NCF Nation: Matt Clapp

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

No. 1

Now, we're finally at the top player.

After counting down the Big 12's best over the last 39 days, is there any real question who the conference's ultimate player is?

Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford's career has been memorable over his first two seasons. He's already become the only player in Big 12 history to lead his team to back-to-back championships.

After winning the Heisman Trophy last season, most draft observers thought he would declare for the draft, collect his millions in a pro contract and leave college behind.

The Sooners' disappointing losses in back-to-back BCS losses have stung Bradford and brought him back for more this season.

Whether his draft status will be affected is debatable. He'll be playing behind a green offensive line that will feature four new starters and he'll be throwing to a new group of wide receivers.

It likely will give him a different perspective after his first two seasons.

But if it pays off with a national championship, it will all be worth it for him.

Player: Sam Bradford
Team: Oklahoma
Position: Quarterback
Vitals: 6-foot-4, 218 pounds; Jr.; Oklahoma City, Okla. (Putnam City North)

Why he was picked: Bradford had a superlative season in winning his Heisman last season, leading the nation in touchdown passes (50) and passing efficiency (180.84). He also set the school record for single-game passing yards with 468 against Kansas and set the school career record for touchdown passes (86) Other honors he received last season included the Davey O'Brien Award, the Sammy Baugh Trophy, the Chic Harley Award and the Associated Press and Sporting News' first-team All-American. His numbers bordered on the amazing at times last season as he threw five TD passes in four different games and notched 11 300-yard passing games. But most importantly, he's led the Sooners to Big 12 championships in both of his seasons as a starter.

What 2009 will hold: Bradford unabashedly says his return was influenced by the Sooners' BCS national title game loss to Florida. He'll have a chance to become the first back-to-back Heisman Trophy winner since Archie Griffin in 1974-75. But he'll be doing it with a completely different supporting cast as the Sooners break in two new starting wide receivers and four new offensive linemen. It will give Bradford a chance to expand his leadership roles and perhaps show other facets of his game. He rarely has been pressured in Big 12 games and that will likely change this season behind the rebuilt line. He'll also have a chance to show off his arm in a different way with the new receivers. It wouldn't be a surprise if his statistics fall off a little this season - both because of the flux among his pass catchers and the return of two potent running weapons like DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown. But if the Sooners claim the national title, Bradford won't be complaining.

The countdown:

2. Texas QB Colt McCoy
3. Oklahoma State WR-KR Dez Bryant
4. Oklahoma TE Jermaine Gresham
5. Baylor QB Robert Griffin
6. Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh
7. Oklahoma DT Gerald McCoy
8. Oklahoma State RB Kendall Hunter
9. Oklahoma LB Travis Lewis
10. Kansas QB Todd Reesing
11. Oklahoma RB-KR DeMarco Murray
12. Oklahoma State T Russell Okung
13. Texas DE-LB Sergio Kindle
14. Oklahoma T Trent Williams
15. Missouri LB Sean Weatherspoon
16. Baylor LB Joe Pawelek
17. Oklahoma State QB Zac Robinson
18. Texas WR-KR Jordan Shipley
19. Oklahoma RB Chris Brown
20. Nebraska I-back Roy Helu Jr.
21. Texas Tech DT Colby Whitlock
22. Kansas WR-KR Dezmon Briscoe
23. Oklahoma DE Jeremy Beal
24. Kansas S Darrell Stuckey
25. Texas Tech RB Baron Batch
26. Kansas QB-WR Kerry Meier
27. Texas T Adam Ulatoski
28. Oklahoma State LB Andre Sexton
29. Missouri G Kurtis Gregory
30. Missouri RB Derrick Washington
31. Texas Tech LB Brian Duncan
32. Texas S Earl Thomas
33. Kansas State WR-KR Brandon Banks
34. Oklahoma LB Keenan Clayton
35. Baylor S Jordan Lake
36. Oklahoma State CB-KR Perrish Cox
37. Texas C Chris Hall
38. Texas Tech DE-DT McKinner Dixon
39. Kansas State DE Brandon Harold
40. Oklahoma FB Matt Clapp

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

No. 21

Texas Tech nose tackle Colby Whitlock has some unusual talents for a nose tackle.

You can tell something is a little out of of the ordinary will be found with Whitlock, considering his uniform number is 6. He's the only Big 12 nose tackle with his uniform in single digits.

Whitlock, a former standout high-school heavyweight wrestler, is a vital cog in the Red Raiders' defensive transformation last season that carried them to a three-way share of the Big 12 South Division title.

His quickness and brute strength are his best attributes. But an underrated talent that is noticeable is his footwork.

