NCF Nation: Kenny Vaccaro

In a few hours, the NFL draft will officially begin. But for the Big 12, a very average first round awaits.

Colleagues Mel Kiper Jr.Insider and Todd McShay releasedInsider their latest mock drafts, and we'll take one final look at how it could shake out.

Oklahoma offensive tackle Lane Johnson's stock continued to rise, and McShay has him at No. 4 to Philadelphia in his mock draft, which is higher than I've seen him on most mock drafts all season. Kiper says Johnson won't hear his name called until the 11th pick, heading to San Diego.

Kiper, though, does see Geno Smith heading to the Eagles at No. 4, which is about as high as I've seen the West Virginia quarterback being picked. McShay says Smith will still be on the board at the end of the first round. That's a big difference of opinion.

McShay says Smith's teammate, receiver Tavon Austin, will be off the board at No. 13 to the New York Jets, but Kiper has him going to the Rams three picks later.

McShay has another Big 12 talent in the No. 16 spot to the Rams, but he says it'll be Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro.

Those are the only Big 12 players in our ESPN mock drafts, but when you look at the league's history since 2000, it's mostly just an average draft. The Big 12 has slimmed down to 10 teams, but over the past 12 drafts, the Big 12 has averaged exactly five first-round picks.

There won't be any history like we saw in 2010 when the Big 12 had the first four picks and five of the first six before landing nine first-rounders, but it's not going to be a boring night like back in 2008 (Kansas CB Aqib Talib) and 2000 (Oklahoma OL Stockar McDougle) when the Big 12 had just one first-round pick. It might feel like the league's experiencing a bit of a downturn, but after having at least seven first-round picks in the past three drafts, this year is more like a regression to the mean.

Landing three or four first-round picks, especially with a 10-team league, is a pretty average performance for the Big 12. Nothing to crow about, but nothing to be too concerned about, either.

A lot of dreams will officially come true tonight, though, and that's a cause worth celebrating.

Here are the number of first-round picks for the Big 12 since 2000:
  • 2012: 5 picks
  • 2011: 8 picks
  • 2010: 9 picks
  • 2009: 7 picks
  • 2008: 1 pick
  • 2007: 4 picks
  • 2006: 3 picks
  • 2005: 5 picks
  • 2004: 4 picks
  • 2003: 6 picks
  • 2002: 4 picks
  • 2001: 3 picks
  • 2000: 1 pick

ESPN.com's 2012 All-Big 12 team

December, 10, 2012
12/10/12
11:26
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Congrats to all these guys for turning in fantastic seasons. Naturally, there will be some snubs and some things that need to be explained. Check the blog later today for more thoughts.

Without further ado, here's the All-Big 12 team from ESPN.com.

OFFENSE

QB: Collin Klein, Kansas State
RB: Joseph Randle, Oklahoma State
RB: James Sims, Kansas
FB: Trey Millard, Oklahoma
WR: Stedman Bailey, West Virginia
WR: Terrance Williams, Baylor
WR: Tavon Austin, West Virginia
TE: Jace Amaro, Texas Tech
OL: Cyril Richardson, Baylor
OL: Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma
C: Joe Madsen, West Virginia
OL: Lane Taylor, Oklahoma State
OL: LaAdrian Waddle, Texas Tech

DEFENSE

DL: Devonte Fields, TCU
DL: Meshak Williams, Kansas State
DL: Calvin Barnett, Oklahoma State
DL: Alex Okafor, Texas
LB: A.J. Klein, Iowa State
LB: Arthur Brown, Kansas State
LB: Jake Knott, Iowa State
CB: Jason Verrett, TCU
CB: Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma
S: Ty Zimmerman, Kansas State
S: Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma

SPECIALISTS:

PK: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
P: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
KR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
PR: Tavon Austin, West Virginia

Honorable mention: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia; Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma; Anthony Cantele, K, Kansas State; Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas; Justin Brown, PR, Oklahoma; Tanner Hawkinson, OL, Kansas; Jake McDonough, DL, Iowa State; Lane Johnson, OL, Oklahoma; John Hubert, RB, Kansas State; Travis Tannahill, TE, Kansas State; Durrell Givens, S, Iowa State; Cody Davis, S, Texas Tech

Big 12 weekend rewind: Week 14

December, 3, 2012
12/03/12
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It's time to once again hand out a few superlatives to wrap up the final weekend of the Big 12 season.

Best offensive performance: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia. Smith looked more like his early-season Heisman form in his last game at Milan Puskar Stadium, a 59-10 win over Big 12 bottom-feeder Kansas. He completed 23 of 24 passes for 407 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Mountaineers to a seventh win. Honorable mention: Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor.

[+] EnlargeWest Virginia's Geno Smith
Charles LeClaire/US PRESSWIREGeno Smith's final performance at Milan Puskar Field was a reason to celebrate.
Best defensive performance: Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia. Joseph was all over the field for West Virginia against Kansas. He made seven tackles, notched half a tackle for loss and intercepted a pass, returning it 22 yards. He also forced a fumble and broke up another pass. Honorable mention: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas; Eddie Lackey, LB, Baylor.

Best team performance: Baylor. The Bears looked dominant against an Oklahoma State team that has been beating the heck out of some good teams in the Big 12 to close the season. OSU made it interesting late, but Baylor was in control from start to finish during the 41-34 win, led by Lache Seastrunk's 178 yards on 16 carries.

