NCF Nation: Toney Clemons

Year one was rough for Jon Embree and Colorado. Year two might be worse.

The Buffaloes learned that wide receiver Paul Richardson would be lost for the year with a torn knee ligament -- an injury that occurred during a non-contact special teams drill.

[+] EnlargeJon Embree
Ron Chenoy/US PresswireJon Embree's Buffaloes will need receivers to step up in 2012 in the wake of news that starting wideout Paul Richardson has a torn knee ligament.
Richardson is hands-down Colorado's best offensive weapon. And he will be again if/when he returns for the 2013 season as expected. He has a redshirt year to burn, which helps, but it doesn't change the fact the Buffaloes will be scrambling for playmakers this season.

“I told him that when I played, a torn ACL was doomsday for a skill position player,” Embree said in statement. “Now, he’ll be able to come back stronger and faster. He’s obviously disappointed, but he is in great spirits about what happened and will make the most of his redshirt year available to him.”

Last year's leading receiver, running back Rodney Stewart, is gone. The leading receiver who actually played receiver, Toney Clemons is gone. Richardson was third, he's gone. Tight end Ryan Deehan, gone. Wide receiver Logan Gray, gone.

Starting to get the picture? And hanging over all of this is, of course, a question mark at quarterback. Texas transfer Connor Wood is getting all of the work with the first team, though that will change when Nick Hirschman returns from a broken foot in the fall.

So with Richardson out who are these guys going to be throwing to?

Keenan Canty probably has the most speed of anyone in the group. He caught 14 balls for 161 yards last season. Tyler McCulloch has pretty good size at 6-5, 210, but he's not as fast as Canty. McCulloch had 10 catches for 96 yards and a score last season. Nelson Spruce is coming off a redshirt year and there are a handful of walk-ons that could get into the mix.

Maybe that anonymity is a good thing and someone could emerge from that pack as a viable receiving option. But Richardson has the type of speed that defenses have to game-plan for. He could be counted on to draw extra attention which would have opened up more for the rest of the receivers.

Last year he set a school record with 284 receiving yards in Colorado's overtime loss to Cal. In that game he caught 11 balls -- matching a school record. In two years, he's climbed to 21st on Colorado's all-time list of receiving yards (1,069), 25th in receptions (73) and tied for ninth in touchdown receptions (9).

His loss is a significant one, and yet another challenge Embree must face in year two.

Early 2012 Pac-12 power rankings

January, 10, 2012
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It's never too early to look ahead, and even if it is, it's not against the law or anything.

And so we have our way-too-early 2012 power rankings.

By the way, schedule does not factor into these. This is a projected pecking order based on where a team stands right now -- Jan. 10, 2012.

And, by the way No. 2, if you don't like where your team is in the way-too-early power rankings, then I'd suggest whining about it until you get to play better.

By the way No. 3, Nos. 1 & 2 were easy. The rest is pretty darn murky, not in small part due to four new coaches.

1. USC: The Trojans welcome back 19 starters from a top-five team, including quarterback Matt Barkley. They beat Oregon in Autzen Stadium on Nov. 19. USC might be the preseason No. 2. Or No. 3.

2. Oregon: The Ducks have a strong mix of talent coming back from a team that won the Rose Bowl, but it's not just about 16 returning starters. If you want a reason to favor the Ducks over the Trojans, it's depth. Oregon welcomes back most of its two-deep. By the way, old Ducks fans probably grin about the idea of their team having better depth than USC.

3. Utah: The Utes welcome back 18 starters, though replacing both offensive tackles will be a huge task this spring. The defense has a chance to be beastly. The key? Utah proved it can win eight games with poor-to-middling quarterback play. But does a healthy Jordan Wynn -- back to late 2009, early 2010 form -- mean 10 wins?

4. Stanford: Many will count out the Cardinal, post-Andrew Luck. The Pac-12 blog will not. The over-under with this team is eight wins. Two gigantic holes on the offensive line and at both safeties are major issues, as is quarterback.

