NCF Nation: Ronnell Lewis

Big 12 spring football preview

February, 21, 2012
Spring football is already under way at Texas Tech, but in the coming weeks, the Big 12's other nine programs will join the Red Raiders in taking the field as a team for the first time since January, December or November for some.

Here's a preview of what to expect:


Spring practice start date: March 19
Spring game: April 14

What to watch:
  • Nick Florence: It's not official, but the Baylor quarterback job is Florence's to lose. That means he inherits the unenviable task of replacing the school's first Heisman winner. He replaced RG3 in 2009 with mixed results, but showed some major potential in a win over Texas Tech when RG3 took a shot to the head and sat out the second half. Can he keep the bowl streak alive at Baylor? We'll get an idea this spring.
  • The defense's progression: You didn't need to see much more than the 67-56 Alamo Bowl win over Washington to know the Bears needed some work on defense. In the month of November, Baylor became the first team in FBS history to win four consecutive games in a single season while also giving up at least 30 points in each of those games. The defense can't make Florence pick up the slack to that level. Year 2 under Phil Bennett must be better. Baylor has no excuses. The Bears have the athletes on campus necessary to be at least a decent defense.
  • The team's attitude/motivation: Baylor played with a lot of purpose the past two seasons, and made history in both, cracking a 16-year bowl drought and winning 10 games this year. Is that fire still there? Baylor has to prove it is without RG3 (and Kendall Wright) carrying the team on the field, emotionally and mentally.

Spring practice start date: March 20
Spring game: April 14

What to watch:
  • The quarterback battle: Or is it? Jared Barnett looked like the man of the future in Ames late in the season, leading the Cyclones to an historic upset of No. 2 Oklahoma State. But in the ugly Pinstripe Bowl loss to a mediocre Rutgers team, Barnett's inaccuracy posed big questions. He was benched and Steele Jantz stepped in, though he didn't play much better than Barnett. Turnovers were an issue for Jantz early on, but Barnett has to bounce back in the spring to make sure the job doesn't come open.
  • The receivers: Darius Reynolds was the big-play man for the Cyclones, but he's gone. It's going to be tough to replace him. Slot receivers Aaron Horne and Josh Lenz were productive, but did little to stretch defenses like Reynolds did. Can ISU find someone to fill the void?
  • The new man at left tackle: Iowa State had the luxury of having a future pro, Kelechi Osemele, at left tackle for the past three seasons. He earned All-Big 12 nods in each of those seasons, but he's gone now. Junior Carter Bykowski was behind Osemele on the depth chart, but will the converted tight end be the new man at tackle for the Cyclones?

Spring practice start date: March 27
Spring game: April 28

What to watch:
  • Uh, everything?: I mean, what's not to watch at KU? Charlie Weis steps in for the fired Turner Gill and tries to build KU up from nothing. The Jayhawks were one of the worst teams in Big 12 history last season, losing six games by at least 30 points. Weis will speak his mind and watching him rebuilding the Jayhawks is going to be fun. It all starts next month -- on the field, at least.
  • KU's new pass-catch combo: Dayne Crist is on campus, and so is Oklahoma transfer Justin McCay, a former blue-chip recruit who didn't quite catch on in Norman. Quarterback and receiver were arguably the two biggest positions of need for KU last year, and we'll get a preview of what could be a productive combo next season. McCay isn't officially eligible for the 2012 season yet -- he needs the NCAA to waive its mandated redshirt year after a transfer -- but the coaching staff is confident he'll have it granted.
  • The uncertainty on the depth chart: When a new staff comes in, you never know what to expect. Kansas' leading rusher in its final season under Mark Mangino, Toben Opurum, is now one of its best defensive linemen. Look for Weis to shake things up, too. Where? Who knows?

Spring practice start date: April 4
Spring game: April 28

What to watch:
  • Collin Klein's maturation: Kansas State's quarterback could be fun to watch this spring and next fall. His throwing motion isn't pretty, but his accuracy improved in a big way throughout the season. If that continues at a pace anything close to what we saw last year, K-State's going to be a load for everyone. Look out.
  • Developing depth at running back: John Hubert is back, and so is seldom-used Angelo Pease. Bryce Brown is gone, though. Klein handles a lot of the heavy lifting in the running game, but it'd be some nice insurance if K-State could establish some more depth in the backfield. Making Klein carry the ball 300 times again is tempting fate.
  • Stars becoming superstars: Kansas State brings back more starters than all but seven teams in college football, so this team is going to look remarkably similar in 2012 to the way it did last year. However, it should get better. And its two transfers could look dominant this spring. Cornerback Nigel Malone and linebacker Arthur Brown emerged as stars last year, but we could see the duo emerge as true game-changers this spring. Look out, Big 12 offenses.