Best game: Oklahoma 24, TCU 17. This was fun from start to finish. Oklahoma let TCU in the game with an 80-yard touchdown on a busted play and an interception by Landry Jones to give the Frogs a touchdown on a drive that began inside the 10-yard line, but the Sooners won a third consecutive game that came down to the final play or final seconds. Amazing stuff, and the Sooners find a way yet again.

Best play: Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor. Seastrunk has had cramping issues this season, and looked to suffer another one at the worst possible time -- right after clearing the Oklahoma State offense. No worries. He limped, stumbled and bumbled the last 30 yards of his 76-yard touchdown run to ice the game in the final minutes. Honorable mention: Oklahoma's offensive line on Damien Williams' untouched, 66-yard touchdown run.

Biggest bailout: Nigel Malone, CB, Kansas State. Malone was nearly a nominee for worst play, but an odd ruling earns him a special nod. Malone intercepted a wobbly ball to the sideline from Case McCoy and looked to return it for a touchdown, but pulled what's commonly known as a "DeSean Jackson," dropping the ball before he crossed the goal line. Instead of a touchback, K-State was given the ball on the half-yard line, and Collin Klein punched it in. Still. Mack Brown wasn't happy about the call, and I still don't think I understand why it wasn't a touchback.

Best quote: Tony Jefferson, S, Oklahoma, on the Sooners' shared title with Kansas State. "Hey, sharing is caring."

Worst play: Blaize Foltz, G, TCU. Trevone Boykin would have escaped the defender, but Foltz still got flagged for a game-changing holding penalty on what might have been a game-tying touchdown in the final minute of TCU's 24-17 loss to Oklahoma. Boykin had escaped the pocket and reached the end zone to set off a celebration, but it was all for naught, and the penalty backed up TCU into a near impossible situation with the game on the line.

Best quarter: Baylor's first quarter. The Bears scored a defensive touchdown and added another seven points on a 16-play, 98-yard drive to set the tone for the game. This would be Baylor's day against a team that Art Briles had never beaten, and had beaten Baylor six consecutive times. The Bears took control after falling behind 3-0 early and never looked back.

Longhorns' crowd: 'not loud'?

September, 13, 2012
9/13/12
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Texas has the Big 12's biggest stadium, but at least one Longhorn says when it comes to noise, Texas fans need to pick up the slack.

The Longhorns go on the road for the first time this week to Ole Miss, and doing so is a welcome idea for safety Kenny Vaccaro.

"I like without a doubt playing on the road better than playing at home," Vaccaro told the Daily Texan. "It’s way louder and gets me way [more excited]. No offense to our fans, but [DKR] is not loud."

That's a head-turner.

The hard truth? Vaccaro is 100 percent correct. Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium can get loud from time to time, and it packs in more than 100,000 fans, but the decibel level on a consistent basis isn't even what you'll find at a number of other stadiums.

The one Vaccaro used as an example? A good one, but one that tweaked Texas fans further.

“Kyle Field is loud, man,” Vaccaro said. “Kyle Field gets wild.”

Ha. I love players speaking their mind, and everything Vaccaro said is the truth. that said, it's not exactly going to endear him to the Longhorns fan base.

Fortunately for Vaccaro, his talent and big hits will.

What to watch in the Big 12: Week 2

September, 6, 2012
9/06/12
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Here are 10 things I'm keeping an eye on in Week 2 across the Big 12.

1. Collin Klein's workload. The big man only got 12 carries a week ago. Was it because Bill Snyder knew his team could handle FCS Missouri State, or can we expect more of a change out of Kansas State's offense? I'm betting on the former, but you never know what to expect from Bill Snyder. No coach in the league plays his cards closer to the vest.

2. Oklahoma's passing game. It was a little bit of everything last week against UTEP. Receivers looked uncomfortable and didn't always get open. One long pass was called back because the receiver stepped out of bounds. The offensive line wasn't great in protection, but Landry Jones held on to the ball a little too long on plenty of occasions. The Sooners know they need to fix the problems. Playing against an FCS opponent is a good time to get some work in.

[+] EnlargeSteele Jantz
Reese Strickland/US PresswireIowa State's Steele Jantz completed over 70 percent of his passes against Tulsa.
3. Steele Jantz's decision-making. Jantz was much more judicious with the ball in Week 1 against a decent Tulsa team than he was in the first few games of last season. Will that continue? His one interception last week was partly his fault (poor accuracy) and partly his receiver's fault (tipped pass). Iowa State can't afford turnovers against Iowa.

4. Wes Lunt under fire. Mike Gundy liked what he saw from Lunt, but knows Lunt didn't face third-and-longs, blitzes or pressure of any kind. That'll change this week against former WVU defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel, now in Tucson. You have to assume Arizona's game plan centers around pressuring the freshman quarterback. You can't drop back and see if the backs can beat you -- they can. How does Lunt handle it? Oklahoma State's hopes hinge on it.

5. Kansas' defensive line. The Jayhawks had just nine sacks a year ago, but defensive linemen got two against South Dakota State last week. But KU also gave up a 99-yard touchdown run. What does the unit most in need of a facelift from 2011 have in store for Week 2?

6. TCU's defense. I don't think the Frogs can really prove anything, but I'm mostly curious about who's going to be where and how often for the Frogs. Gary Patterson shook up his defense during fall camp, and TCU has two freshmen starting on the defensive line. How do the new safeties look? Here's guessing that depth chart changes even more after Week 1.

7. Texas' defensive miscues. Safety Kenny Vaccaro said players on defense played as if they'd read too many of their press clippings last week. The defense gave up an 82-yard touchdown to Wyoming and looked undeniably mortal for a unit that's supposed to be the Big 12's best. Will the Longhorns eliminate mistakes this week against New Mexico?

