College Football Nation: Kurtis Taylor
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Every team is green someplace. Here are the specific areas of the most inexperience for each Big 12 team.
Baylor offensive tackle: The Bears need to break in two new starters after losing Jason Smith and Dan Gay.
Colorado defensive line: Help is needed along the defensive front where the Buffaloes lose starting defensive end Maurice Lucas, starting defensive tackle George Hypolite and starting nose tackle Brandon Nicolas.
Iowa State defensive line: Coach Paul Rhoads desperately wants somebody to emerge on the defensive line where the Cyclones lose starting defensive tackle Michael Tate, starting defensive end Kurtis Taylor and top backup defensive back Travis Ferguson.
Kansas linebackers: Even as Mark Mangino is contemplating going to a two-linebacker base defense because of the Big 12's spread offenses, he still needs to find those two players. The Jayhawks lose starters James Holt, Mike Rivera and Joe Mortensen at the position from last season.
Kansas State quarterback: Josh Freeman departed for the NFL early, leaving Carson Coffman and junior college transfer Daniel Thomas to compete for the starting job. It's not a pleasant introduction back to football for returning KSU coach Bill Snyder.
Missouri skill-position players: The Tigers need a quick infusion of playmakers after losing quarterback Chase Daniel, wide receiver/kick returner Jeremy Maclin and tight end Chase Coffman. All of them arguably were the greatest players at their respective positions in Missouri history. Blake Gabbert will receive first look at quarterback and Andrew Jones will work at tight end. It could take several players to fill in for what Maclin did.
Nebraska quarterback: It will be tough for the Cornhuskers to replace all that Joe Ganz did for them, both as a playmaker and a leader at quarterback. Zac Lee will get the first shot, along with freshman Cody Green and redshirt freshman Kody Spano. Maybe the Cornhuskers really could use former Miami quarterback Robert Marve next season.
Oklahoma offensive line: The departure of starting center Jon Cooper, tackle Phil Loadholt and guards Duke Robinson and Brandon Walker means that Sam Bradford will have an inexperienced group protecting him next season. Trent Williams moves to left tackle and Bob Stoops likes his incoming talent, if not its early work habits.
Oklahoma State defensive tackles: The Cowboys ranked last in the conference in sacks last season and lost starting defensive tackles Tonga Tea and Jeray Chatham. It will mean that new defensive coordinator Bill Young will need somebody to step up in the trenches to help shore up that weakness.
Texas defensive line: The major question dogging the Longhorns' national title hopes will be rebuilding a defensive front that loses All-American defensive end Brian Orakpo, defensive tackle Roy Miller, defensive tackleAaron Lewis and defensive end Henry Melton from last season.
Texas Tech offensive line: New quarterback Taylor Potts will be relying on a retooled offensive line protecting his blind side after left tackle Rylan Reed, left guard Louis Vasquez and center Stephen Hamby all departed from last year.
Texas A&M running backs: The Aggies' offensive backfield will need to restock players: Michael Goodson left school early to declare for the NFL draft and fullbacks Jorvorskie Lane and Nick LaMantia are gone. Look for Cyrus Gray to get most of the work this spring with heralded freshman Bradley Stephens arriving in the summer.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Kurtis Taylor might not have the athleticism associated with a breakaway running back. Although the 6-foot-2, 250-pound defensive end briefly tried to flash those kind of moves after an interception in the Cyclones' season-opening victory over South Dakota State.
Taylor recorded one of six turnovers for the Cyclones -- a high in the Gene Chizik era -- when he intercepted a pass in ISU's first game. He punctuated the pick with a flashy spin move that had his teammates busting him for the next several days throughout their film review.
"They were calling me Barry Sanders after that spin move," Taylor said, chuckling. "But they can joke all they want. I'll take a turnover like that any chance we can get it."
Chizik has been preaching producing turnovers throughout his ISU tenure, but said he finally felt like the lessons were taking hold after his team's big season-opening performance.
The Cyclones produced a school-record 202 yards of interception returns, including 48 on Taylor's wild ramble. ISU's five interceptions were the most for the Cyclones since 2001. They produced 10 interceptions last season.
"It was great to see that," Chizik said. "We just didn't ever feel last year that we were very good in our turnover ratio. We've been really preaching ball security and turnovers. We started getting more comfortable in our defense and starting to play faster. It was a great start to show the kind of gains and what happens when you get turnovers."
The major reason for the defensive improvement was because of familiarity with the philosophy of defensive coordinator Wayne Bolt.
"All of the schemes and the language and the concepts we are using are a year old," Taylor said. "Obviously, they are asking us do something and want us to fit into their ideas. Now, we just have to refine things and do them a little bit faster."
The Cyclones' awareness grew as turnovers starting piling up against their opponent from the Missouri Valley Conference.
"We got on a roll and you are able to build on what we've been able to do," Chizik said. "You could see in their eyes along the sidelines. We had two, let's get three. We got three, let's get four and on and on. It certainly was catching and we hope it will continue the rest of the year."
The recent Iowa State defensive improvement began late last season when the Cyclones played well in a 17-7 loss to Oklahoma.
"After that game, we realized we could play with anybody in the country," Taylor said. "It's just a shame we didn't learn that earlier. We could have played better against more teams last season. And we didn't have any more talent. It was just because we played together more."
That returning defensive group has been boosted by the arrival of seven freshmen and sophomores in their two-deep defensive lineup. Taylor said the new additions have provided a boost to his unit's playmaking abilities.
The next step will come Saturday against Kent State, a team that ruined Chizik's coaching debut last season.
"I remember how disappointed I was walking off that field," Taylor said. "I don't like to lose and it was definitely a bad feeling that we lost the game. They came into our house last year and beat us. The good thing is that this season we get to start over and come in with a new identity."