Spring practice start date: March 8
Spring game: April 14

What to watch:
  • New faces on, off the field: Mike Stoops' arrival as the defensive coordinator was the biggest news this offseason in the Big 12, and Brent Venables, who had been at OU for all of Bob Stoops' tenure, left for Clemson rather than become co-defensive coordinator. Hopes are high that Stoops can revitalize Oklahoma's defense. He was in charge when the Sooners rode a dominant D to the 2000 national title, and the Sooners have the talent to win it all in 2012. Receiver Trey Metoyer joins the team this spring, and could be a major contributor immediately. Two of the team's four new tight ends are also enrolled early.
  • QB Blake Bell's role: The Belldozer is back … but so is full-time quarterback Landry Jones. How will the balance between the duo look this spring? And what new wrinkles will we see in Oklahoma's simple, yet near-unstoppable short-yardage formation that scored 13 touchdowns in the second half of 2011?
  • The battle at defensive end: Oklahoma must fill two huge holes at defensive end. Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Frank Alexander is gone, as is possible first-round pick Ronnell Lewis. R.J. Washington contributed late and has potential, but David King filled in for Lewis in the final three games of the season. The duo could be great, but it could also be pretty pedestrian. We'll get an idea this spring, but Lewis and Alexander set a high, high bar.

Spring practice start date: March 12
Spring game: April 21

What to watch:
  • The quarterback battle: This will easily be the highest-profile, highest-quality quarterback battle in the Big 12. It won't be at the level of Texas Tech in 2010, but it won't be too far off. Clint Chelf, J.W. Walsh and Wes Lunt will go head to head. All have plenty of potential, though Lunt may have the most. The big-armed true freshman also has the least experience. Anything could happen here.
  • Which receivers rise: Justin Blackmon and Josh Cooper leave huge holes behind. It's not every day a two-time Biletnikoff Award winner walks on campus. Hubert Anyiam is gone, too. Michael Harrison is unlikely to play for the 2012 season, but the school has offered no confirmation on his status. He had the most potential, but OSU is deep at the position. Who emerges as the top target? Isaiah Anderson? Tracy Moore? Josh Stewart? Anything could happen there, too.
  • Defense needs a leader: Safety Markelle Martin has been the heart of the defense the past two seasons, but his big-hitting days are over. Who becomes the new voice of the defense? It needs to find leadership this spring heading into summer voluntary workouts.

Spring practice start date: Feb. 23
Spring game: April 1

What to watch:
  • The quarterback competition: I still think having a competition at the spot, which Texas says it will, isn't the best option, but David Ash and Case McCoy will go at it alongside early-enrolling freshman Connor Brewer. If Ash secures the job, expect an announcement heading into summer officially anointing the sophomore.
  • More sophistication on both sides of the ball: The progression is natural and likely. Offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin and defensive coordinator Manny Diaz had good first years in Austin, but this is Year 2. The spring won't be devoted to learning the playbook. It's time to master it. Both units could look markedly different, and much more refined next fall. Deny it all you like: Texas is back on its way to the top after a rough two years.
  • Maturing offensive weapons: Last season, the Longhorns relied on two true freshman running backs (Malcolm Brown/Joe Bergeron), a freshman/sophomore rotation at quarterback and its top receiver (Jaxon Shipley) was a true freshman. No. 2 (Mike Davis) was a sophomore. I hope I don't have to tell you what freshmen and sophomores do in college football. Look. Out.

Spring practice start date: Feb. 25
Spring end date: April 5

What to watch:
  • Can TCU shut out the scandal? Four team members were arrested in a recent drug sting and kicked off the team. How much of a distraction will that be for a program undergoing the most monumental change in its history? Quantifying the effects of the scandal will be pretty impossible, and we've got no idea how they'll handle the change, but will it be on players' minds?
  • The offense tightens up: The Horned Frogs' offense is absolutely loaded and ready to go for 2012. Quarterback Casey Pachall returns and brings his top three weapons (Josh Boyce, Skye Dawson and Brandon Carter) with him. Running backs Waymon James, Ed Wesley and Matthew Tucker each topped 700 yards rushing in 2011 and all return. The spring will be all about fine-tuning an already stellar offense, and it'll be fun to watch.
  • Replacing departed starters: All-America linebacker Tanner Brock was among the four football players arrested and booted from the team, as was all-conference defensive tackle D.J. Yendrey and likely starting safety Devin Johnson. Those were unforeseen losses, but TCU can't feel sorry for itself. Gary Patterson has no choice but to find new faces to fill those holes.

Spring practice start date: Feb. 17
Spring game: March 24

What to watch:
  • Once again, a new defense: Texas Tech sounds like a broken record these days when it comes to defensive coordinators. This time, Art Kaufman will be stepping to the microphone as the fourth defensive coordinator in Lubbock in four years. He's bringing a 4-3, a shift back to what Ruffin McNeil ran in 2009. Chad Glasgow's 4-2-5 and James Willis' 3-4 failed miserably in 2011 and 2010, respectively, the first two years under Tommy Tuberville.
  • The battle at running back: No one knows yet if Eric Stephens will be back next season. There's still a long way to go in his rehab from a dislocated knee he suffered last season in a loss to Texas A&M. DeAndre Washington is also out this spring after tearing his ACL against Missouri. Harrison Jeffers hung up his cleats. Who will prove to be reliable this spring? Look for the Red Raiders to try to use sophomore Bradley Marquez, freshman Javares McRoy and junior SaDale Foster in a manner similar to the way Oregon uses scatback De'Anthony Thomas, with lots of short passes and bubble screens to get them the ball in space, where they can use their speed and shiftiness to make plays.
  • Team health: Tuberville said earlier this month that the team is missing 15 players this spring. It can't afford any more injuries. It's already going to be tough to get enough done this spring, but Tech can't start getting banged up.