8. Texas Tech's first quarter. The Red Raiders looked sluggish against FCS foe Northwestern State last week, leading just 7-3 early in the second quarter. This week, they have a road game against Texas State. I think Tech wins, but starting slow and falling behind to the Bobcats would energize the crowd and the team in a game it wants badly. Tech needs to open the game with its best. At halftime of last year's matchup, Texas Tech led this game in Lubbock 10-9.

9. Big 12's first loss of the season? The Big 12 mostly cruised through Week 1, save for Iowa State's first quarter against Tulsa. The conference faces three major tests in Week 2, though: (1) Oklahoma State has to take care of business on the road against Arizona; (2) can Kansas State take the first step in validating last year's 10-win season against Miami? The most likely spot for a loss? and (3) A toss-up game at Iowa for Iowa State. Getting through two weeks of football at 17-0 is definitely possible for the Big 12, though.

10. Oklahoma State's renewed defense. The Cowboys have the personnel to be solid this season, but are they as good as advertised on defense? Arizona's zone-read scheme is an interesting test -- mostly for the front seven. The Cowboys linebackers are solid, but can the defensive line prove itself? I'm looking at Cooper Bassett, Nigel Nicholas and Calvin Barnett on this one.

Big 12 weekend rewind: Week 1

September, 3, 2012
9/03/12
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Time to look back on the week that was in the Big 12:

Best offensive performance: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia. Smith was nearly perfect in his first game as a member of the Big 12. He completed 32 of 36 passes for 323 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. He also added 65 rushing yards and a touchdown, scored from 28 yards out on a broken running play. He's more than the best player in the Big 12 this week. The Walter Camp Award named him the national player of the week.

Best defensive performance: Isaiah Bruce, LB, West Virginia. Making his first start, the redshirt freshman racked up 16 tackles and scooped up a fumble, returning it 43 yards for a score. Those 16 tackles were the most by a Mountaineers freshman since 1990. Honorable mention: Bradley McDougald, S, Kansas

[+] EnlargeJohn Hubert
Peter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesJohn Hubert's 95-yard touchdown run put Kansas State in control of the game.
Best play: John Hubert, RB, Kansas State. Jammed up against its own goal line, the K-State offensive line paved the way for a 95-yard run from Hubert as part of the Wildcats' 42 consecutive points to close the game. Hubert's run gave the Wildcats a 30-9 lead in the eventual 51-9 win. His run was the second longest in school history, dating back to a 96-yarder in 1948. Honorable mention: Jake Knott's second-quarter forced fumble versus Tulsa, Baylor scores a 66-yard TD on Mike Hicks' fumble return.

Worst play: Oklahoma's punt team. The defense pitched a shutout, but the special teams put this one in doubt. Tress Way didn't have much time to get the kick off, but no fewer than five UTEP defenders might have blocked this punt. One did, and running back Nathan Jeffery (177 rushing yards before suffering an injury) scooped it up and scored from 24 yards out to put UTEP ahead 7-0 early in the Sooners' 24-7 win. Dishonorable mention: Iowa State's safety off a draw play out of the shotgun ... at its own 3-yard line.

Best team performance: Baylor. West Virginia looked like it had this one sewn up until late Sunday night. Baylor rolled over SMU and turned its opener into a rout with a dominant third quarter that featured two big turnovers, one of which the Bears returned 66 yards for a touchdown. Baylor was already in control, but that spurt turned the game into a laugher, racing to a 45-3 lead. Honorable mention: West Virginia.

Stat of the week: Oklahoma State played "at least" 95 players on Saturday night. Late in the game, a No. 47 got into the game, but no one in the media or on Oklahoma State's media relations staff in the press box knew who the player was, according to The Oklahoman. It wasn't me. Who was this mystery man? Show yourself!

Best game: Iowa State 38, Tulsa 23. This one was closer than the final score indicated and featured a huge comeback by the Cyclones, who looked sluggish early after allowing 16 first-quarter points. They answered with 24 of their own to take a 31-16 lead, and Deon Broomfield iced the game with an interception in the final minutes to set up the final touchdown. No classics this week. Bar was pretty low for this award.

Worst game: Oklahoma State 84, Savannah State 0. Who wins in matchups like these? I know realignment forced OSU's hand a little bit, but people are still signing off on these games. Fans have to sit through a snoozer. The opposing team gets embarrassed in a borderline inhumane way. Oklahoma State, meanwhile, probably learns more about itself with an intrasquad scrimmage. Games against FCS teams are one thing. Games against FCS doormats are another. Keep these off the schedule.

Worst team performance: Oklahoma. The Sooners were a lot closer to being upset than the final score indicates. Landry Jones didn't turn the ball over, but if he'd had one or two, this game would have been a true disaster. That's to say nothing of the three missed field goals from UTEP kickers that would have had the Big 12 favorites trailing in the fourth quarter to a mediocre Conference USA squad. I know it's on the road and it's a season opener, but this was awful from Oklahoma.

Worst quarter: Iowa State's first quarter. The Cyclones legitimately looked overmatched and were in serious trouble. You wondered if they might get run out of their own stadium, trailing 16-7. They gave up a safety and couldn't stop the Tulsa offense. However, Cyclones star linebacker Jake Knott forced a fumble on Tulsa's first offensive snap of the second quarter and keyed off 24 consecutive points for Iowa State in the 38-23 win. No Big 12 team trailed by more than Iowa State on Saturday. Paul Rhoads now has 19 wins at Iowa State, despite being favored in just eight games.