5. Washington: The Huskies welcome back seven starters on both sides of the ball, including up-and-coming quarterback Keith Price. The question is how quickly the defense can improve under Justin Wilcox.

6. California: While Cal only welcomes back 11 starters, there's plenty of intriguing talent on the roster, particularly on defense. Will quarterback Zach Maynard take a step forward? And what about his receivers after Keenan Allen? The pressure is on Jeff Tedford to win inside a renovated Memorial Stadium in 2012. If things come together, he just might do that.

7. Arizona: The Wildcats have more potential than most realize, starting with five returning starters on the offensive line and three defensive starters returning from injury, as well as an experienced quarterback in Matt Scott, who looks like a nice fit for Rich Rodriguez's spread-option offense.

8. Washington State: With 18 starters back, I'll go ahead and type it: New coach Mike Leach will lead the Cougars to a bowl game. And, hopefully, someone tips their cap to former coach Paul Wulff for collecting some solid talent, including two quarterbacks, Jeff Tuel and Connor Halliday, who appear capable of flinging the rock as Leach likes to, as well as a potential All-American receiver in Marquess Wilson.

9. Oregon State: The Beavers could be a surprise team if all the young players who were inconsistent in 2011 grow up in 2012, starting with true freshman quarterback Sean Mannion. With 17 starters back, experience won't be an issue. But those returning players went 3-9, so it's difficult to project a top-half finish. At least, not at this point.

10. UCLA: New coach Jim Mora doesn't start with an empty cupboard -- 16 starters are back. But the overall talent is dubious and, even more challenging, Mora needs to rebuild a culture. Further, taking the Bruins back to a pro-style offense, if that's the ultimate plan, might be a struggle in Year 1. First question: Is Kevin Prince the quarterback, or does Mora go with talented redshirt freshman Brett Hundley?

11. Arizona State: The Sun Devils tumbled in these rankings when quarterback Brock Osweiler, curiously, opted to enter the NFL draft. With just 10 starters back, a quarterback with no real game experience -- whoever wins the job -- and a challenging locker room, new coach Todd Graham might find the going rough in Year 1.

12. Colorado: The Buffs welcome back 13 starters from a team that went 3-10 and ranked last in both scoring offense and scoring defense. The rebuilding job on offense, in particular, will be significant with the loss of quarterback Tyler Hansen, running back Rodney Stewart and receiver Toney Clemons. The rebuilding job in Boulder won't happen overnight-- or over two seasons -- for second-year coach Jon Embree.

Recruiting needs: Big 12 North

January, 26, 2011
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Signing day is exactly a week from today, and it's time to take a look at who needs what in its 2011 class.

Some schools have addressed these with their current class. Some haven't. Others are still trying.

We'll kick things off with the artists formerly known as the Big 12 North and examine the South later today.

COLORADO

Cornerback: Jalil Brown and Jimmy Smith were pretty reliable for the Buffaloes, but both are headed to the NFL, and the Buffaloes could definitely use some depth behind their first-year starters. It's not quite as pressing of an issue considering their move to the less pass-happy Pac-12, but they still like to sling it out west.

Receiver: Colorado isn't exactly starving anywhere on offense, but receiver sticks out a bit. Toney Clemons was good, but maybe not quite what the Buffaloes hoped he'd be in 2010, but they caught a break in getting Paul Richardson back after a great freshman season. The Buffaloes need some complementary pieces around Clemons and Richardson to replace departed pass-catchers Scotty McKnight and Travon Patterson. Next year, that should be tight end Ryan Deehan and receiver Will Jefferson.

IOWA STATE

Receiver: It's been a struggle for Iowa State in recent years, but they have to get better outside to help out their quarterback. Sedrick Johnson's transfer only worsens the Cyclones depth at the position, but Jake Williams and tight end Collin Franklin, the team's leading receiver, are gone. Shontrelle Johnson looks ready to become a big factor in the offense, but the Cyclones filling the space at receiver will make it easier for Johnson to replace running back Alexander Robinson.