Spring practice start date: March 11
Spring game: April 21

What to watch:
  • Dana Holgorsen's offense in Year 2: Holgorsen didn't get a chance to coach his talented offense at Oklahoma State in its second year. The results could have been crazy. They might be at West Virginia in 2012, and the beginning steps will be taken this spring as Geno Smith & Co. get more and more comfortable with the system and Holgorsen adds more wrinkles.
  • The battle at running back: Sophomore Dustin Garrison hurt his knee in practices leading up to the Mountaineers' 70-33 Orange Bowl win over Clemson, and won't be there for the spring. What does senior Shawne Alston have in store for the spring? Garrison was the featured back last season, but a big spring could help Alston earn a few carries next year.
  • Defense needs help: Najee Goode leaves a big hole at linebacker, and defensive back Eain Smith's exit means the Mountaineers enter the season without two of their top three tacklers from a year ago. Bruce Irvin and Julian Miller's talents on the defensive line will be tough to replace, and in a league that requires a great pass rush, Irvin, Goode and Miller's 19 combined sacks must be replaced somehow.
Oklahoma defensive end Ronnell Lewis officially announced his intentions to skip his senior season and declare for the NFL draft on Thursday.

The 6-foot-2, 244-pound Lewis was a second-team All-Big 12 selection by The Associated Press and is rated as the No. 4 outside linebacker by ESPN's Scouts Inc.

"Ronnell leaves with our best wishes," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops in a statement Thursday. "He managed several challenges while playing here, but always worked hard and gave us his very best effort. He has the skill to be a successful NFL player and we feel he'll do well there."

Lewis, a former 8-man football star at Dewar (Okla.) High School, flourished this season, his first as a full-time starter. He had 5.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss

He missed the final three games of the season. He suffered a sprained MCL against Baylor and missed the following week's win over Iowa State. He was also suspended for the regular-season finale against Oklahoma State for missing classes and didn't play in the Sooners' Insight Bowl win over Iowa because of academic issues.

What to watch in the Big 12: Week 14

December, 1, 2011
We've only got three games to watch this week, but there's a few good ones. Here's what I'm watching for.

1. Oklahoma State transforming into politicians. Mike Gundy and his players shied away from campaigning for inclusion into the BCS National Championship Game this week. But what if they beat Oklahoma? Can OSU prove the difference between them and Alabama is much closer than people think? Appeal to voters that oppose a rematch? It'll be interesting to see if the Cowboys change their tune. There would be no reason not to, and if I was an OSU fan, I'd want them to do it.

[+] EnlargeOklahoma State's Mike Gundy
Andrew Weber/US PRESSWIREWill Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy change his tune and campaign for a title shot should his Cowboys beat Oklahoma?
2. Oklahoma's pass rush. The Sooners won't have one of the league's best, Ronnell Lewis. They will, however, have the league's best, Frank Alexander. OU needs to get as much push as possible with its front four. Brandon Weeden's smart. If Oklahoma starts needing to bring a lot of guys to get in his face, big plays will follow. Alexander and Lewis' replacement(s), David King and R.J. Washington, can do it. Will they?

3. Texas' containment. You saw it on the game-winning drive against Oklahoma two weeks ago. Robert Griffin III made Texas Tech pay, too. Keep Griffin from running and life gets a bit easier for the defense. The Texas defensive line is one of the best in the Big 12 at getting upfield, but do it too aggressively, and the linebackers are going to chase Griffin all day, most likely with little success.

4. RG3's psyche. Griffin took a big shoulder/forearm to the head last week on an impressive scramble that shortened his day considerably. Texas' defense hits much, much harder than Texas Tech's. Is he at all tentative to test the Texas defense with his legs, especially knowing it might shorten his day like it did against Texas Tech? Griffin said he felt fine last week and wanted to go in if Texas Tech got any closer than 52-42. We'll see if that frustrating exercise changes how he plays.

5. Collin Klein's fresh legs. Klein's probably taken more hits than anybody in the Big 12 this year. He's withstood them all, but practiced sparingly, if at all, late in the season. The off week gave him time to heal, and he's back practicing. Will that work carry over into the field, either as a more spry runner, or as a passer more in tune with his receivers?

6. The battle at the second line of defense. Kansas State loves to pound. So do Iowa State's linebackers, Jake Knott and A.J. Klein. They're two of the best in the league, which is arguably the best unit of any in the Big 12. That'll be fun to watch. Winner takes this game.

Big 12 Awards Update: Week 14

November, 30, 2011
We were off last week in the awards update, but we're back with one week of games left.

Offensive Player of the Year

1. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor: Griffin overtook Weeden after his huge game against Oklahoma two weeks ago, and held on despite the concussion last week. He'll need a big game this week to keep the award though, and even then the voting might be close.

2. Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State: Weeden could usurp Griffin regardless of what RG3 does if Weeden has a big game and beats the Sooners. Should be some drama on Saturday, but Griffin leads Weeden in total offense per game.

3. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State: Klein was off last week, but his passing numbers are OK and he's fifth in the Big 12 with 1,013 rushing yards and 25 rushing touchdowns. He's also thrown for 11 scores and five interceptions.

