressive 310 pounds, and if he can become a contributor, he'll be a rare 300-pounder in the Big 12. Additionally, the Wildcats may have their new starting quarterback in this class, juco transfer Justin Tuggle. He's the man who replaced Cam Newton at Blinn College in Texas, and with Collin Klein reportedly moving back to wide receiver, don't be surprised if he's K-State's starter next fall.

Analysis: In most spots, the Brown brothers won't be factored into recruiting rankings, but they could have a big say in how successful the Wildcats are in 2011. Daniel Thomas is gone, and if Bryce Brown can tap into the potential that made him the nation's top running back recruit in his 2009 class and get rid of whatever kept him off the field at Tennessee, he'd make a lot of Kansas State fans happy. The same goes for Arthur Brown at linebacker.

ESPN recruiting grade: C-plus

Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich


It’s a good thing for the ACC that backup quarterbacks weren’t needed in September the way they were needed throughout the rest of the country (SEE: Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford, Robert Griffin, just to name a few). Had Miami’s Jacory Harris or Virginia Tech’s Tyrod Taylor gone down early against the ranked opponents each of those teams faced -- including each other -- the ACC would be in big trouble right now. (Remember the panic, Miami fans, when FSU’s Greg Reid whacked Harris’ funny bone in the opener?)

Here’s to a healthy season in the ACC, and here’s a look at which backup quarterbacks are ready to roll after one month of football:

READY TO ROLL

Sean Renfree, Duke: He’s Duke's quarterback of the future and has already been groomed as such. Renfree has appeared in 13 series, completing 29-of-43 pass attempts for 286 yards, four touchdowns and one interception.

Mike Glennon, NC State: He played in every game except last weekend against Pittsburgh, and has completed 10 of 13 passes for 85 yards. He’s a much more dependable option than the Pack had in the past.

Vic Hall, Virginia: He was actually the starting quarterback in the season opener, and is arguably the most athletic player the Cavaliers have, but injured his hip and hasn’t played since the William & Mary game. He’s a veteran leader who has already proven himself in a multitude of roles. Hall, Jameel Sewell and Marc Verica could all be backups any given Saturday, and they're all experienced and ready to roll. If Sewell is the starter, Hall can play just about anywhere else.

Jaybo Shaw, Georgia Tech: Shaw was finally cleared to play and could make his first appearance of the season this weekend at Mississippi State after breaking his collarbone this summer. He began throwing again on Sept. 7, and proved last year he’s a tough player who can run and pass well.

HAS THE HYPE

E.J. Manuel, Florida State: He’s definitely gotten more hype than he has playing time this fall, as Manuel played in two games and has completed just 1-of-2 passes for four yards. Manuel, recruited by Jimbo Fisher, was an ESPNU 150 prospect and the No. 6 ranked quarterback in the class of 2008.

Willy Korn, Clemson: Well, it’s more like he HAD the hype. It’s hard to believe Korn was the No. 12 quarterback in the class of 2007. Korn was relegated to the bench this summer in favor of Kyle Parker and has only played in two games. He’s also expressed his displeasure in the fact he’s only thrown two passes this year.

A.J. Highsmith, Miami: He earned a quick promotion after Taylor Cook and Cannon Smith both transferred, but all Highsmith has so far is hype and pedigree. He’s the son of former Miami and NFL running back Alonzo Highsmith, and was the No. 24-ranked quarterback in the class of 2009.

WHO KNOWS?

Ju-Ju Clayton, Virginia Tech – The former scout team quarterback was in on 23 snaps against Marshall, but threw three incompletions. Clayton won the job over Marcus Davis this past spring, who was moved to wide receiver. If Taylor is injured, uncertainty is the only thing behind him.

Jamarr Robinson, Maryland – The fact that Chris Turner has been sacked 14 times and hasn’t missed a snap makes you wonder about the confidence Ralph Friedgen has in his backup. Robinson, who was promoted after Josh Portis transferred, hasn’t seen the field yet.