Best quarter: Kansas State's fourth quarter. Who knew the Wildcats could score 35 points in a single quarter? K-State scored from 95, 86 and 49 yards away to ice a game that was tied 9-9 midway through the third quarter. The outburst was K-State's biggest in a single quarter since at least 1993.

Best quote: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas, on his secondary. "Honestly, we need to get our heads out of the magazines and start faster and play stronger."

Second-best quote: Geno Smith, when asked to grade West Virginia's offensive performance. "A-plus … plus, plus, plus."

Third-best quote: Charlie Weis, Kansas. QB Dayne Crist hit Kale Pick for a 43-yard gain off a play fake on the first play from scrimmage. Weis' confession: "I was throwing it deep on first play for months."

ESPN.com's preseason All-Big 12 team

August, 29, 2012
8/29/12
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The season is only a few days away, and it's time to unveil our official All-Big 12 team.

The criteria for this is pretty simple: I picked the best players at every position in the game, but made room for deserving players. For this league, that meant eliminating the tight end spot and sliding a more deserving Collin Klein onto the team via an all-purpose position.

The quarterbacks are solid in this league, but I'd call the cornerbacks the best and deepest position in the league. The worst? Defensive tackle. I didn't put a single one on the All-Big 12 team, electing to name four defensive ends along the defensive line. I hate doing that, but this year, it's necessary.

Without further ado, here's our team:

OFFENSE

QB: Geno Smith, West Virginia
RB: Joseph Randle, Oklahoma State
RB: Waymon James, TCU
All-Purpose: Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
WR: Stedman Bailey, West Virginia
WR: Kenny Stills, Oklahoma
WR: Tavon Austin, West Virginia
C: Joe Madsen, West Virginia
OL: Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma
OL: Lane Taylor, Oklahoma State
OL: Cyril Richardson, Baylor
OL: Mason Walters, Texas

DEFENSE

DL: Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas
DL: Stansly Maponga, TCU
DL: Alex Okafor, Texas
DL: Meshak Williams, Kansas State
LB: A.J. Klein, Iowa State
LB: Arthur Brown, Kansas State
LB: Jake Knott, Iowa State
CB: Carrington Byndom, Texas
CB: Brodrick Brown, Oklahoma State
S: Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
S: Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma

SPECIALISTS:

K: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
P: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
KR: Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
PR: Tavon Austin, West Virginia

Honorable mention/regrettable snubs: Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma; Malcolm Brown, RB, Texas; Ivory Wade, C, Baylor; LaAdrian Waddle, OL, Texas Tech; Blaize Foltz, OL, TCU; Kenny Cain, LB, TCU; Shaun Lewis, LB, Oklahoma State; Jamarkus McFarland, DL, Oklahoma; Quandre Diggs, CB, Texas; Nigel Malone, CB, Kansas State; Demontre Hurst, CB, Oklahoma; Tyler Lockett, KR, Kansas State
Texas' trio of safety Kenny Vaccaro, defensive end Alex Okafor and tight end Barrett Matthews are in the process of receiving their punishment for an incident at an Austin pizza parlor in May, but it won't include game suspensions.

That's no real surprise for what equated to very minor charges, but still produced headlines that coach Mack Brown deemed unsavory. He told reporters Wednesday that the punishment is still ongoing and will be handled internally.
Vaccaro, Okafor, Matthews and former UT player Eryon Barnett were charged on May 7 with failure to obey, a misdemeanor, after declining a police officer's orders to leave the Roppolo's Pizza restaurant at 316 East 6th Street.

All charges against the three Texas players have been dropped, Brown said, and the seniors are working to regain their status as leaders in the program.

"They are paying hard for really being disrespectful to authority figures," Brown said. "It's our job to make sure we keep the respect of the authority figures we have. Our police department has a difficult job, and if they ask you to leave you should leave, and you should leave quickly."

Okafor and Vaccaro were pulled off Texas' travel contingent for Big 12 media days next month and won't represent the team until the fall, but can still be captains.

Is Brown's punishment too strict, too lenient or just right?

100 Days Countdown: Big 12

May, 22, 2012
5/22/12
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As part of “College Football Live’s” 100 Days Till Kickoff countdown, here’s a look at the top 10 players in the Big 12.

Note: This is a separate list from our preseason top 25 players. We'll tackle that later. It might be a lot different. It might be much of the same.

1. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia: Geno's a newcomer to the Big 12, but putting up big numbers is nothing new for the senior, who threw for 4,385 yards last season. Only one quarterback threw for more, but Smith had two more touchdown passes and eight fewer interceptions than the No. 2 quarterback on this list. Smith also completed nearly 3 percent more of his passes.

[+] EnlargeGeno Smith
Kim Klement/US PresswireGeno Smith led the Big East last season in pass efficiency and average passing yards per game.
2. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma: Jones checks in at No. 2 as the Big 12's leading returning passer, and will try to climb back in 2012 to give the Sooners another Big 12 title. Jones is the Big 12's most experienced quarterback, which should pay off the fall.

3. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State: Klein was the league's No. 4 rusher and threw for 1,900 yards? You can't argue with that production, and Klein accounted for 69.8 percent of the Wildcats' offense. That's insane. His importance to K-State can't be understated.

4. Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia: Austin's the most dangerous playmaker in the Big 12, a true triple threat as a receiver, runner and kick/punt returner. He's the Big 12's No. 2 returning receiver, but he also returned two kicks for touchdowns in 2011, joining two other Big 12 returners who duplicated that feat last season.