Honorable mention: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor; Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State.

Defensive Player of the Year

1. Frank Alexander, DE, Oklahoma: Alexander might be alone at the top for this one. He leads the Big 12 with 18 tackles for loss and tied for the Big 12 lead with 8.5 sacks.

2. Sean Porter, LB, Texas A&M: Porter came back to life with 2.5 tackles for loss against Texas and 1.5 in the win over Kansas. He now has 16 to rank second in the Big 12.

3. Emmanuel Acho, LB, Texas: Acho makes his first appearance on the list after notching four consecutive games with at least 12 tackles, including a season-high 14 against Texas A&M. He's now second in the Big 12 with 105 tackles.

Honorable mention: Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State; Jake Knott, LB, Iowa State; Ronnell Lewis, DE, Oklahoma; Damontre Moore, LB, Texas A&M, Steven Johnson, LB, Kansas.

Coach of the Year

1. Bill Snyder, Kansas State: Snyder's Wildcats are still rolling and look likely to win an unbelievable 10 games after being picked to finish eighth in the Big 12. Standing between them: Iowa State, a six-win team picked to finish ninth place in the Big 12. Beware.

2. Paul Rhoads, Iowa State: Rhoads keeps impressing. First the win over Iowa. Then beating Texas Tech by 34 a week after the Red Raiders beat Oklahoma. Two weeks ago, it was the upset over Oklahoma State. Welcome to the postseason for the second time in three years.

3. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State: Gundy probably won't be able to grab any national coach of the year awards after losing to Iowa State, but he might get a few votes if the Cowboys win the Big 12 title outright, and do it impressively.

Honorable mention: Art Briles, Baylor.

Any Oklahoma comeback dependent on D

November, 19, 2011
WACO, Texas -- Oklahoma finds itself down 38-24 in the fourth quarter.

The Sooners' offense has had brief moments of brilliance -- mostly two quick drives in the third quarter -- but has otherwise been uninspired without top receiver Ryan Broyles.

That said, if this comeback's going to happen, Oklahoma's offense isn't the biggest concern. The Sooners can't slow Baylor's attack this half.

Three consecutive drives have gone for touchdowns after Baylor trailed 24-17 and turned this game around. A Landry Jones interception in Baylor territory didn't help, but Baylor receivers are running free in the secondary and suddenly, the Sooners front is consistently losing contain on the always dangerous Robert Griffin III, who's using his legs to make plays, too.

Losing defensive end Ronnell Lewis hasn't helped, and the Sooners pass rush has taken a hit, but if the defense doesn't find a way to get late stops, a comeback is impossible.

Sooners will be without Ronnell Lewis

November, 19, 2011
WACO, Texas -- Oklahoma defensive lineman Ronnell Lewis went down and clutched his knee on a 55-yard catch-and-run from Kendall Wright in the second quarter.

He won't be back.

Lewis is on Oklahoma's sidelines in street clothes and a knee brace. That's a big loss for the Sooners. Frank Alexander has been Oklahoma's best defender this year, but Lewis is a close second. Both are in contention for the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.

The Sooners defense will need to play well without him, too. Baylor scored on an unbelievable 87-yard play that caromed off Tevin Reese and floated right to a wide-open Kendall Wright in stride downfield, tying the score at 24.

You won't see that too often, but the Sooners had a similar touchdown pass to Jermaine Gresham against Oklahoma State back in 2008.
WACO, Texas -- I'll go ahead and do it.

No. 5 Oklahoma's officially on upset alert.

Baylor's gone step-for-step with the Sooners on both sides of the ball, and the scoreboard shows it. The Bears lead 17-10.

Both teams have caught a few breaks and bad calls, but this one looks like it's going down to the wire.

Time for a bit of halftime analysis after the Bears jogged into the tunnel to raucous cheers and a "B-U! B-U!" chant.

Turning point: Kendall Wright took a short pass and weaved his way for a 55-yard gain, outrunning Oklahoma's defense. On the play, OU defensive end Ronnell Lewis went down, too. The Bears scored two plays later on a 15-yard run by Terrance Ganaway, and you got the sense that Baylor and its fans started to believe they could win.

Stat of the half: It's been an ugly half. We've already seen 12 penalties for 114 yards.

Best player in the half: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor. Griffin connected on a 69-yard touchdown pass to Tevin Reese that counted and was thrown perfectly. Another 80-yard bomb on the opening drive was thrown perfectly and didn't count because of a hold. Still, he's 8-of-13 for 197 yards and a touchdown and has played mistake-free football. He has to stay that way. He's got OU safety Javon Harris on his heels.

What Baylor needs to do: Keep poking at the Sooners and keep testing them deep. Baylor did a better job of handling the Sooners' blitzes in the second quarter and giving Griffin III some time to make plays. The Bears kept working the screen game to receivers on the outside, and the Sooners backed off a bit. The running game's only worked when Baylor's offensive tempo has been at its highest, so the solution there seems pretty obvious, too. Counter-intuitive to moving the clock, yes, but it's much too early to think about anything like that just yet. The Bears need to keep moving the ball.

