NCF Nation: Kenny Williams

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Previewing the 2014 season for the Texas Tech Red Raiders:

Key returners: QB Davis Webb, WR Jakeem Grant, OG Le'Raven Clark, LB Kenny Williams

Key losses: TE Jace Amaro, WR Eric Ward, DT Kerry Hyder, LB Will Smith

Most important 2014 games: Sept. 25 at Oklahoma State; Oct. 25 at TCU; Nov. 1 vs. Texas; Nov. 15 vs. Oklahoma

Projected win percentage: 59.0

Over/under Vegas odds: 6.5 wins

[+] EnlargeDavis Webb
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsQuarterback Davis Webb and Texas Tech are hoping for a repeat of their 7-0 start last season.
Instant impact newcomers: Defensive tackle Rika Levi and offensive tackle Dominique Robertson. Kliff Kingsbury beefed up his trenches by signing six junior college offensive and defensive linemen. Levi and Robertson figure to make the biggest impact and are on track to win starting jobs this preseason. Robertson will protect Webb’s blind side, which has allowed All-Big 12 performer Clark to move inside to his more natural position of guard. Levi is a 340-pound potential run-stuffer, which the Red Raiders lacked the past season, when they were manhandled on the lines. With Levi and Robertson providing reinforcements, that could change this season.

High point from 2013: The Red Raiders trailed by double digits late in the third quarter Oct. 19 at West Virginia. But in his second career start, Webb rallied Tech to a 37-27 victory, which vaulted the Red Raiders to a 7-0 start and their first top-10 ranking in five years.

Low point from 2013: After the 7-0 start, the Red Raiders went the other way and lost five in a row to close out the regular season. The low point came when Tech was obliterated 41-16 on Thanksgiving night at Texas. The Longhorns rushed for 281 yards against Tech’s hapless defense, and the Red Raiders failed to score an offensive touchdown until the fourth quarter.

Best-case scenario for 2014: The Red Raiders get off to another hot start by taking care of Arkansas, then stopping their five-game losing streak to Oklahoma State. Tech goes on to seriously contend for the Big 12 title, but comes up just short because of another daunting November schedule.

Worst-case scenario for 2014: Tech loses its sixth in a row to Oklahoma State and never fully recovers. The Red Raiders collapse yet again in November, finish 5-7 and miss out on a bowl game for the second time in four years.

They said it: “I think Year 2 for our entire staff, our entire program, there's a comfort level. And having a guy in Davis Webb who is an established leader and an established player at quarterback position in our system really helps and has helped the entire offseason. So we're excited about him. We're excited about our team, and we'll see how it shakes out.” -- Head coach Kliff Kingsbury
LUBBOCK, Texas -- The list of two-way players to grace the Big 12 in recent years is a short one.

Oklahoma State cornerback R.W. McQuarters had an interception and a touchdown catch in the 1997 Alamo Bowl.

During Oklahoma’s national championship run in 2000, Andre Woolfolk, as a wide receiver and cornerback, became the first Sooners player in 21 years to go both ways.

Bill Snyder utilized Kansas State cornerbacks Chris Canty and Terence Newman at receiver.

[+] EnlargeKenny Williams
John Weast/Getty ImagesTexas Tech's Kenny Williams played linebacker this spring, and coaches are thinking about deploying him on both offense and defense.
And Charles Gordon and Aqib Talib were superb two-way performers for the Jayhawks as cornerbacks/receivers under coach Mark Mangino.

In 2014, Texas Tech’s Kenny Williams could become the next in a short line of Big 12 two-way players.

Williams has been the Red Raiders’ starting running back the past two seasons, but he spent spring ball exclusively at outside linebacker. Williams didn’t take part in Texas Tech’s spring game Saturday because of a minor injury. But he took snaps with the first-team defense all spring, and turned heads doing it.

“Kenny has done a great job coming over and learning the system,” said defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt. “He’s a football guy, so it doesn’t take him a whole lot of time. He sees everything, understands the concepts.”

The impetus for Williams expanding his football résumé began with a simple request before the spring. The Red Raiders graduated outside linebacker Terrance Bullitt, and Williams was looking to help every way he could. That included asking for an opportunity to boost the other side of the ball.

“I talked to Coach [Kliff] Kingsbury and Coach Wallerstedt, and basically told them, whatever the team needs, I’d be willing to do it,” Williams said. “I’ve always considered myself a defensive-minded person, so switching over to linebacker, I didn’t think it would be very hard for me. It’s kind of been like second nature.”