5. Jake Knott, LB, Iowa State: Knott was outplayed by teammate A.J. Klein last season, but not by much. Knott was also playing through injuries. He's a superior talent, and like Klein, there's no arguing with his production. He's made 244 tackles in the past two seasons.

6. Joseph Randle, RB, Oklahoma State: Randle is the Big 12's leading returning rusher and should see an increased workload from his 208 carries last season. He turned those into 24 touchdowns to come three short of the Big 12 record.

7. Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State: Brown's one of the league's most impressive freak athletes, a cruise missile of a linebacker who doesn't miss tackles in the open field and gets there faster than any true linebacker in the league. (You nickelbacks don't count.)

8. Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas: Vaccaro's the most versatile talent on a loaded Texas defense, and as a roaming nickelback, offenses must account for where he is on every snap. He's also got a case as the hardest hitter in the Big 12.

9. Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas: Who has two last names and is the Big 12's returning sack leader? This guy. His 8.5 sacks were 1.5 more than any other returner in the Big 12, and he made four more tackles for loss (17) than any other returner, too.

10. Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia: Bailey's a more traditional receiver in WVU's offense and he's taken advantage. He's the league's leading returning receiver and offers the Mountaineers a steady, dangerous target with sure hands who will help make WVU arguably the league's most dangerous offense.

The 2011 Big 12 All-Bowl team

January, 13, 2012
1/13/12
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Here's the All-Bowl team from the Big 12, recognizing the best single-game performances from this year's bowls.

QB: Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State: Weeden threw for 399 yards and three touchdowns (it could have been four if a game-winning TD pass to Colton Chelf hadn't been overturned) on 29-of-42 passing. His first pass was intercepted, but he had an otherwise solid night and ran for his first career touchdown in the 41-38 win against Stanford.

[+] EnlargeTerrance Ganaway
AP Photo/Darren AbateBaylor's Terrance Ganaway rushed for five TDs in the Alamo Bowl.
RB: Terrance Ganaway, Baylor: The Big 12 rushing champion ran for 200 yards and five touchdowns in the Bears' 67-56 win against Washington in the Alamo Bowl.

RB: Ben Malena, Texas A&M: Malena stepped in for the injured Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael and had a solid game in the Aggies' 33-22 win against Northwestern in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas. He finished with 77 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries, showcasing his physical running style. He also caught six passes for 36 yards.

FB: Trey Millard, Oklahoma: Millard carried the ball four times for 21 yards but also helped pave the way for three Blake Bell touchdowns from the Belldozer formation.

WR: Ryan Swope, Texas A&M: Jeff Fuller had better numbers in the bowl, but it was aided by big catches late. Swope kept the Aggies offense humming for most of the game, with eight catches for 105 yards in the win against Northwestern.

WR: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State: Blackmon was the best offensive player in the Big 12 bowls, spearheading Oklahoma State's offense in the Fiesta Bowl win with eight catches for 186 yards and three touchdowns.

WR: Colton Chelf, Oklahoma State: Chelf made two huge catches over the middle early and a third nearly won the game, but his touchdown was overturned. Still, OSU doesn't win its first BCS bowl without Chelf's 97 yards on five catches.

TE: Michael Egnew, Missouri: By Egnew's standards, it was a quiet game, but he played well with a 25-yard grab and three catches for 39 yards in Mizzou's win.

OL: Grant Garner, Oklahoma State: Oklahoma State's offensive line is keyed by Garner, who helped the Cowboys handle Stanford's blitzes well and give Weeden plenty of time in the Fiesta Bowl win.

OL: Philip Blake, Baylor: Baylor ran for 482 yards and scored 67 points in its win against Washington in the Alamo Bowl. Blake's the man who keyed it all.

OL: Levy Adcock, Oklahoma State: Adcock's the best overall talent on OSU's line, and he showed it in the win against Stanford.

OL: Dan Hoch, Missouri: Missouri rolled over one of the nation's best rush defenses, North Carolina, for 337 yards on the ground.

OL: Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M: The Aggies' offense was potent for most of its win against Northwestern, and Joeckel was solid in run and pass blocking for the balanced attack.

DEFENSE

DL: Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas: Jeffcoat made five tackles, two sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss in the Longhorns' 21-10 win against Cal. The Texas defense dominated, and the defensive line's play was the catalyst. He did it all with a torn pectoral muscle, too. He'll miss the spring after having it surgically repaired this week.

[+] EnlargeAdam Davis
AP Photo/Matt StrasenKansas State defensive end Adam Davis, 97, had two sacks and forced this first-half fumble by Arkansas QB Tyler Wilson in the Cotton Bowl.
DL: Adam Davis, Kansas State: Davis sacked Arkansas' Tyler Wilson twice and had three tackles for loss with a forced fumble in the loss to the Razorbacks.

DL: R.J. Washington, Oklahoma: With Ronnell Lewis ineligible, Washington showed up big in the win against Iowa. He had two sacks and made three tackles.

DL: Tony Jerod-Eddie, Texas A&M: Jerod-Eddie made eight tackles and had a sack in the win against Northwestern.

LB: Damontre Moore, Texas A&M: Moore was a monster in the season finale for the Aggies, making nine tackles and forcing a fumble on his lone sack.

LB: A.J. Klein, Iowa State: Klein flew around for the Cyclones, making 15 tackles in a physical game against Rutgers, though the Cyclones lost.

LB: Jordan Hicks, Texas: Could this be a big piece of momentum heading into 2012? Hicks starred with seven tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2.5 tackles for loss and a pass breakup in the win against Cal.