What Oklahoma needs to do: A big win seems like it's almost out of the question now. Baylor's not a team that's going to be pushed around tonight on either side of the ball. This game may stay low scoring, and as the road team, when the Sooners get opportunities to score, they have to take advantage. They've done that so far, outside of a Trey Franks fumble on a long run and a third-down sack to take them out of field goal range. It's telling that they've taken advantage of opportunities and still only have 10 points.

Secondary keeping Baylor afloat

November, 19, 2011
WACO, Texas -- I wouldn't flick the upset alert switch just yet, but Baylor's looking like a top-25 team through the first quarter against Oklahoma.

The Sooners and Bears are locked in an uncharacteristic defensive battle and tied at 3.

The Bears secondary has slowed Sooners quarterback Landry Jones tonight while the Bears offense has struggled with a fast, physical pass rush from maybe the best defensive-end duo in the country, Frank Alexander and Ronnell Lewis.

The defense has taken its knocks this season, and that didn't change early. The Bears broke up two passes before giving up a 26-yard completion to Kenny Stills to convert a deflating third down.

Oklahoma receiver Trey Franks broke a long gain on the next play, but who was there? The Bears secondary, flipping Franks and forcing a fumble.

This one hasn't gone how anyone projected it, but the Bears will take it.

Three points after one quarter for an offense like Oklahoma's? Maybe there's something to the way the Bears play at home. They haven't lost at Floyd Casey Stadium this season.

Big 12 Awards Update: Week 11

November, 9, 2011
We've seen a lot of movement in the offensive list, but it's kind of crazy how static the Defensive Player of the Year race has been. A bit of a shift in order this week, but the same three guys who have been on the list all season, plus a few others who deserve mention.

Offensive Player of the Year

1. Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State: Weeden got the job done in the fourth quarter despite a few ugly mistakes early and finished with staggering numbers. His 502 yards were a school record and his four touchdowns helped the Cowboys stay undefeated and move to No. 2 in the BCS standings.

2. Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma: This will likely be Broyles' last week on this list after tearing his ACL on Saturday, but what a career it’s been. He’ll go down as one of the greatest Sooners ever and one of the best college football players of all-time. He finishes his career with an FBS record 349 catches for 4,856 yards and 45 touchdowns. Amazing.

3. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor: Griffin could make a late charge for this award with a few more wins. He’s thrown for 400 yards in three consecutive weeks and helped beat Missouri last week, 42-39, to get Baylor to 5-3.

Honorable mention: Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State; Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma, Henry Josey, RB, Missouri

Defensive Player of the Year

1. Frank Alexander, DE, Oklahoma: Alexander leads the league with 13.5 tackles for loss and is second with 7.5 sacks. He's been a disrupting force all season for an often dominant OU defensive line.

2. Sean Porter, LB, Texas A&M: Porter still leads the Big 12 with 8.5 sacks and is third in the Big 12 with 12 tackles for loss. He's made 56 tackles and forced a fumble.

3. Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State: Brown's slipped down the list after two losses to spread offense teams, but he'll get a chance to get dirty with a physical Texas A&M attack on Saturday. He's sixth in the Big 12 with 69 tackles and might have the fewest missed tackles of any Big 12 player.

Honorable mention: Ronnell Lewis, DE, Oklahoma; Jake Knott, LB, Iowa State; Nigel Malone, CB, Kansas State; E.J. Gaines, CB, Missouri

Coach of the Year

1. Bill Snyder, Kansas State: Snyder's Wildcats suffered a last-second loss to Oklahoma State, but I think I'll be voting for Snyder as long as his team finishes at least 9-3.

2. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State: Gundy's undefeated Cowboys have landed him on the short list for coach of the year, and he'l have to make a trip to Lubbock on Saturday after a dramatic home win on Saturday against Kansas State.

3. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma: The Sooners dominated the third quarter and after a frustrating loss to Texas Tech, the Sooners have been sharp for two consecutive weeks. This week, the Sooners are in a bye.

Honorable mention: Mack Brown, Texas

Weekend rewind: Big 12

November, 7, 2011
Time for our look back at the week that was in the Big 12.

Best offensive player: Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State. Weeden was on point for 60 minutes on Saturday, save a couple regrettable interceptions. He completed 36 of 46 passes for 502 yards and four touchdowns against Kansas State, and was at his best when Oklahoma State needed him late in the fourth quarter.

[+] EnlargeJustin Blackmon
Brett Dering/Getty ImagesJustin Blackmon caught 13 passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns in Oklahoma State's victory.
Best defensive player: Ronnell Lewis, DE, Oklahoma. Lewis was all over the place for the Sooners, making a team-high nine tackles, including two tackles for loss. He also intercepted a pass and returned it 11 yards, broke up another pass and logged a quarterback hurry in Oklahoma's 41-25 victory over Texas A&M.

Best game: Oklahoma State 52, Kansas State 45. This was pretty reminiscent of Bedlam last year. We saw four touchdowns in just three minutes of actual game time, but this one came with three lead changes and a tie game. Very nice. Easily the game of the year to this point, and a heart-wrenching loss for the Wildcats.

Best play: Brandon Weeden to Justin Blackmon for a 54-yard touchdown. Oklahoma State made a pressure-packed drive look easy, hooking up for a long score to take the lead back after trailing 38-37. They followed it up with a 2-point conversion and the Cowboys trailed for just 29 seconds.