At first, the position switch seemed merely experimental. That's what spring ball is for. Williams had been a tackling machine on special teams for the Red Raiders, but learning linebacker in one spring appeared to be a monumental task. Yet, as the spring waned on, Williams showed his coaches and teammates he was a natural for the position.

“I think he’s a guy [who] can help us,” Wallerstedt said. “He played on all our special teams last year. He knows the offense cold. Kliff wouldn’t have given him the opportunity if he didn’t feel like he could miss reps at running back, and go back on offense and do what he does. With all these reps he’s been getting at linebacker in the spring, he’s going to be a guy we can count on.”

Though it’s possible -- if not probable -- that Williams ultimately ends up on one side of the ball or the other, Kingsbury and Williams both indicated the plan right now for next fall is to use him on both sides.

The Red Raiders have DeAndre Washington, who rushed for 450 yards backing up Williams in 2013, returning at running back. Sophomore Quinton White is primed for more playing time. Texas Tech will also add four-star signee Justin Stockton in the summer.

That depth gave the Red Raiders confidence they could try Williams on the defensive side. But Williams has also proven to be a key and reliable offensive weapon, rushing for 1,321 yards and 13 touchdowns the past two seasons. Williams has also been Texas Tech’s best pass protector among the running backs, and it’s no secret Red Raiders can ill-afford for Davis Webb to get injured as the only experienced quarterback on the roster.

“I’m willing to go from starting offense over to defense, or starting defense over to offense,” Williams said. “Wherever I can get in and help.”

There’s precedent for a player taking on both running back and linebacker in the modern game. UCLA’s Myles Jack was named the Pac-12 offensive and defensive freshman of the year last season while manning both linebacker and later running back for the Bruins.

The next few months will dictate if Williams can become Texas Tech’s version of Jack. But coming out of the spring, one valuable Red Raider has the chance to become even more valuable next season.

“We have a lot of time to really push the envelope with this,” Wallerstedt said. “We’ll have to see how we end up defensively. … we’ll know more in August camp.

“But saying we could only have him 25 snaps, would we take him? Certainly. He’s the type of kid who’s going to do whatever it takes to help his football team, whether that’s offense, defense or the kicking game.”

LUBBOCK, Texas -- From the outside, it seemed as if the House That Leach Built was crumbling all around Kliff Kingsbury.

There was a five-game losing streak that included getting whipped at Texas on Thanksgiving night. His starting QB left for another Big 12 program. His right-hand assistant bolted days later for a different Big 12 foe.

Yet through such trying weeks, the 34-year-old first-year head coach never changed his demeanor. Not publicly. Not even privately with his team. He still arrived at Texas Tech’s football training facility during the 4 o’clock hour each morning. He still worked out twice a day, once around sunrise, and again after lunch.

[+] EnlargeKliff Kingsbury
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsKliff Kingsbury stayed cool when there was chaos all around. The Red Raiders followed his lead and it's been paying off ever since.
Kingsbury refused to dwell on the past. Instead, he focused his players on the opportunities ahead.

“Really, a team gets its personality from its head coach,” said senior running back/outside linebacker Kenny Williams. “Coach Kingsbury is a very strong person. I think the way he conducted himself during that time made us a stronger team.”

Because their coach never wavered in the weeks leading up the National University Holiday Bowl, the team didn’t, either. And like a captain guiding his crew through choppy waters, Kingsbury righted the (pirate) ship at Texas Tech.

The two-touchdown-underdog Red Raiders completely dismantled No. 14 Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl -- and they’ve been riding a wave of momentum no one outside the program saw coming ever since.

“For what they did and the way they performed in the bowl game, I couldn’t have been more proud of those guys,” Kingsbury said. “I think the biggest part was the resiliency this team showed. That’s how you build for the future. Because it’s not always going to be going well. It’s not always going to fall in your favor. But you gotta keep fighting.”

After they rallied past West Virginia to move to 7-0 and into the top 10 of the polls, nothing seemed to fall in the Red Raiders’ favor. Texas Tech played Oklahoma tough in a tight loss on the road, but then lost to Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Baylor and Texas by an average margin of almost 24 points.

“I don’t think anyone on the team felt sorry for themselves or felt like, ‘Hey, this wasn’t a good team,’” Kingsbury said. “We just weren’t playing as good as we needed to be to beat good teams.”