CB: Jamell Fleming, Oklahoma: Fleming was the Big 12's best defensive player of the bowls and the best player on the field in the Insight Bowl, making seven tackles, intercepting a pass and returning it 21 yards. He also broke up three passes.

CB: David Garrett, Kansas State: Garrett made 10 tackles and had two tackles for loss in the loss to Arkansas.

S: Kenny Vaccaro, Texas: He hates the nickname Machete, but Vaccaro was hacking away at Cal. He made three tackles, including two for loss and a sack.

S: Markelle Martin, Oklahoma State: Even if it was illegal (it was), Martin had the hit of the bowl season with a huge blast on Stanford's Ty Montgomery that took Montgomery's helmet off on the opening drive. He finished with nine tackles and a tackle for loss, with a fumble recovery.

SPECIALISTS

P: Tress Way, Oklahoma: Way averaged 50 yards on his six punts, including a 67-yarder.

PK: Randy Bullock, Texas A&M: Bullock made all four of his field goal attempts, including two from beyond 40 yards.

PR: Dustin Harris, Texas A&M: Harris looked the part of the Big 12's best, returning a punt 35 yards and finishing with 54 yards on his four returns.

KR: Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State: Gilbert had a 50-yard return and returned his four kicks for a total of 136 yards.

ESPN.com's 2011 All-Big 12 Team

December, 9, 2011
12/09/11
10:30
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Editor’s Note: Tune into the “AT&T ESPN All America Team Show” on Saturday (ABC, 1:30 p.m. ET) to see who ESPN’s writers and experts selected.

It's been a fun season across the Big 12, with a few big names who didn't play as well as we thought, and lots of unknowns who became household names by the end of the season.

I'll offer my comments below, but here's our All-Big 12 team for 2011.

OFFENSE

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
Jerome Miron/US PresswireThe heroics of Robert Griffin III got Baylor to 9-3 and made him a Heisman Trophy finalist.
QB: Robert Griffin III, Baylor
All-purpose: Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
RB: Terrance Ganaway, Baylor
RB: Henry Josey, Missouri
FB: Trey Millard, Oklahoma
WR: Kendall Wright, Baylor
WR: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
WR: Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma
TE: Michael Egnew, Missouri
C: Grant Garner, Oklahoma State
OL: Kelechi Osemele, Iowa State
OL: Levy Adcock, Oklahoma State
OL: Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma
OL: Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M

DEFENSE

DE: Frank Alexander, Oklahoma
DT: Dominique Hamilton, Missouri
DE: Alex Okafor, Texas
DE: Jamie Blatnick, Oklahoma State
LB: Sean Porter, Texas A&M
LB: Jake Knott, Iowa State
LB: Emmanuel Acho, Texas
NB: Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma
CB: Nigel Malone, Kansas State
CB: Carrington Byndom, Texas
S: Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
S: Markelle Martin, Oklahoma State

SPECIALISTS

P: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
PK: Randy Bullock, Texas A&M
PR: Dustin Harris, Texas A&M
KR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

Finally, a few notes and explanations:

  • I loved the media's idea to craft an all-purpose spot to accomodate Collin Klein. The Big Ten did the same for Michigan's Denard Robinson last season. I followed suit, and did so on the defensive side of the ball with a nickel-back spot for Oklahoma's Tony Jefferson. Two players that missed first-team designation by the coaches, but clearly deserve to be recognized.
  • Additionally, I prefer the teams to reflect the Big 12 style of play, so the nickel back fits. Each team doesn't have 11 players, but there were deserving linebackers. The same with Egnew and Millard. Does every team use a fullback or a tight end? No, but both are standout performers. They'd rotate in anyway, just as Jefferson would in a theoretical package.
  • Tough call to leave Philip Blake from Baylor off my team, but Garner's been better. Blake is very, very close, though.
  • Hated to leave off Brodrick Brown and E.J. Gaines, but I went with a more traditional two corners and two safeties, rather than four corners like the media's team.
  • Steven Johnson and Arthur Brown would have been right behind my three linebackers. That race was probably closer than at any other position, except maybe cornerback. Difficult to leave either of those guys off my first team, but the three on the team were better. I gave Brown my Newcomer of the Year nod, though.
  • I don't like going with three defensive ends and one defensive tackle, but there wasn't a defensive tackle who deserved the honor more than Okafor, my third defensive end. Okafor was a defensive tackle last year anyway, so that's close enough, right? He moved from tackle to end before spring practice earlier this year. In the Big 12, an additional pass rusher is necessary, too, right?
  • I made a similar move with my offensive line. Went tackle-heavy, but the guards didn't have quite as many standouts.

Will Texas rebound in 2011? How far?

August, 25, 2011
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Texas is easily the wildest card in the Big 12 deck this season, but how do you see the Longhorns faring in 2010?

The defense returns six starters, and is the strength of the team, despite losing Chykie Brown, Curtis Brown and Aaron Williams to the NFL. The team's safeties, Kenny Vaccaro, Christian Scott and Blake Gideon are solid, though Scott will be sidelined the first three games because of a suspension.

The front seven is loaded with potential, and the Longhorns have two of the best linebackers in the league, Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho. Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat are exciting defensive ends offsetting Kheeston Randall, one of the league's best overall linemen.

Offensively, well, the Longhorns have a lot to prove. They're the only Big 12 team left that doesn't know its starting quarterback for the opening weekend. Eight starters from last year's offense return, but some of the team's biggest hype is coming from players new to campus.

Running back Malcolm Brown and receiver Jaxon Shipley showed up to campus this summer, but quarterback David Ash impressed coaches after enrolling early this spring.