Best team performance: Texas. The Longhorns were physical on both sides of the ball, muscling up on talented Texas Tech receivers and dominating the line of scrimmage on offense. Despite missing their leading receiver and leading rusher, the Longhorns rolled for 400 yards rushing in consecutive games for the first time in 24 years. Joe Bergeron ran for 191 yards, and finally, Mack Brown looks like he's developing the running game he's wanted for so long.

Worst moment: Ryan Broyles' injury. Injuries are the worst part about this game, and there's nothing good about seeing a player like Broyles, one of the most talented and hardest-working guys in the country, go down. If you ever doubt how much this game means to most of these players, look back at Broyles in tears on the sideline while trainers looked at his injured knee. Think of all the man-hours that go into preparing for a season — gone in one fluke play. Just unfair. Broyles isn't the only guy to suffer a season-ending injury this season, but don't forget how hard injuries like that can be to deal with when you consider exactly what players lost.

Worst quarter: Texas A&M's third quarter. I can't explain it. If Texas A&M could, they'd fix it. Either way, it's unbelievable. A&M and OU were playing an SEC slobberknocker until a Big 12 blowout broke out in the third quarter. The Aggies were outscored 28-0 in a span of less than seven minutes and a 13-10 deficit ballooned to a 41-10 blowout and a fourth second-half meltdown this year.

Worst confusion: Baylor fans. The Bear faithful reportedly kicked off a sarcastic "S-E-C!" chant after beating new SEC addition Missouri on Saturday. Now, come on Baylor. It's my understanding that the sarcastic S-E-C chant has been abandoned in favor of the earnest "Big 12! Big 12!" chant. Oklahoma State fans started the trend after a victory over Texas A&M earlier this season, so get with the program, Bears.

Best confession: Trey Gaddy, Oklahoma State. The student helped settle maybe the funniest pseudocontroversy in the Big 12 this year, admitting to me after Saturday's game that he was the man behind Missouri's upside-down flag at Boone Pickens Stadium last week. Call him the Big 12's version of The Bagman, I guess.

Best fashion sense: Bill Snyder, Kansas State. Leave it to Snyder to go retro and make it look good. He busted out what was presumably a purple windbreaker commemorating K-State's appearance in the 2002 Holiday Bowl. I think the only other place you could find another one is a thrift store in Brooklyn. Snyder, however, surely found it in his closet. For that, we salute the timeless legend.

Second-best fashion sense: Oklahoma State. The Cowboys' gray helmets, black jerseys and gray helmets looked pretty outstanding. Basically the Raiders, except they weren't a horribly mismanaged team.

Does defense lead the Sooners?

October, 19, 2011
Oklahoma boasts a Heisman trophy candidate at quarterback in Landry Jones. Last weekend, its top receiver, Ryan Broyles, became the NCAA career leader in receptions.

Running back Dominique Whaley has been one of the best stories in college football, but while others focused on his status as a former walk-on, he quietly racked up more rushing yards than all but one player in the Big 12, despite playing in a platoon backfield.

[+] EnlargeOklahoma's Frank Alexander
AP Photo/Steve CannonFrank Alexander has emerged as a top contender for Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.
The Sooners rank fourth nationally in total offense, and its biggest names live on the offensive side of the ball, but is it possible the Sooners' best side of the ball is defense?

"Our expectation is to play hard-nosed football and be the defense that we know we can be," safety Tony Jefferson said. "We’ve got a lot of talent on this team, especially on the defensive side of the ball."

The Sooners have stymed offenses in all six games this season. Tulsa was held 15 points under its scoring average. For Florida State, 22 points below its 35-point average. Even Missouri -- Oklahoma's worst defensive performance -- scored five points fewer than its average.

The Sooners held Texas and Kansas both to 17 points, nearly two touchdowns below their average.

"There’s always some spots here or there through six games you’d like to have done better, but I feel we’re playing pretty well," said Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops.

The Sooners gave up a whopping 6 yards in the second half against Kansas last week, keeping the Jayhawks' much-improved offense from recording a first down until the game's final minutes.

Oklahoma leads the Big 12 in total defense and ranks 22nd nationally with just over 317 yards given up each game. It ranks 11th by allowing fewer than 16 points a game.

That's even more impressive considering the Sooners have already faced offensive juggernauts. Ball State and Texas are the Sooners' only opponents this year outside the top 45 in total offense. The Cardinals scored six points.

If numbers don't do it for you, consider talent.

Frank Alexander has emerged as one of the Big 12's best defensive players, wrecking offenses up front while the Big 12's reigning freshman of the year, Tony Jefferson, states his case in the secondary.

He's flanked by arguably the two best corners in the Big 12 this season, Demontre Hurst and Jamell Fleming.

Oh yeah, and Oklahoma has done it all with its leader and the preseason favorite to win the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, Travis Lewis, on the mend from a broken bone in his foot.

Like the Sooners' multi-faceted offense, the defense can do it all.

"We’re not the kind of defense that runs one particular style. We have different types of defenses," Jefferson said. "If you’re an offensive team, you don’t know what we’re going to run or what we’re going to be in."