Safety: Both starters, David Sims and Zac Sandvig, are gone. So is the Cyclones top reserve at the position, Michael O'Connell. Sims was a top-notch talent that will be tough to replace, but Iowa State needs more depth here. They should be solid at corner with Leonard Johnson, Ter'ran Benton, Jeremy Reeves and Anthony Young, which could make the new safeties' jobs easier.

KANSAS

Defensive line: KU is losing three of four starters on the line, including the team's only All-Big 12 talent, defensive end Jake Laptad. Turner Gill wants more speed, and this is a place to install it. Tackles that tip the scales at 320 pounds aren't too necessary in this league, but speed on the edge can go a long way in stopping the pass.

Quarterback: Neither Jordan Webb or Quinn Mecham look like long-term answers at quarterback for the Jayhawks. Mecham will be a senior, and Webb might develop into a better player as a sophomore next year, but Kansas needs other options. The Jayhawks hope Brock Berglund, the top-rated recruit in Colorado, is the solution to the problem.

KANSAS STATE

Running back: I hear your cries for Bryce Brown, Wildcats fans, but K-State can't expect to hitch their wagon to the former blue-chip recruit turned Tennessee transfer in the same way it did for Daniel Thomas. Thomas and his backup, William Powell, are gone, and the Wildcats need some depth at running back to show up.

Interior offensive linemen: K-State loses both guards and its center from an offense that produced the Big 12's leading rusher in 2010. Don't expect them to do it again in 2011 without Wade Weibert, Kenneth Mayfield and Zach Kendall, as well as Thomas and Powell, but finding some new talent behind them will help them come close.

Cornerback: David Garrett emerged as a budding star in 2010 ready for a breakout senior year in 2011, but the Wildcats lose Terrance Sweeney and Stephen Harrison, as well as safety Troy Butler. Like we've mentioned earlier, good secondaries are a must for success in the Big 12, and K-State had one of the league's worst in 2010.

MISSOURI

Receiver: Missouri has some good ones ready to suit up in 2011, namely Wes Kemp, Jerrell Jackson and T.J. Moe, but the Tigers don't have a true gamebreaker. They have some younger players in Marcus Lucas and Jimmie Hunt who they hope will develop into big-time, All-American caliber receivers, a la Jeremy Maclin and Danario Alexander. In Missouri's system, though, adding a few receivers is always a good idea. They certainly don't need any more running backs.

Defensive backs: Mizzou doesn't have any huge holes that need to be filled with recruiting, but the Tigers lose both corners, Carl Gettis and Kevin Rutland from their 2010 team. Kip Edwards and E.J. Gaines look likely to fill those roles, but the Tigers could use some depth and keep recruiting in the secondary to help add some talent around Tavon Bolden and Matt White, safeties who will replace departed Jarrell Harrison, who actually had to play some linebacker in 2010 because of injuries.

NEBRASKA

Every kind of kicker: Alex Henery, the team's punter and kicker is gone. So is kickoff specialist and lover/producer of touchbacks, Adi Kunalic. Fan favorite Henery was hardly underappreciated by the Nebraska faithful, but they'll miss him even more if the Huskers can't find a suitable placekicker and punter. Bo Pelini was reportedly after Wake Forest commit Mauro Bondi this week.

Receiver: Niles Paul and Mike McNeill are gone. The Huskers need Brandon Kinnie to come through with another good year and it'd be nice if Quincy Enunwa broke through in 2011, but Taylor Martinez needs some more help at wide out, and a couple new recruits could provide it as Martinez's passing prowess matures.

Big 12 helmet stickers: Week 12

November, 21, 2010
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Rodney Stewart, RB, Colorado: Stewart carried the Buffaloes to a huge 44-36 win over Kansas State, Colorado's second consecutive win in Big 12 play after beginning the season 0-5. He was unstoppable late, and finished with 195 yards and two touchdowns on 34 carries. He also threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Toney Clemons.