But just like the five straight losses themselves, the losses of quarterback Baker Mayfield and assistant Sonny Cumbie stung, too.

Mayfield became a national story after winning the starting job during the preseason as a walk-on true freshman. He was named the Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year the same day he informed Kingsbury he was leaving to enroll at Oklahoma.

Cumbie’s departure was almost as shocking. He played quarterback at Texas Tech under Mike Leach, had been teammates and longtime friends with Kingsbury and was the only assistant retained by both former Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville and Kingsbury. Cumbie had recruited several of the players on Texas Tech’s current roster, including quarterback Davis Webb. And he had been instrumental in helping Kingsbury acclimate during his first few days as head coach, even bringing recruiting tape for Kingsbury to review in his empty office.

“It was really rough having coach Cumbie leave, because that was the guy that had been recruiting me since my sophomore year,” Webb said. “He’s a guy I got really close to. He knows my parents really well. He came to my house multiple times. That was really rough on me I guess because I look up to him a lot. Baker leaving threw everyone off guard, too. Coach Cumbie leaving to TCU was very surprising. So there was a lot of shock. But we never became distraught.”

Instead, Kingsbury kept his players on campus throughout December to prepare them for the bowl game. And by the time the Holiday Bowl rolled around, the Red Raiders had the look of a team that had successfully weathered a storm.

“Everything just boiled up in a pot,” Webb said. “And we just exploded.”

Really, a team gets its personality from its head coach. Coach Kingsbury is a very strong person. I think the way he conducted himself during that time made us a stronger team.

-- Texas Tech senior RB/OLB Kenny Williams
Taking over for Mayfield, Webb came out on fire. Also a true freshman last year, Webb threw touchdown passes on Texas Tech’s first four possessions and finished with 403 passing yards on his way to earning Holiday Bowl offensive MVP honors. The defense, finally at full strength again after several injuries, held up too.

“More than anything, that showed our players that you gotta handle adversity, you gotta be mentally tough,” Kingsbury said. “And if you do, that good things can happen.”

Good things have been happening for Texas Tech ever since.

Last month, Kingsbury scored a commitment from Jarrett Stidham, the nation’s No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the Class of 2015. Stidham had offers from Alabama, Oregon, Texas and Baylor, which was thought to be the favorite because of Art Briles’ connection to Stidham’s Stephenville High School (Briles won four state titles there).

“Coach Kingsbury done everything to make sure that program is going in the right direction,” said Stidham, who revealed he’s been in touch with several other high-profile recruits about joining him at Texas Tech. “I believe what he’s doing is going to pay off.”

The momentum from the bowl game has carried over into the spring.

More than 10,000 fans attended an open scrimmage in Midland, Texas, and another big turnout is expected Saturday for the spring game in Lubbock. Plus, Texas Tech broke a record with more than 34,000 season tickets sold, and is sure to sell more with five months to go before the Aug. 30 opener against Central Arkansas.

On the field, Webb has used the bowl performance as a springboard and has been even sharper this spring. During the Midland scrimmage, he tossed four touchdowns to four different receivers without an interception. Even with All-American Jace Amaro and Eric Ward moving on, the Red Raiders appear to be loaded at receiver again as well, with Jakeem Grant, Reginald Davis and Bradley Marquez, all of whom had touchdowns in the bowl game.

The defense should be improved, with the players having a year of experience now in coordinator Matt Wallerstedt’s 3-4 scheme.

And the schedule lines up nicely, with Oklahoma and Texas both coming to Lubbock, and defending Big 12 champ Baylor still on a neutral field in Arlington, Texas.

“We’re really ready to build off the Holiday Bowl,” Webb said. “We don’t want that to be the highlight, though.

“We want that to be the jump-start.”

The Texas Tech defense continues to hold opposing offenses out of the end zone.

The skill players have big-play capability.

And the Red Raiders are 5-0 for the first time in five years.

Buzz around the Big 12 so far has justifiably centered on Baylor’s offense and Oklahoma’s defense. But Texas Tech has been the surprise team of the conference.

Can the Red Raiders keep it going?

[+] EnlargeBaker Mayfield
AP Photo/Orlin WagnerTrue freshman walk-on Baker Mayfield riddled Kansas before a knee injury sidelined him in the second half.
That hinges heavily on what happens at quarterback the rest of the way.