Jefferson, with the ability to play a traditional safety spot, nickel back or outside linebacker, might be the most versatile Sooner defender. The Sooners' base 4-3 defense can randomly become a three-man front. Defensive end Ronnell Lewis projects as an NFL outside linebacker, and can rush off the end or drop into coverage.

The Sooners can put four defensive ends on the field and use their speed and athleticism to further enhance a pass rush that's already managed 24 sacks this season, third-most nationally.

Oklahoma's 15 forced turnovers are more than anyone in the Big 12, save Oklahoma State.

"We’ve created a lot of pressure on quarterbacks and a lot of turnovers and gotten a lot of lost yardage plays," Stoops said of his defense, which leads the Big 12 with 48 tackles for loss, too. "That’s some of the things we’ve done the best."

Don't lose sight of the impact going up against one of the nation's best offenses every day has had. But maybe it works the other way, too?

Either way, put the two together (and Oklahoma does every Saturday), and the Sooners look like an ever-improving national title contender.

"I feel like we’ve done well, but I feel like we have a lot more to prove," Jefferson said. "We’ve still got a long way to go. We’re reaching the point in the season where there’s no more slacking off. Teams will take advantage of that. We know what we’ve got to do."

Oklahoma DE Ronnell Lewis is eligible

September, 1, 2011
Oklahoma defensive end Ronnell Lewis has been declared eligible for the 2011 season, university officials confirmed Friday.
Lewis, a junior, had been in academic limbo, but remained in practice during fall camp and the preseason. He remained on the depth chart and was working with the Sooners' first unit, but Oklahoma officials had been unable to confirm his NCAA eligibility throughout the preseason

Big news for the Sooners, who get their best pass-rusher back on the field.

The coaches must have had a good feeling Lewis would be on the field, though. If not, those would be a lot of wasted reps with the first team.

But Oklahoma fans can breathe a sigh of relief after finally getting some good news this offseason.
We'll cap our Big 12 preview today with five predictions for the year.

1. The Big 12 will have two teams in BCS bowls. The Big 12 did it in 2007 and 2008, but hadn't done it since the 2004 season before that. This year, the Big 12 is in perfect position to land two teams on college football's grandest stage. Oklahoma, tied with Ohio State at eight appearances for the most in the nation, is the league's surest thing, but there are three quality teams below the Sooners that can get it done. The winner of the Sept. 24 matchup between Oklahoma State and Texas A&M in College Station will lose only to Oklahoma and reach a BCS bowl.

2. Texas Tech and Missouri will have a 1,000-yard rusher. Oklahoma will not. Hop aboard the Eric Stephens and Kendial Lawrence buses. They're going a long ways. For Tech, it'll be the first 1,000-yard rusher since Ricky Williams (no, not that one) in 1998. Both players have strong offensive lines and first-year starters at quarterback. Each is fully capable of handling a big load, and will do it. Meanwhile, Oklahoma will ride its experience at quarterback and receiver while a platoon of running backs split the duty.

3. Oklahoma will go undefeated and play for a national title. The injury to Travis Lewis, possible ineligibility of Ronnell Lewis and a trip to Tallahassee in Week 3 won't deter the Sooners. The offensive firepower is enough to push the Sooners through a rough Big 12 slate unscathed. What happens in that national title game? Well, we'll find out in January, won't we?

4. Texas will not finish in the top half of the Big 12. The Big 12 has too many quality teams with too many quality offenses. Texas reaches a bowl game, but finishes behind Missouri and Baylor, setting for a sixth-place finish heading into a strong spring.

5. Justin Blackmon will become the second player to ever repeat as Biletnikoff Award winner. Believe it or not, but only Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree has won the 17-year-old award twice. That changes this year. Blackmon is the nation's best receiver and he proves it for a second year. His numbers dip to around 1,600 yards and 17 touchdowns, but it's still enough to be the clear winner.
Every year, good players become great. Here are a few fresh faces to keep an eye on in 2011.

Mike Davis, WR, Texas: Davis emerged as one of the Longhorns top targets as a true freshman, catching 47 passes for 478 yards and a team-leading two touchdowns. That was in a struggling offense. Texas, one would figure with a renewed purpose and new coordinator, could only improve on offense in 2011. That, combined with Davis' experience from last year and the offseason, could mean a huge year.

[+] EnlargeMike Davis
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesMike Davis caught 47 passes for 478 yards and two touchdowns as a Texas freshman.
Josh Gordon, WR, Baylor: Gordon, for now, remains suspended indefinitely, but there's no denying his potential once that suspension ends. Gordon, a 6-foot-4, 220-pounder is built exactly like Texas A&M's Jeff Fuller, and could be due for a similar jump after catching 42 passes for 714 yards and seven touchdowns, leading the Big 12 with an average of 17 yards per catch.

Luke Joeckel, LT, Texas A&M: Joeckel struggled at times early in the season, but was one of the catalysts leading the way for Ryan Tannehill and Cyrus Gray's rise late in the season as a young Texas A&M line jelled. The Aggies return four starters from last year's line that improved late in the year, but Joeckel has the highest ceiling among the five starters.

