NCF Nation: Rashad Hawk

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Happy Tax Day to everybody. Hopefully, there won't be many midnight filers among my readers and there will be a healthy return coming to most of you.

Me, I wasn't quite so lucky, but took care of my payment to Uncle Sam a few days ago. And I've been dealing with a cranky Windows system all morning that has made work a bear -- and then some.

But nothing can stop lunchtime links. (Hat tip to my wife's computer -- you can never tell when you need a good backup).

  • Boulder Daily Camera columnist Neill Woelk urges Dan Hawkins to bring back Colorado's traditional power running game.  
  • Kansas State running back Keithen Valentine is excited about getting a second chance in the program with new coach Bill Snyder, Kansas City Star/Wichita Eagle beat writer Jeffrey Martin writes.
  • Iowa State players are learning that peak conditioning is the most important factor in picking up Tom Herman's spread offense, Ames Daily Tribune beat writer Bobby La Gesse writes.
  • Robert Cessna of the Bryan Eagle notes that Texas A&M linebackers are becoming more proficient with their blitz packages.
  • Six-foot-7 Adrian Reese has moved from tight end to split end for Texas Tech, where he conceivably should be able to take advantage of height mismatches with smaller cornerbacks. Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal writes that Reese will challenge Edward Britton and Rashad Hawk for playing time at the new position.
  • Former Oklahoma assistant Charley North has stacked his new staff at Dibble High School with former Sooners players, Ryan Aber of the Oklahoman reports. Among the members of North's staff include Stephen Alexander, J.R. Conrad and Jacob Gutierrez.
  • Veteran Lawrence Journal-World sports editor Tom Keegan details the recent development of Kansas wide receiver Johnathan Wilson.
  • Who gets to wear the gold jerseys at Missouri's spring game on Saturday? Matt Schiffman of the Columbia Missourian writes about the spirited battle between the Tigers' offensive and defensive units to determine who will wear those prized uniforms.
  • Kansas athletic director Lew Perkins, already the conference's highest paid athletic director, could be in line for another cash bonanza, Andy Hyland of the Lawrence Journal-World reports. Perkins could pocket a retention bonus of $750,000 if he remains at Kansas through June 30.

Posted by's Tim Griffin

One of the most interesting parts of spring practice will be watching potential replacements emerge in key situations across the Big 12.

Here are some of the key departures from around the conference and some of the players who will compete to try to fill those vacancies.

  Getty Images
  Brian Orakpo's pass-rushing skills will be missed by Texas.
  • Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree -- The Red Raiders will miss the two-time Biletnikoff winner. Lyle Leong will get the first shot and should be challenged by Jacoby Franks and 6-foot-4 Rashad Hawk. Top returning receivers Detron Lewis and Tramain Swindall will remain inside as slot receivers, meaning that other players will have to emerge at Crabtree's old featured slot.
  • Texas' pass-rushing specialist replacing Brian Orakpo -- Texas coaches are hoping that Sergio Kindle will ratchet up his play to Orakpo-like levels as he moves to a near permanent status as a pass-rushing specialist at defensive end. Sam Acho will get most of the work on the other side during the spring with Eddie Jones battling back from shoulder and ankle surgery, meaning the spotlight will be on Kindle this spring.
  • Jeremy Maclin's talents at Missouri -- It likely will take several players to cover what the multi-purpose Maclin provided as a receiver, rusher and kick return threat. Among the players who will get a look at a variety of roles include Wes Kemp, Jerrell Jackson, Gahn McGaffie and Rolandis Woodland.
  • Oklahoma fills a depleted offensive line -- Only tackle Trent Williams will be back as a starter for the Sooners' unit, which will lose key producers like guards Duke Robinson and Brandon Walker, center Jon Cooper and mammoth tackle Phil Loadholt. The four departing starters combined for 149 starts during their college careers. Replacements like tackle Cory Brandon, guards Alex Williams and Brian Simmons and center Jason Hannan are presumed to be talented, but are still very inexperienced. That's not a comforting thought for returning Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford -- at least until spring practice begins.
  • Kansas State replaces Ron Prince -- Sure, the Wildcats made only one bowl trip in Prince's three-season tenure before he was fired. But it will still be a huge test for legendary Kansas State coach Bill Snyder to match the success he produced earlier in his career after his sabbatical during the Prince years. It will especially be challenging this season with the loss of quarterback Josh Freeman and offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig, who went packing late last week for a similar position at California after only six weeks at Kansas State. Junior-college transfer Daniel Thomas and Carson Coffman will compete to replace Freeman. And it's anybody's guess whom Snyder will find to replace Ludwig with the start of spring practice approaching on April 6.

Posted by's Tim Griffin

There were no surprises or last-minute changes in Michael Crabtree's mind. The two-time Biletnikoff Award winner is off to the NFL draft, where he likely will be taken toward the top of the first round as one of the best receivers available.

  AP Photo/LM Otero
  Is Michael Crabtree's catch-and-run for a TD with 3 seconds left against Texas the best play in Big 12 history?

His departure was expected by Texas Tech coaches. And truthfully, Crabtree was probably as ready at the end of last season as he is now.

His numbers and productivity actually were better in 2007 than this season, when an ankle injury limited him late in the year. He still ended his career with 231 catches, a mind-boggling number considering he only played two years of college football.

It means that Tech coach Mike Leach not only will be looking for a new quarterback to replace Graham Harrell, but also a playmaking threat to fill in for Crabtree.

Backup quarterback Taylor Potts will be poised to take over for Harrell. But finding a replacement for Crabtree at his outside flanker position in Leach's offense won't be quite so easy.

Tech's top returning receivers are sophomore Detron Lewis, who produced 76 receptions, and freshman Tramain Swindall, who notched 46 catches, while sharing an inside receiving position. Leach has said he doesn't plan to move Swindall outside, but is looking at him at another of his four starting slots.

Crabtree's most likely replacement will emerge from a young cast including Lyle Leong, Rashad Hawk, Jacoby Franks and Todd Walker. All have shown flashes of promise, but don't have much game experience.

"I think our talent pool can withstand the loss," Tech receivers coach Dennis Simmons told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal when news of Crabtree's departure first broke last week. "Obviously, it's a tremendous loss if that's what happens. But I do think that those kids will step in and play well."

It also seemingly would make the next Crabtree easier to recruit. Crabtree's development has no doubt caught the attention of many top five-star prospects across the country. Matching his development in Tech's explosive passing offense should have a lot of appeal for the kinds of recruits that Leach traditionally has not been able to get before Crabtree arrived.

Crabtree goes down in history as the greatest receiver in Tech history and in the Big 12, for that matter. No player has ever won back-to-back Biletnikoff Awards like he has accomplished in his last two seasons.

His thrilling 28-yard TD catch from Harrell in the Red Raiders' 39-33 upset victory over then-No. 1 Texas could go down as the greatest play in Big 12 history. It had tremendous significance not only in boosting Tech to its highest level in the national polls, but also costing Texas a chance to play for the national championship.

And the scouts I've talked to think that he's going to be a whale of a wide receiver once he plays at the next level. Crabtree's determination and practice habits are unsurpassed. The player I've heard him compared most frequently to is Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin.

If Crabtree approaches that kind of career, he'll be a great NFL player. And I frankly would be surprised if he doesn't become one -- as long as he stays away from injuries and lands on the right team.