Saturday, walk-on true freshman Baker Mayfield played his best game since the opener against SMU as Tech routed Kansas 54-16 after falling behind 10-0 in the first quarter.

Mayfield completed 65 percent of his passes for 368 yards and had a nifty 19-yard touchdown dash that gave the Red Raiders the lead for good in the second quarter.

But in the third quarter, Mayfield suffered a knee injury that apparently wasn’t as bad as it looked. Coach Kliff Kingsbury said Monday morning that scans on the knee didn’t show the structural damage the Tech training staff originally feared. Kingsbury added that Mayfield wouldn’t be out for the season but didn’t add anything else, including who his starter would be this weekend against Iowa State.

“We gotta see where Baker is at and take it from there,” Kingsbury said.

If Mayfield is out, Kingsbury has two alternatives: true freshman Davis Webb, who has played quite a bit in relief of Mayfield this season, or Michael Brewer, the preseason projected starter who returned Saturday in garbage time from a back injury that sidelined him the first month of the season.

“Those quarterbacks did a good job handling themselves Saturday,” Kingsbury said.

How the quarterbacks handle themselves going forward -- and how Tech handles the quarterbacks -- will go a long way in determining whether Tech can emerge into a legit Big 12 contender along with the Bears and Sooners.

So far, the Tech defense has shown it's up to the challenge.

The Red Raiders have the eighth-best scoring defense in college football and second-best in the Big 12 behind the Sooners. Texas Tech has given up yards but has bucked up in the red zone, giving up just two touchdowns on 11 red zone attempts. The Red Raiders have also forced a Big 12-best eight fumbles.

“We’ve really harped on red zone defense all year,” Kingsbury said. “They’ve stepped up there.”

Even though the offense has been held in check at times, the Red Raiders have the skill players to match their defense.

Tight end Jace Amaro, who leads the Big 12 with 38 receptions, is a nightmare matchup for opposing defenses in the slot. Eric Ward and Bradley Marquez are big-play threats on the outside. And diminutive sophomore inside receiver Jakeem Grant is as explosive as anyone else in the league with the ball in his hands.

Running backs Kenny Williams and DeAndre Washington have struggled to get much going on the ground, but they have proved to be effective weapons catching the ball out of the backfield.

For those reasons, quarterback could be the one position that puts Tech over the top. Or, the one spot that pushes the Red Raiders down.

Although Mayfield seemed to find his stride at Kansas, Kingsbury could be back to square one at the position if Mayfield can’t practice this week.

Webb has come in and made plays, notably a late touchdown pass that helped beat TCU last month. But there’s a difference between relieving and starting. Is Webb ready for that? Brewer, meanwhile, has all the tools to be a successful quarterback in the league, when 100 percent. But is he 100 percent? And when will Mayfield be back?

The Red Raiders have three weeks to hash out those quarterback questions before they head to Oklahoma on Oct. 26. If they can, the Red Raiders could emerge into a viable conference title contender in Kingsbury’s first season.

After all, the other pieces appear to be in place.

“The defense has really carried us,” Kingsbury said. “Special teams has been a strong point.

“If the offense can get caught up, we’ll feel pretty good.”

Big 12 preseason power rankings

August, 26, 2013
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Preseason camps have wrapped up around the Big 12, and it’s time teams focused on their openers this weekend.

It’s also time for the first Big 12 power rankings, which will appear on the blog at the beginning of each week throughout the season.

This list will change, obviously, but here is the starting point for how the Big 12 teams stack up going into Week 1:

1. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys were competitive last season, despite shuffling through three inexperienced quarterbacks. Even if Mike Gundy makes good on his promise to play both Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh, quarterback figures to be a strength this time. Weapons abound offensively, and seven starters return on defense. The schedule also favors the Pokes, with TCU, Oklahoma, Baylor and Kansas State all slated to visit Stillwater.

2. TCU: The Horned Frogs have the best defense in the league, maybe by far. Among the contenders, they also have -- by far -- the most difficult schedule, which begins this weekend with a neutral-site showdown with LSU. Can TCU survive the gauntlet? That hinges heavily on Casey Pachall, who has the talent to quarterback the Frogs to the Big 12 title -- even against a brutal schedule.

3. Oklahoma: Bob Stoops stunned the college football world last week by announcing Trevor Knight as his starter. There could be bumps in the road early for the redshirt freshman quarterback. But Knight’s potential appears to be vast, and he could become a lethal weapon out of the Sooners’ new read-option offense. If that happens, and Mike Stoops can get something out of an unproven defense, there’s no reason OU can’t win a ninth Big 12 championship.