The offensive line will have to be better, especially if any of those three will have success. Shipley should add some solid playmaking ability to a receiving corps depleted with the losses of Marquise Goodwin (Olympic track qualifying) and Malcolm Williams (personal issues), who won't be with the team this year. Mike Davis will likely be the team's go-to receiver, at least to start the season.

So how do the Longhorns stack up?

Big 12 position ranking: Safeties

June, 30, 2011
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We'll move on to the safeties today in our position rankings across the Big 12.

Here's what we've covered so far:
The group of safeties across the Big 12 isn't fantastic, without any truly elite groups, but it's decent. There aren't any teams that look really hopeless at the position in the immediate future.

I haven't given it real close examination so far on the positions we haven't covered yet, but this is by far the closest gap between 1-10 of any position so far.

Here's how I ranked them. (Remember, I lumped in nickel backs with linebackers, so Ahmad Dixon and Tony Jefferson won't be found anywhere in this post.)

[+] EnlargeOklahoma State's Markelle Martin
John Rieger/US PRESSWIREOklahoma State's Markelle Martin is the Big 12's best overall safety.
1. Oklahoma State -- The Cowboys have Markelle Martin, the Big 12's best overall safety who's a big talent but a much better hitter than he is a cover man. Johnny Thomas is solid and both safeties got a lot better as the 2010 season progressed. OSU's depth lands them here, though. Daytawion Lowe could start for a few Big 12 teams and is slightly better than A&M and Texas' reserves, the other two teams with the deepest group of safeties.

2. Texas -- Blake Gideon takes his share of criticism, a good deal of it fair, but there's a reason he's starting for Texas for a fourth season this fall. He knows what he's doing. Kenny Vaccaro will challenge OSU's Martin, among others, for the title of the Big 12's biggest hitter and Nolan Brewster and Christian Scott are strong reserves at the position. The Longhorns lose a lot at corner, but all the safeties are back from a defense that allowed just over 170 yards a game through the air in conference play last season.

3. Texas A&M -- The Aggies' Steven Terrell and Trent Hunter are solid, and Hunter is a big playmaker who made 62 stops and picked off two passes last year. Toney Hurd Jr. is the backup and was one of the most impressive freshmen in fall camp last year, joined by Steven Campbell in the rotation.

4. Kansas State -- Tysyn Hartman has loads of experience and is one of the Wildcats that Bill Snyder loves to rave about. Ty Zimmerman was one of the Big 12's best freshman last year, and picked off three passes. They should be solid again next year, and for as much criticism as K-State's defense faced last year, they were fifth in the Big 12 in pass defense. Logan Dold should be in the rotation, too.

5. Oklahoma -- Reserve Sam Proctor has starting experience, but Javon Harris and Aaron Colvin enter fall camp as starters. That says plenty about how Bob Stoops and Brent Venables feel about them. In a word: confident. Colvin has the most potential in the group, but the two starters will have to learn on the go. Proctor, a senior, should be able to help. James Haynes will also be in the rotation.

6. Missouri -- Jasper Simmons is gone, but Missouri's safeties might be a bit underrated in this spot. Kenji Jackson has loads of experience and should be solid, and Tavon Bolden and Matt White are a pair of promising sophomores who should compete at free safety. Kenronte Walker should be in the rotation, too.

7. Texas Tech -- Injuries were a problem last year for the Tech secondary, but Cody Davis and D.J. Johnson will hold down the traditional safety spots away from the line of scrimmage in new coordinator Chad Glasgow's 4-2-5. The unit gave up lots of big plays in 2010 (151 over 10 yards, 46 over 20, and 25 over 30, all the most in the Big 12), but I'd expect that number to drop under Glasgow if the secondary stays healthy. Davis is the team's leading returning tackler, with 87 stops. Brett Dewhurst and Giorgio Durham should be in the rotation.

8. Kansas -- Keeston Terry and Bradley McDougald give Kansas a lot of speed and athletic ability at the position, but both of the team's safeties from 2010 graduated and Terry and McDougald are short on experience. Lubbock Smith should add some solid depth to the position.

9. Iowa State -- Iowa State loses their top playmaker at the position, David Sims, but returns starter Ter'Ran Benton. He'll be helped out by some combination of Jacques Washington, Earl Brooks and Deon Broomfield once the season starts. Iowa State's biggest weakness is on the defensive line, so it's hard to get a good read on how good the safeties really are with such a poor pass rush up front.

10. Baylor -- This group might move up the list during the year under Phil Bennett, but the two best raw athletes (Ahmad Dixon, Prince Kent) at the position moved to nickel back and linebacker, respectively. The team's leading tackler, Byron Landor, graduated, and that left Mike Hicks as the other starter. He'll be helped out at safety by Sam Holl, Josh Wilson and K.J. Morton. Last year, the Bears ranked last in the Big 12 in pass defense in conference play, giving up over 300 yards a game. That'll have to change or Baylor won't get past seven wins.

Lone Star Showdown not short on stakes

November, 23, 2010
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Texas A&M knows how Texas feels. They've been there.

It's been a full decade since the Longhorns ended a season without a double-digit number in its win column. Texas A&M? They haven't seen a 10-win season since 1998.

Which, of course, has meant the spoiler tag has been more often pinned to the Aggies.

[+] EnlargeTexas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill
Brett Davis/US PRESSWIRETexas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill likes the way the offense is coming along. "We're playing a lot better, the offense is starting to gel and play as a unit," he said.
Not so in what's been a wild 2010. Through six games, Texas A&M sat at 3-3. Texas was a healthy 4-2, fresh off a win over then-No. 5 Nebraska in Lincoln.