Ryan McManus, Wake Forest – The redshirt senior is also a holder and backup longsnapper. He played against Elon and completed 1-of-4 passes, the only four plays he was in on as quarterback.

Justin Tuggle, Boston College – There wasn’t much separation between Tuggle and Dave Shinskie until the Wake Forest game, as both of them started with zero experience. Both have been used in every game, but it’s unclear where Tuggle’s future is headed. He has 229 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions so far.

Braden Hanson, North Carolina – He was given a shot ahead of Mike Paulus this year, and was 0-for-2 with one interception in his only chance against The Citadel, but they’re both listed as the backups this week. Neither has proven anything yet.

Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich


Here are a few things worth keeping an eye on in the ACC this week (by the way, these are never ranked in order of interest, just generally 10 things to watch):

1. Clemson running back C.J. Spiller. He’s on the verge of becoming the first player in ACC history with 2,500 rushing yards, 1,000 receiving yards and 1,500 kickoff return yards. And, he just might accomplish all three on Saturday against Boston College. Spiller enters the game with 2,434 rushing yards, 986 receiving yards and 1,471 kickoff return yards. Last year, he gained a career high 242 all-purpose running yards in Clemson’s 27-21 win over BC.

2. BC’s quarterback surprise. Boston College coach Frank Spaziani has been quiet about which quarterback he’s leaning toward for Saturday’s game against Clemson, as both Justin Tuggle and Dave Shinskie have had success against lesser opponents. It’s go-time now, though, and one will have to emerge against better competition.

3. Duke’s non-quarterback controversy. So Thaddeus Lewis is the starter, coach David Cutcliffe has made that clear. But Sean Renfree has also proven he’s worth talking about, and can come off the bench to direct a come-from-behind win. Definitely worth watching.

4. Miami’s run defense against Georgia Tech’s spread-option offense. It’s the key to this game, and it was the cause of the Canes’ demise last year. If Clemson could figure out a way to limit Jonathan Dwyer to 66 yards and seven three-and-outs, then Miami should figure out a way to slow it down, too, especially considering it had a bye week to prepare for it. This will be an interesting test for first-year coordinator John Lovett.

5. The trenches in Blacksburg. Virginia Tech’s offensive line will face a talented defensive front in Nebraska, and how it blocks will determine whether Ryan Williams and David Wilson can continue the fancy footwork they had against Marshall last week.

6. Florida State’s improvement level. It’s not just the secondary that will be tested by BYU quarterback Max Hall. The Cougars will challenge the Noles in every phase of the game, and they’ll have to get better blocking from their offensive line, get the running game going, tackle better and make fewer mistakes. Bottom line: They can’t play like they did last Saturday and win.

7. North Carolina’s replacements. The Tar Heels have to hold it together after losing starting center Lowell Dyer and tight end Zack Pianalto for the next three to four weeks. Ed Barham or Christian Wilson will take over for Pianalto and Cam Holland will fill in again for Dyer. The Tar Heels will need to pave the way for Shaun Draughn and Ryan Houston, and give T.J. Yates some time to play like he did in the fourth quarter against Connecticut.

8. Upset watch in College Park -- again. James Madison almost did it last week before losing in overtime. Middle Tennessee did it last year. The Terps’ defense has struggled mightily in its first two games, and now will be without its top cornerback, Nolan Carroll, for the rest of the season. Can Maryland avoid an embarrassing home loss?

9. NC State cornerback Rashard Smith. He’s a true freshman who earned the starting job against Murray State and is slated to start again against Gardner-Webb. He is the first true freshman to start for NC State in the secondary since 2001, when Marcus Hudson (now with the San Francisco 49ers) started four games. Smith played just 24 snaps last week, but made three tackles and a tackle for loss. He now has two tackles for loss this season.

10. Number of sacks Virginia allows. The Cavaliers returned four starters to their offensive line, and it was supposed to be the one dependable aspect of the offense early in the season. Last week against TCU, though, Virginia allowed eight sacks, the most since giving up nine to Florida State in 1997. Virginia allowed just 16 sacks all of last year. Southern Miss has five so far this season. The Golden Eagles are in the midst of a seven-game winning streak and have not allowed more than 100 yards rushing during that span.