4. Texas: On paper, the Longhorns would deserve to be at the top of this list. Unfortunately, for them, football is not played on paper. Texas returns 19 starters and appears formidable at every position on either side of the ball. Something, however, has been missing intangibly from this program the past three years, underscored by two consecutive no-shows in the Red River Rivalry. Can the Horns rediscover their mojo? If so, the rest of the league could be in trouble -- because the talent and experience is there in Austin.

5. Baylor: The Bears deserve to be in the same tier with Oklahoma State, TCU, OU and Texas. In other words, they are a viable Big 12 title contender. Seven starters return on a defense that uncovered an opportunistic identity last November, and the offense is, well, loaded. Then again, there’s something to be said for having done it before, which Baylor has not. The schedule is favorable early, but the Bears’ mettle will be put to the test in November-December when they face all four teams ahead of them in the power ranks.

6. Kansas State: Bill Snyder’s bunch has surprised the past two years with heady quarterback play and stingy defense. With a QB battle ongoing and only two defensive starters returning, it’s difficult to envision K-State winning double-digit games again with the same formula. That said, the Wildcats might have the best blocking line in the league, and three of the better playmakers in Tyler Lockett, Tramaine Thompson and John Hubert. You know Snyder will have his team well coached, too. In other words, the Wildcats should not be discounted.

7. West Virginia: West Virginia lost three of the best offensive players in the history of its program, and yet there’s still a lot to like about this offense. The Mountaineers added some talented junior-college transfers, and Houston transfer Charles Sims could be a star in the Big 12. Even though the defense will be improved, it probably won’t be good enough for West Virginia to contend; but it might be enough for the Mountaineers to top last year’s win total.

8. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders are in a state of flux at the moment with their quarterback situation. Projected starter Michael Brewer continues to battle a bad back, which means first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury could wind up starting a true freshman Friday night at SMU. With running back Kenny Williams, wideout Eric Ward and tight end Jace Amaro, there’s more than enough around the quarterback for Tech to be prolific offensively. But unless Brewer gets healthy, it’s hard to see Tech maximizing its offensive potential.

9. Iowa State: Consistent quarterback play has been the one thing that’s kept Iowa State from becoming anything more than a .500 team in the Paul Rhoads era. Can sophomore Sam Richardson finally be the guy who turns that around? The Cyclones are banking he is. Richardson has some tools, and he played well in limited action last year with eight touchdowns compared to just one pick. He’ll need to stay efficient to offset a defense in rebuilding mode.

10. Kansas: Coach Charlie Weis said last month Kansas doesn’t deserve to be put anywhere but in last place. The Jayhawks should be better than last season, especially with former blue-chip prospect Jake Heaps now quarterbacking them. Running backs James Sims and Tony Pierson are dynamic, too. But will that be enough to pull Kansas out of the basement?

Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas keys

December, 28, 2012
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Let's take a look at three keys for tonight's Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas.

1. Grab a turnover or two. Texas Tech's defense has to be very, very frustrated by now. The last time the Red Raiders forced a turnover was all the way back on Oct. 20. Since then, the Red Raiders are 1-4 with the only win coming at home in overtime against 1-11 Kansas. That stretch has sent Tech to minus-12 in turnover margin, which is seven takeaways below any team in the Big 12 and tied for 110th nationally. If Texas Tech can't crack the streak and force a turnover, this one will turn into a game quickly.

2. Force the tempo. It might be a little odd for Texas Tech without offensive coordinator Neal Brown in charge of things. Offensive line coach Chris Thomsen has taken over as interim coach and receivers coach Sonny Cumbie is stepping up to call the plays. There aren't a lot of teams in the Big Ten who run with the tempo that Texas Tech wants, but Cumbie's got to be quick on the trigger and keep the Tech offense rolling. Schematically, Minnesota can slow down the Red Raiders, but going with a lightning pace in Brown's absence will give the Golden Gophers problems.

3. Don't forget about Kenny Williams and Eric Stephens. Texas Tech didn't win the game, but its 208 rushing yards against Baylor was nearly enough to knock off the Bears and helped Tech put 45 points on the board. Minnesota ranks 77th nationally in rush defense, and though Tech loves to throw it around the yard, some balance would no doubt help the Red Raiders. Against Kansas and Oklahoma State, Tech averaged fewer than three yards a carry, but the team posted nearly seven yards a touch against Baylor. Williams, Stephens and SaDale Foster all average nearly five yards a touch and combined for more than 1,600 yards and 13 touchdowns. Cumbie's not a very experienced playcaller, but he's got to keep those guys active, too.