The Aggies haven't lost since. Texas is 1-4 over the same stretch.

They'll meet on Thursday, and with a win, Texas A&M is within a bowl win of a 10-win season.

"Just beating Texas--we haven't done that since I've been here -- is big in itself," said Aggies coach Mike Sherman, whose team already has wins over Big 12 powers Nebraska and Oklahoma this season. "We always talk about the next step, and each step -- as I told the players -- the consequence of winning is the challenge and expectations become greater and greater. If you don't beat Nebraska or you don't beat Oklahoma, then the significance of the ensuing games isn't quite the same. They put themselves in a position to be in a national spotlight, and this game Thursday night is huge for us."

A win could propel the Aggies to a berth in the Cotton Bowl for the first time since 2005 and finish the season with a six-game winning streak capped by no sweeter an opponent.

"We’re starting to play together. We’re coming together as a team. We’re playing a lot better, the offense is starting to gel and play as a unit," said quarterback Ryan Tannehill. "All those small things are coming together and making the team better as a whole. The special teams are playing great. It’s been a team effort and I think we’re playing as a team right now."

But while Texas may get its chance to prevent that from happening, their own string of losses has allowed that spoiler tag to still apply to the Aggies. A Texas A&M win ends Texas' season in November for the first time since 1997.

"It really comes down to a one-game season. We’ve played ourselves into this situation, some good, some bad. But we have played ourselves into this situation," said safety Blake Gideon. "It really does come down to this."

The Longhorns got their first win in over a month on Saturday, beating Florida Atlantic. Considering the history of the program, keeping that bowl streak alive is the only meaningful piece of the season to salvage.

These seniors would get to play another game, and they would like to. They feel like they’ve made some progress here at the end. The team’s hung together, and they did play well on Saturday," said Texas coach Mack Brown. "The other thing is Senior Day, beating your rival on Senior Day, your last game at home in your home stadium is very emotional."

But bigger for the Longhorns is a point Brown maintained throughout his team's skid. Getting back to Texas' winning ways next year won't be automatic, and getting that bowl bid this year could pay off next year.

"We would love to have the 13-to-15 practices for this young team to lead into spring practice," Brown said.

Young talents like quarterback Garrett Gilbert, linebacker Dravannti Johnson, receiver Mike Davis, a handful of offensive linemen and defensive back Kenny Vaccaro should all be contributors for the Longhorns for years to come. They'd be among the biggest benefactors of those valuable December workouts that not every team can use to their advantage.

The prospect looms, however, that the Longhorns could receive a bowl bid at 5-7 if not enough teams are eligible to fill 70 slots in 35 bowl games. Texas would be near the top of the list for bowl committees scrambling to fill a spot.

Texas A&M can't control that, but that doesn't mean they would enjoy beating Texas for the first time since 2007 any less.
AUSTIN, Texas -- Mack Brown knows what an NFL defensive back looks like. He's coached plenty. From Michael Huff and Cedric Griffin in 2006, to Michael Griffin and Aaron Ross in 2007 to Earl Thomas in 2009; the Longhorns' secondary has been home to a handful of early draft picks in just the last few years.

That hasn't kept Brown from heaping praise on his 2010 defensive backfield.

"We feel like we’re as good at corner right now, potentially, as we’ve ever been," Brown said.

[+] EnlargeAaron Williams
Brett Davis/US PresswireTexas cornerback Aaron Williams had three interceptions last season, including this one in the Big 12 title game.
His three reasons for smiling at the thought of that potential are Curtis and Chykie Brown, along with Aaron Williams.

"We’re really fortunate right now," Brown said. "All three are potential NFL guys to me."

That means trouble for Big 12 quarterbacks. Though Texas loses Thomas, a safety and finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's best defensive back, the Big 12's second-best pass defense a season ago plans to challenge for the top spot in 2010. If Brown's senses are correct, they should be able to do it, and improve on their NO. 19 national ranking at defending the pass.

"We’re more comfortable with [defensive coordinator Will] Muschamp’s scheme; I know I am," Williams said. "A lot of guys are returning guys who are coming back and are more knowledgeable about what he wants to do."

Blake Gideon returns at safety, and Kenny Vaccaro and Nolan Brewster will compete for Thomas' freed-up spot.

"We had high expectations last year, but we’re probably going to have more expectations this year," Williams said. "Our goal right now is to be physical, we’re trying to be one of the most physical DB corps in the nation."

In the Texas spring game to close practice on Sunday, Williams and Vaccaro took steps to establishing that identity. Williams broke up a deep pass early by going over the intended receiver to swat the ball away. Vaccaro unleashed the biggest hit of the exhibition on running back Tre Newton, driving through his teammate on a short pass in the flats.

"We don’t want a team to be like 'Okay, well he’s that one physical person.' We want a team to be like 'Whoa, we’ve got that team coming through,'" Williams said. "As a team, we want to be more physical."

But even in praising them, in the same breath, their coach can't help but think like a coach.

"We’re really pleased with those corners, we just have to find the younger ones, because two of those are seniors and they’ll be gone," Brown said.

Not to mention Williams, a junior who enters 2010 with a legitimate case as the Big 12's top defender and whose future could includes an early entry into the 2011 NFL draft. That would leave Brown without any of his three future pro corners. But he's already picked out a few successors, including A.J. White and Eryon Barnett.

"We’ve got to find somebody to step up," Brown said.

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