ACC Power Rankings

September, 14, 2009
9/14/09
9:03
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich


There wasn’t a huge shake-up from last week, though some teams looked better in defeat (Clemson) than others that won (Florida State), which can make the rankings a little more interesting. Here’s how the lineup looks heading into Week 3:

1. Georgia Tech (2-0) -- The Yellow Jackets’ offense was hardly prolific, and weaknesses in the passing game were exposed, but it came up with enough big plays when needed, and that was the difference against Clemson. Until Miami proves otherwise (and we’ll know that this week), the Jackets stay at the top. No need to reshuffle the top when the Jackets won and Miami didn't play.

2. Miami (1-0) -- The Hurricanes had the bye week to prepare for their Thursday night game against Georgia Tech, but looked spectacular at times in the opener against Florida State. If the Canes continue to build upon that performance, they could be the most complete team in the ACC. But first, let’s see what their defense does on Thursday night.

3. Virginia Tech (1-1) -- The offense came alive, but it woke up at home against Marshall. It’s a start, but we’ll find out how much progress the Hokies really made when they face another Top 25 team in Nebraska this week.

4. Clemson (1-1) -- Save for the first quarter, the Tigers have nothing to be ashamed about in their loss to Georgia Tech. In fact, Dabo Swinney is convinced his team is better now than it was then, and we saw what the Tigers can do when they make full use of Jacoby Ford and C.J. Spiller. Not to mention the defense was sound for three quarters.

5. North Carolina (2-0) -- It was an odd defensive game, with UNC beating Connecticut late in the game on a safety. It was the first real test of the season for the Heels’ offense, and it didn’t exactly shine, though T.J. Yates did a good job of sustaining late drives. UNC will have to avoid a possible trap game this weekend against East Carolina.

6. Wake Forest (1-1) -- While the Noles were hanging on for dear life at home against Jacksonville State, and the Pack were beating up on Murray State, the Deacs fought off Stanford, a team they felt was better than Baylor last week. They showed what they’re capable of when the offense is clicking and Riley Skinner is playing like the veteran he is. The Deacs move up two spots for beating a Pac-10 team.

7. NC State (1-1) -- The Wolfpack took their aggression from the loss to South Carolina out on Murray State, but just like Virginia Tech, let’s see it against a more formidable opponent like Pittsburgh. The Pack have another unheralded opponent in Gardner-Webb coming up this weekend and another chance to fine-tune the offense before hosting Pitt. If Russell Wilson keeps it up, the Pack will move up this list quickly.

8. Florida State (1-1) -- A win is a win, but ... ugh. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that the Noles pulled away from Jacksonville State at home. It felt like they earned half a win. Maybe they were looking ahead to their road trip at BYU. Maybe the defense has more problems than we thought. Regardless, they won’t get away with that this weekend.

9. Boston College (2-0) -- Say what you will about this scrappy team, but the Eagles are still undefeated heading into Saturday’s game against Clemson. BC still doesn’t know who its quarterback will be for its ACC opener, but so far both Dave Shinskie and Justin Tuggle have seen success. The Eagles stay status quo, though, until they overcome a tougher opponent.

10. Maryland (1-1) -- It took overtime to beat James Madison (at home!) on Saturday, but the Terps deserve some credit for pulling off the win after a tough loss to Cal. Now they face Middle Tennessee, the team that upset them a year ago, and if the same problems persist, they might get the same outcome.

11. Duke (1-1) -- The Blue Devils went on the road and redeemed themselves for a season-opening loss to FCS champion Richmond with a win against an improved Army team. A daunting challenge lies ahead as they travel to Kansas this weekend to take on a Top 25 team.

12. Virginia (0-2) -- It wasn’t a surprise that Virginia lost to TCU, especially after losing its home opener to William & Mary. What was a surprise was that the Cavaliers didn’t quit, and in the fourth quarter showed flashes of the spread offense their fans have been waiting to see. Unfortunately for Virginia, most of its fans had already left the stadium by then.

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