Big 12 weekend rewind: Week 2

September, 10, 2012
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Time to look back on the week that was in the Big 12 on Saturday.

Best offensive performance: Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State. Klein dominated in the Wildcats' 52-13 win over Miami, showcasing an improved arm and the same toughness that made him a franchise player for K-State a year ago. He finished with three rushing touchdowns and 71 yards on 22 carries, while completing 9 of 11 passes for 201 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Honorable mention: Tracy Moore, WR, Oklahoma State, Damien Williams, RB, Oklahoma

Best defensive performance: Adam Davis, DE, Kansas State. Davis was a wrecking ball on the defensive line for K-State, the game's most consistently disruptive force. He finished with just four tackles, but he had two sacks and forced two fumbles, one of which was scooped up by Arthur Brown. Honorable mention: Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State

[+] EnlargeDevonte Fields
Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT via Getty ImagesDevonte Fields (95) spent a lot of time in the Grambling backfield on Saturday.
Best performance by a freshman: Devonte Fields, DE, TCU. The Horned Frogs' hyped defensive end was all over the place against Grambling, making five tackles, a sack and three tackles for loss for a total of 10 yards lost. Heck of a debut for the most touted member of TCU's 2012 recruiting class.

Best play: Jake Knott, LB, Iowa State. Knott clinched the Cy-Hawk Trophy for Iowa State by tipping a James Vandenberg pass to himself for a game-ending interception, cutting off a promising Iowa drive in the final minute of the Cyclones' 9-6 win over the Hawkeyes. Honorable mention: Cody Davis, S, Texas Tech; Kenny Williams, RB, Texas Tech

Worst play: Kansas State's ... something. It was half jump pass, half behind the back Statue of Liberty ... or something. Bill Snyder called a timeout and the Wildcats ran the trick play at the goal line. However, Klein's behind the back pass to Chris Harper ended up going for a 19-yard loss and the Wildcats missed a field goal on the next play.

Second-worst play: Calvin Barnett, DT, Oklahoma State. It's been a long time since I've heard of a player getting two personal fouls on the same play, but Barnett pulled it off in the first quarter, getting flagged for two personal fouls to take care of 30 yards for Arizona on a 75-yard touchdown drive. He was flagged for roughing the passer and again for unnecessary roughness, and finished with 45 penalty yards, 18 more than Arizona's entire team. Oklahoma State finished with a school-record 167 penalty yards on 15 flags. Dishonorable mention: Dayne Crist's fourth-quarter interception to set up Rice's game-winning field goal.

Best team performance: Kansas State. We saw a complete game for 60 minutes and complete domination from the Wildcats. K-State sent a pretty decent statement with one of the best all-around games we've seen all season from anybody in the league, routing Miami 52-13, and outmuscling a pretty athletic Hurricanes squad.

Worst team performance: Oklahoma State. The Jayhawks gave OSU a run for its money in this one, but when you add up the aforementioned penalties, four turnovers and zero forced turnovers and the fact they came against a middling Arizona squad, the 21-point game was a pretty jarring wake-up call. Yes, it was the first time on the road for a young passing game, but OSU has a lot of experience elsewhere. This year won't be an easy one for Oklahoma State, but making Wes Lunt throw the ball 60 times a night isn't the answer. Dishonorable mention: Kansas.

Worst quarter: Oklahoma State's fourth quarter. The Cowboys were still in it after a Quinn Sharp field goal cut Arizona's lead to 37-31 entering the quarter. However, turnovers and an inability to stop the run turned it into a borderline embarrassing loss. The Cowboys were outscored 22-7 in the quarter and left the desert as losers in their first major test. Rough way to close the outing. Dishonorable mention: Kansas' fourth quarter, when the Jayhawks entered with an eight-point lead and lost.

Best quarter: TCU's first quarter. The Frogs scored on the very first time they touched the ball in the rebuilt Amon G. Carter Stadium. Not bad, eh? Deante' Gray scooted 70 yards to return a punt for a score, and by the end of the first quarter, the Frogs led 28-0, with a rushing touchdown, a passing touchdown, a special-teams score and a defensive score on a 28-yard Elisha Olabode interception return. That'll work.