There will be more demands on Whitlock and the Tech defense after the Red Raiders' offensive losses from last season. It will be interesting if he can improve and help take them to another level.

Player: Colby Whitlock
Team: Texas Tech
Position: Nose tackle
Vitals: 6-foot-2, 281 pounds; Jr.; Noble, Okla.

Why he was picked: Like most nose tackles, Whitlock's true value can't be judged merely by looking at statistics. While typically battling two blockers, Whitlock helped control the middle of the line of scrimmage on Tech's improving defense. He notched 26 tackles and 39 total stops, including 5½ stops for a loss, a pass deflection, a blocked kick and a sack. Those efforts enabled him to earn second-team sophomore All-America honors from College Football News. His bullish pass rush helped the Tech defense set the tone in the upset victory over Texas and continued throughout the season.

What 2009 will hold: Whitlock must help key defensive improvement in the Red Raiders. The Red Raiders' defensive growth was one of the major story lines of the Big 12 in 2008 before a late collapse against Oklahoma and Mississippi in the Cotton Bowl that led to two late losses after a 10-0 start. Without offensive weapons like Graham Harrell, Michael Crabtree and Shannon Woods this season, Whitlock and his defensive mates need to take another step. If they don't, it might be a long season in West Texas for Red Raider fans.

The countdown:

22. Kansas WR-KR Dezmon Briscoe
23. Oklahoma DE Jeremy Beal
24. Kansas S Darrell Stuckey
25. Texas Tech RB Baron Batch
26. Kansas WR-QB Kerry Meier
27. Texas T Adam Ulatoski
28. Oklahoma State S Andre Sexton
29. Missouri G Kurtis Gregory
30. Missouri RB Derrick Washington
31. Texas Tech LB Brian Duncan
32. Texas S Earl Thomas
33. Kansas State WR Brandon Banks
34. Oklahoma LB Keenan Clayton
35. Baylor S Jordan Lake
36. Oklahoma State CB/KR Perrish Cox
37. Texas C Chris Hall
38. Texas Tech DE/DT McKinner Dixon
39. Kansas State DE Brandon Harold
40. Oklahoma FB Matt Clapp

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

No. 22

In only two seasons, Dezmon Briscoe has developed into one of the most explosive players in Kansas football history.

Now, if the Jayhawks could be absolutely sure he'll be playing for them this fall.

Earlier this spring, Kansas coach Mark Mangino suspended Briscoe for all of their practices so far for an undisclosed violation of team rules. He still isn't back yet heading into the Jayhawks' spring game Saturday afternoon.

It's hard to imagine the Jayhawks being able to contend for the North Division championship if Briscoe isn't a big part. It would be hard to fathom if Briscoe doesn't fulfill whatever demands that Mangino has for him to rejoin the team.

Player: Dezmon Briscoe
Team: Kansas
Position: Wide receiver/kick returner
Vitals: 6-foot-3, 200 pounds; Jr.; Dallas (Cedar Hill)

Why he was picked: Briscoe blossomed into one of the Big 12's most explosive players last season, snagging 92 passes for team-high totals for 1,407 yards and 15 touchdown receptions. He also set the school's single-game record with 269 receiving yards against Oklahoma - a total that was the nation's single-game high last season for FBS teams. He also and tied the single-game record with 14 catches in the Jayhawks' Insight Bowl triumph over Minnesota.

Briscoe already has broken the school career mark for touchdown receptions after only two seasons. And he showed flashes of being able to counteract one of Kansas' biggest weaknesses when he produced 195 yards in kickoff returns in Kansas' final regular-season game to spark the upset over Missouri.


What 2009 will hold: First, he's got to get back in Mangino's good graces. But if he does that, it's not unimaginable that Briscoe could develop into one of the nation's most explosive players. Considering he has another season of experience in coordinator Ed Warinner's offense and Todd Reesing back throwing passes, it wouldn't be out of the question that Briscoe could grab more than 100 passes and produce 1,600 receiving yards. And if he continues his late-season success running back kicks, he might emerge as one of the biggest keys in the Jayhawks' Big 12 title hopes.

The countdown: 

23. Oklahoma DE Jeremy Beal
24. Kansas S Darrell Stuckey
25. Texas Tech RB Baron Batch
26. Kansas WR-QB Kerry Meier
27. Texas T Adam Ulatoski
28. Oklahoma State S Andre Sexton
29. Missouri G Kurtis Gregory
30. Missouri RB Derrick Washington
31. Texas Tech LB Brian Duncan
32. Texas S Earl Thomas
33. Kansas State WR Brandon Banks
34. Oklahoma LB Keenan Clayton
35. Baylor S Jordan Lake
36. Oklahoma State CB/KR Perrish Cox
37. Texas C Chris Hall
38. Texas Tech DE/DT McKinner Dixon
39. Kansas State DE Brandon Harold
40. Oklahoma FB Matt Clapp

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Coaching news is upstaging the Big 12's championship game coming up on Saturday night in Kansas City. It just makes the anticipation for the game that much more intense. 