The 12th Man: Texas A&M fans set a school record in attendance and a college football record with over 31,000 students. The ones who showed up were relentlessly loud, slung their 12th Man towels and helped push the team over the edge in a 9-6 ballgame. "I just can't say enough about our students, the 12th Man and our former students. To get us over 90,000, and the noise that they made and the energy they generated was phenomenal," said Aggies coach Mike Sherman. They provided by far the best game atmosphere in the Big 12 this year.

DeMarco Murray, RB, Oklahoma: Murray caught six balls for 120 yards and a touchdown, and ran for 62 yards and another score in Oklahoma's 53-24 win over Baylor.

Missouri's defense: The Tigers notched their second shutout in conference play, beating Iowa State 14-0. Kudos to coordinator Dave Steckel's crew, one of the Big 12's most-improved, for a good performance.

Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State: Blackmon caught 10 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown in the Cowboys' 48-14 win, his 10th consecutive game with at least 125 yards receiving yards and a touchdown.
Colorado used a trick play to take a 16-14 lead against Kansas State when running back Rodney Stewart hit receiver Toney Clemons for a 23-yard touchdown in the second quarter.

Colorado's home finale is both its last home game in Big 12 play and with an interim coach.

The Buffaloes might be playing like they have nothing to lose, but in reality, there's still plenty on the table for the 4-6 Buffs. Thanks to a hot start in nonconference play, Brian Cabral's team is still in bowl contention, and with a win today, would have to go to Nebraska and win to gain bowl eligibility.

That's obviously a difficult task, but sitting at 0-5 in conference play two weeks ago, fresh off a blown 28-point lead against Kansas, few thought they'd get that opportunity. A win today might provide it.

Cabral, the interim coach stepping in for fired Dan Hawkins, now has the Buffaloes in position to go 2-0 with him running things on the sidelines.

Stewart also has 54 yards rushing and a touchdown to go with his passing touchdown to Clemons.

Kansas pulls another shocker

November, 6, 2010
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Kansas doesn't lead the league in much, but there's a wide margin between the Jayhawks and anyone else when it comes to out-of-nowhere surprises.

The Jayhawks trailed Colorado 45-17 with under 12 minutes to play in the fourth quarter, but ripped off 35 points in the final quarter to beat the Buffaloes 52-45, winning their first conference game and sending Colorado to 0-5 in Big 12 play.

Freshman running back James Sims rushed for three touchdowns in the span, including a 28-yard score to take the lead in the final minute. The Jayhawks rally also featured a 28-yard scoop-and-score on a fumble by Colorado receiver Toney Clemons.

Rarely could two coaches' careers be more defined by a singular moment. Few if any thought Kansas could top an early season win over reigning ACC champion Georgia Tech, a week after losing to FCS opponent North Dakota State.

Now it has in dramatic fashion. Colorado clearly isn't a good team -- the Buffaloes can say goodbye to a bowl bid with six losses and Nebraska still to come -- but a win like this is something to build on. At the very least, Kansas has climbed out of the Big 12 cellar. If Turner Gill can keep these flashes going that Kansas keeps showing, such as the halftime lead against Iowa State last week or the convincing win against Georgia Tech, he can officially get this rebuilding project under way. Wins like these are what you build programs on. One building block at a time; make the players believe.

On the other side of the field, is there a worse way for a coach on the hot seat to lose? Blowing a 45-17 lead in 11 minutes to a team that has lost 11 consecutive Big 12 games? I don't know which team to be more surprised about. Colorado, meanwhile, has lost 15 consecutive road games under Dan Hawkins.

None, though, could be as costly as this one. More shocking than losing this game would be Dan Hawkins coaching another one for the Buffaloes.

Wrapping the Big 12 afternoon games

September, 18, 2010
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Nebraska 56, Washington 21: What a dominating second half from the Huskers on both sides of the ball. The defense limited Jake Locker and forced him into a pick-six that gave them a four-touchdown lead. And we can probably count on seeing Taylor Martinez channel more T-Magic throughout the rest of the season. Washington's defense isn't anything to be scared of, but Martinez still looked like a guy the Huskies had no hope of covering. Nebraska's offensive line paved the way for three 100-yard rushers, led by Martinez with 137 yards. If Nebraska's offense keeps playing like this, it's bad news for the rest of the Big 12. The defense hasn't looked dominant, but to win a Big 12 title, they won't have to be if the Huskers keep running the ball like this. Tonight they're gonna party like it's 1999. Sorry, Bill Callahan.