Oddest performance: Malcolm Brown, RB, Texas. Brown's not exactly a bell cow, but he's the featured runner for the Longhorns. Mack Brown said Malcolm Brown was healthy, but the sophomore and Longhorns leading rusher a season ago carried the ball just two times for 5 yards on Saturday. Three other players, including QB David Ash and freshman RB Johnathan Gray, had more plays called for them. What's up there?

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 2

September, 4, 2012
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Fun weekend of games across the league. This is heavily influenced by how each team plays the previous week, so when there's a logjam of teams, you'll see a ton of movement. Teams 1-2 are super close, and teams 3-6 are nearly interchangeable. Don't get too bent out of shape this early. The body of work is tiny, and can look markedly different this time next week.

Here's how I sort out the league after Week 1:

1. West Virginia (1-0, last week: 2) The Mountaineers were the league's most impressive team in Week 1, and grab the No. 1 spot ahead of Oklahoma after the Sooners' near disaster in Week 1. You heard plenty about West Virginia's offense Saturday. Everybody on that unit, from the QBs to receivers, backs and O-line, validated it. Just have to do it every week. If that happens, this squad's winning the Big 12 title -- and maybe more.

2. Oklahoma (1-0, last week: 1) Be very concerned, Sooners fans, but don't come anywhere close to writing this team off. The offense was awful, but the defense was strong. For now, chemistry on offense can be a legitimate excuse, with room to grow. Landry Jones entered the night with one receiver who had ever caught a ball from him in a game, and the offensive line was still trying to replace a pair of three-year starters.

3. Kansas State (1-0, last week: 3) The Wildcats started slow, but where the heck did that 35-point fourth quarter come from? A pretty good performance from Collin Klein, but it seems clear that Bill Snyder is trying to limit the punishment Optimus Klein takes when he doesn't need to take it. He had 12 carries Saturday night. He got 25 carries in the opener last year, and 13 in a rout over Kansas. Twelve was a new low for him as a starting QB.

4. Oklahoma State (1-0, last week: 6) Don't overreact to this one, folks. The one encouraging thing you can take from Saturday? Even though his receivers were constantly wide open, Wes Lunt looked really good, connecting with Isaiah Anderson on a deep ball downfield for his biggest highlight of the night. Who figured OSU would win a game by 84 points and its starting QB wouldn't throw a TD, though?

5. Texas (1-0, last week: 4) The Longhorns started slow, and were one of just three teams to trail on Saturday, along with Iowa State and Oklahoma. Still, this won't be the first time Texas grinds out a win, or the last time it notches two 100-yard rushers.

6. Baylor (1-0, last week: 7) The Bears didn't look much different with Nick Florence at the helm, but the Big 12's no joke. The defense looks much improved, but tougher tests await than a Garrett Gilbert still trying to get his sea legs in a new offense. I was impressed, and the upside with this group is high, but the battle among this league's top eight teams is going to be brutal. Somebody's got to be really disappointed eventually. The Bears know how to win tight games, though. That helps.

7. TCU (0-0, last week: 5) The Frogs held a fan appreciation day on Saturday, but get to christen the sparkling new Amon G. Carter Stadium, fresh off a $164 million upgrade, against Grambling State next week. The place looks nothing like the old stadium. No shame in dropping two spots. Baylor and Oklahoma State played well enough to hop over the Frogs.

8. Texas Tech (1-0, last week: 8) Good day from Tech with the 44-6 win over FCS Northwestern State. It needed to experience a win pretty badly. The Red Raiders ended their five-game losing streak, but this set of backs is sneaky underrated. Eric Stephens, SaDale Foster and Kenny Williams will be fun to watch. Is there a budding star in Lubbock in TE Jace Amaro, too?

9. Iowa State (1-0, last week: 9) The Cyclones' flaws were on display early with some offensive troubles and a defense getting picked apart by a passer not as skilled as what ISU will normally see in Big 12 play. Its strengths were on display late, though. This team is underrated along the offensive line, and Shontrelle Johnson teams up with James White to make a really good backfield. Good win. Not enough to leapfrog Texas Tech.

10. Kansas (1-0, last week 10) KU looked a little shaky at times, and Dayne Crist's stat line (17-36, 169 yards, TD, INT) won't wow anybody. Still, his level of skill at the position is obvious, and an upgrade over what KU's used to seeing these past few years. Still some work to do defensively, though. Can't get away with giving up 99-yard rushing touchdowns in the Big 12.
This wasn't the spring Texas Tech envisioned last fall, especially at running back.