Here are some stories from around the conference:

  • Texas Tech coach Mike Leach's employment options grew again as Auburn emerged as a potential suitor. But Lubbock Avalanche-Journal columnist Don Williams writes that he's hearing that Leach doesn't really want to leave the High Plains.
  • Vahe Gregorian of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes that staying away from turnovers will be critical if Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel hopes to cap his career with an upset over Oklahoma.
  • Colorado coach Dan Hawkins told the Boulder Daily Camera's Kyle Ringo he favors an early signing period because it would "clarify the recruiting process" for coaches and recruits.
  • The Austin American-Statesman columnist Kirk Bohls spells out the scenario where a split national championship might result this season.
  • Berry Tramel of the Oklahoma wonders how Mack Brown could be snubbed as the Big 12's coach of the year, along with wondering how center Jon Cooper didn't make the All-Big 12 team and part-time player Matt Clapp did.
  • Dave Sittler of the Tulsa World expects another heavy dose of mind games for Daniel from Oklahoma defenders Saturday night in the Big 12 title game -- just like in the two games between the teams last season.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

It's the quiet before the storm today, still two days away from the games this weekend.

After all the excitement of last week's opening games, I'm wondering why the Big 12 doesn't have at least one Thursday night game every week during the nonconference part of the season. It would be a great opportunity for the conference to build some awareness.

The bigger Big 12 schools traditionally have not wanted to move their games around. But it would seem that a school itching to build some national notoriety -- are you listening Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Kansas State? -- would like to jump into a programming slot where a lot of people would be watching their games.

Thursday night has emerged as the unofficial kickoff point of the week. And because of the glut of games on Saturdays, playing a game early gives a school a chance to stand out and build some national awareness. Look at what it's done for ACC and Big East schools.

But then again, considering the weak games across the conference this week, I could understand why the less national exposure might be better.

Here are some links to get you through the pregame hungries.

  • The Houston Chronicle's Joseph Duarte describes the Big 12's Krispy Kreme diet of nonconference foes this week.
  • Texas' heralded "Q Package" got off to a quiet start in its opening game.
  • Brent Zwereneman of the San Antonio Express-News profiles Texas A&M QB-turned-WR Ryan Tannehill, who led the team in receiving yards in the Aggies' season opener against Arkansas State.
  • Jimmy Burch's Big 12 notepad in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram talks about Texas Tech's early struggles, Sam Bradford's new sense as a leader and how Colt McCoy has eschewed drinking a Dr. Pepper for nine years.
  • The Fort Worth Star Telegram's Brad Gray describes Texas WR Jordan Shipley's emergence as the Longhorns' deep threat.
  • Oklahoma State's red-zone struggles appear to have returned this season after sputtering offensive performances near the goal line in the Cowboys' opener.
  • Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News has a good story on the adversity that Texas Tech T Rylan Reed has overcome to reach the Red Raiders' starting lineup.
  • The Omaha World-Herald has a strong video package to break down the Cornhuskers' upcoming game with San Jose State.
  • The Oklahoman's John Helsley writes about the evolution of Matt Clapp into Oklahoma's fullback and also lists the school's top fullbacks in history.
  • Baylor hopes to build on a paltry pass rush that notched only one sack last week -- a safety blitz by Jeremy Williams.
  • The combination of high altitude and Colorado's no-huddle offense could be a nightmare for nonfamiliar opponents.
  • Preparing for two potential Iowa State quarterbacks -- Austen Arnaud and Phillip Bates -- is much more difficult than preparing for one, according to Cyclone opponents.
  • Former top 10 national recruit Michael Keck has left the Missouri program.
  • Missouri has already sold a record number of more than 40,000 season tickets -- 5,000 more than the previous record.
  • Overlooked WR recruit Dezmon Briscoe has blossomed after arriving at Kansas, producing three TDs in the Jayhawks season opener.
  • Topeka Capital-Journal Kansas State beat writer Austin Meek consults the 8-ball to get some hot sports opinion about the Wildcats and Jayhawks.
  • Don't expect much of a challenge for Missouri against Division I-AA Southeast Missouri State, which struggled to post a 35-28 victory over Division II Southwest Baptist last week -- a team that was 0-11 last season.  
  • Former standout Kansas State QB Jonathan Beasley returns to Manhattan as an assistant coach for Montana State.
  • Iowa State must have better tackling if they hope to avenge last season's loss to Kent State on Saturday.

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