Ronnell Lewis, DE, Oklahoma: Lewis has unbelievable raw physical skills, but he has yet to turn that potential into hard production, in part because he had an All-American ahead of him on the depth chart. For now, his eligibility for 2010 is still in question, but his 37 tackles and 3.5 sacks will surely grow with more time on the field -- if he gets it.

Shaun Lewis, LB, Oklahoma State: Lewis was borderline great in 2010, but he may blossom into a full-blown star in 2011, possibly on a national level. Oklahoma State's defense has a chance to be much better in 2011 than in 2010, and if that happens, he'll join safety Markelle Martin as the two biggest reasons why.

Eric Stephens, RB, Texas Tech: Stephens will step into a starting role and with a new quarterback and new receivers, Stephens could benefit from an emphasis on the running game and an offensive line that returns all five starters. Stephens rushed for 668 yards and a team-leading six scores on just 127 carries last year. With Baron Batch's 177 carries headed to the NFL, could Stephens be the Red Raiders first 1,000-yard rusher in a long while?
The Big 12 has released its All-Big 12 preseason team as voted on by the media, including yours truly.

Here's my ballot, for reference.

And here's the preseason team, in all its glory.


QB: Landry Jones, Oklahoma
RB: Cyrus Gray, Texas A&M
RB: Bryce Brown, Kansas State
RB: Roy Finch, Oklahoma
WR: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
WR: Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma
TE: Michael Egnew, Missouri
OL: Levy Adcock, Oklahoma State
OL: Kelechi Osemele, Iowa State
C: Ben Habern, Oklahoma
OL: Lonnie Edwards, Texas Tech
OL: Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M


DL: Brad Madison, Missouri
DL: Ronnell Lewis, Oklahoma
DL: Kheeston Randall, Texas
DL: Frank Alexander, Oklahoma
LB: Travis Lewis, Oklahoma
LB: Jake Knott, Iowa State
LB: Keenan Robinson, Texas
DB: Coryell Judie, Texas A&M
DB: Markelle Martin, Oklahoma State
DB: Blake Gideon, Texas
DB: Demontre Hurst, Oklahoma


K: Grant Ressel, Missouri
P: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
KR: Coryell Judie, Texas A&M
PR: Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma


Offensive Player of the Year: Justin Blackmon, WR, OSU

Defensive Player of the Year: Travis Lewis, LB, Oklahoma

Newcomer of the Year: Malcolm Brown, RB, Texas

Selections by team: Oklahoma (9), Oklahoma State (4), Texas A&M (4), Missouri (3), Texas (3), Iowa State (2), Kansas State (1)

And a few thoughts:
  • Generally, I agree with most of the selections. Nothing was really shocking. Brandon Weeden vs. Landry Jones is pretty close to a coin flip, and let's not act surprised that the quarterback from the bigger program got the nod. Perception is reality, even if the numbers are so, so close. Jones has the Heisman hype coming into the season, certainly more than Weeden, based on little more than the possibility his team runs the table.
  • Running back is going to get a lot of attention, but let's not get riled up. This is going to sound bad, but believe me when I say I don't mean it to: Bryce Brown's selection is more an indictment of the returning talent at running back in the Big 12 than an endorsement of the hype surrounding Brown, who isn't even the clear-cut starter at K-State just yet. Here's what I wrote when I posted my ballot earlier this month. "The second running back spot is near impossible. Just about anyone might get it on the official vote when its revealed by the Big 12. You could realistically make a convincing case for James Sims, Eric Stephens, Joe Randle, Roy Finch and even newcomers like Malcolm Brown, Bryce Brown or Oklahoma's Brandon Williams. And that's the first team!" Well, there you go. For the record, I voted for Christine Michael, and still feel good about it.
  • Finch and Brown tied for votes, giving the Big 12 three running backs. There weren't three spots on the ballot. And it also explains how Malcolm Brown got Newcomer of the Year and Bryce Brown got first-team All-Big 12 running back, despite both being newcomers. It's a little confusing, I suppose, and maybe not everyone did it, but my guess is a lot of ballots had Finch as the first-team running back and Malcolm Brown as the Newcomer of the Year. Not all that surprising.
  • I originally had Luke Joeckel on my ballot, but took him off for Missouri's Elvis Fisher. I think Joeckel will end up being better, and maybe even by the end of this year, but right now, Fisher is the better lineman, and that's how I define the ballot. Perhaps others see it differently. There's no concrete rubric for this.
  • I'm not very surprised to see Ronnell Lewis and Blake Gideon grab spots on the team, though I voted for Tony Jerod-Eddie and Trent Hunter in those spots on my ballot. Second safety and defensive line were pretty tough for me to fill out. Neither spot is very deep in this league, and both Lewis and Gideon have two of the biggest names, which matters in a media vote.
  • Quite a huge gap between Oklahoma and the rest of the league. The Sooners had a lot of guys on my ballot that were close, but five more selections than anyone else in the league? That's impressive, and if ballot deadlines had been after Jamell Fleming's reinstatement, Oklahoma might have had 10 guys on the team. My ballot had Oklahoma State leading the way with seven selections, followed by Texas A&M with six and Oklahoma with five. My ballot also only had six teams represented. The media's Bryce Brown vote put Kansas State on the board, making it seven teams represented on the official team.