On February 17, Texas Tech became the league's first team to strap on the pads for 15 offseason practices.

The Red Raiders were deep at running back last fall, and Eric Stephens could have been the program's first 1,000-yard rusher since Ricky Williams in 1998. But his 565-yard 2011 season ended far too soon with a dislocated knee in the Red Raiders' fifth game. His status for 2012 is still in flux.

Senior Aaron Crawford graduated. DeAndre Washington checked out of spring practice with a torn ACL.

[+] EnlargeTexas Tech's Kenny Williams
John Rieger/US PRESSWIREKenny Williams carried the ball 43 times for 135 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman.
One name is left at the top of the depth chart: Kenny Williams.

"Like coach says, 'It’s my job to lose,'" Williams said.

With Washington and Stephens sidelined, Williams took advantage of the touches he got late in the season. He averaged almost 5 yards a touch on his 14 carries in the season's final two games. Included in that was the first and second touchdowns of his career in a season-ending loss to Baylor at Cowboys Stadium.

"I didn’t start, but I played a lot," he said. "That was pretty wild."

Williams came to Tech as the nation's No. 14 running back in the 2011 class. Even for a player as highly recruited as Williams, Year 1 was a long line of lessons.

"The overall speed of the game, catching on our plays and pass schemes," Williams said. "The whole first year was a learning experience."

Coaches told him they expect him to be the team's most improved player from the end of the season to the spring's start. He's physically gifted, but that only takes a running back so far, especially at pass-happy Texas Tech, which threw the ball more than all but one team in college football in 2012.

Washington and Stephens are hurt, but they can help Williams master the mental and technical side of the position.

"We'll go over blitz schemes. That’s one of our running back coach’s big things," Williams said. "Every running back can run the ball. What’s going to separate you is, can you pick up the blitz?"

He's still learning. But this spring, he's had to start doing and doing it often.

"We kind of feed off each other’s energy when we’re all out here," Williams said of his injured teammates, "but I’ve got to find a way to make my own energy and just pick it up."

Fellow 2011 running back recruiting classmate Bradley Marquez was moved to receiver, but Williams still has to outpace juco transfer SaDale Foster and teammate Ronnie Daniels to win the job officially.

And once Stephens and Washington do return, Williams isn't looking to hand the job over to his older competition.

"I expect to be a starter," he said. "Nothing less. You can’t expect anything less for yourself, right?"

Texas Tech recruiting analysis

February, 3, 2011
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Texas Tech Red Raiders

The class

Signees: 27 (four from junior college)

Top prospects: Kenny Williams and Bradley Marquez both ranked among the nation's top 30 running backs and Jace Amaro is one of the nation's top tight ends. Incoming quarterback Michael Brewer was the nation's No. 27 quarterback and could be a factor in the Red Raiders spring quarterback competition.

Needs met: Texas Tech has a lot of depth at running back, but Marquez and Williams could end up being two of the Red Raiders' best backs eventually. The Red Raiders are moving on without running back and longtime starter Baron Batch and also must replace departed receivers Detron Lewis and Lyle Leong. Derek Edwards and LaDarrin Roberts could fill that void in depth behind rising underclassmen, and junior college transfer Marcus Kennard could contribute quickly. Defensive end Cooper Washington switched to the Red Raiders from Oklahoma on signing day and could help provide some elite talent up front to instill the SEC-type defense Tommy Tuberville hopes to bring to Lubbock.

Analysis: Texas Tech is ecstatic with this class, and for good reason. It's one of the best in the Big 12 behind top-tier classes Texas and Oklahoma, and it's one of the best-ranked classes in school history. ESPN ranks it just outside the national top 25, and we could see some elite skill position players emerge from this unit. The big-time defensive signees will be coming in 2012, but for now, offensive coordinator Neal Brown has plenty more young players to help further establish his offense.

ESPN recruiting grade: B-minus

Big 12 top commits who have signed

February, 2, 2011
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Letters of intent will be coming in all day, but a few of the top commits across the Big 12 have gotten an early start. Here are a few of the top commits in the league who have officially gotten their John Hancocks on to kick off National Signing Day.

Missouri
Nebraska
Oklahoma
Texas
Texas A&M
Texas Tech

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