Colorado 31, Hawaii 13: A good win for Colorado on Saturday, and a much-needed one. Like I mentioned earlier, it's a good sign that the Buffaloes eliminated the big mistakes that led to them getting romped in California, but two other big things pop out: Negative momentum has caused the Buffaloes plenty of pain in the past two seasons, but they fell behind 10-0 early in this one. They rebounded to outscore the Warriors 31-3. We haven't seen that from Colorado in awhile. Also, Toney Clemons showed off some of the talent that made him the Preseason Newcomer of the Year in the Big 12, catching a 73-yard score from Tyler Hansen, who didn't have an interception after throwing three last week. Clemons' first touchdown was a big one. All good things for the Buffaloes -- who now get two weeks to prepare for Georgia -- to build on.

Oklahoma 27, Air Force 24: Is this how it's going to be for Oklahoma? Air Force is a good team and a unique defensive challenge, so who knows exactly what to take away from this, but Oklahoma let Air Force into the game late with two sustained drives. Landry Jones looked very pedestrian against a better defense (26-of-42, 254 yards, TD), but he played well enough to win. If Oklahoma bounces back like they did after nearly losing to Utah State, look out Cincinnati. The Bearcats host Oklahoma next week after getting beaten soundly by NC State on Thursday night. Ryan Broyles continues to be quietly outstanding, catching 10 balls for 116 yards, but was held without a touchdown.

TCU 45, Baylor 10: Clearly the Bears have a long way to go. I still like their chances for a bowl, but they can expect more blowouts like this if they play to a similar level against Oklahoma, Texas or other teams in the Big 12 South. TCU completely dominated this game, and there's not many positives to take away for the Bears. They let Ed Wesley run all over them for over 160 yards and Andy Dalton took anything he wanted from the secondary, completing 21 of 23 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns. Not a good showing, and maybe that 21-point line Vegas set for the game really was crazy. Just not like I thought.

Quick thoughts on Colorado's win

September, 4, 2010
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  • Definitely an impressive 24-3 win for Colorado, even though Colorado State isn't on the level of competition the Buffaloes will see for most of this season. After winning just three games last year, beating anyone 24-3 is a great sign for Colorado, who may have convinced a few more folks that all the optimism out of coach Dan Hawkins and the rest of his players is different than what they've been saying for the past few seasons. I'll reserve judgment until we get closer to conference play, but the Buffaloes should be one of the more intriguing teams in the Big 12.
  • Tyler Hansen's stat line (17-26, 191 yards, 2 TD, INT, 1-yard rush TD) isn't going to make anyone say, "Wow!" but he moved the offense for most of the day, and helped set up Rodney Stewart, who finished with 69 yards on 16 carries. Good sign for Hansen, though, who continued his solid play from last year and should take some good vibes into next week's game against soon-to-be (or perhaps later) Pac-10 roommate, Cal.
  • Scotty McKnight proved once again why he's one of the conference's best, giving Hansen a nice target with six catches for 78 yards and a score. The newbies I wrote about earlier today got off to nice starts, but Travon Patterson and Toney Clemons didn't do a lot after Colorado jumped out to a 17-0 lead at halftime. We'll learn more about them if Colorado gets down in nonconference play and Hansen is forced to throw the ball around 40 times.
  • This will sound backhanded, but I don't mean it to: I'm very impressed with the three interceptions, even if they came at the expense of true freshman Pete Thomas. Colorado only had nine INTs all of last season, so that's a very good sign for the development of Colorado's defense, which was getting torched this time last year.
  • Colorado was very close to Iowa State as having the most impressive debut of any team in the Big 12 so far in Week 1.

Predicting the Big 12's 2010 season

August, 30, 2010
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Welcome to game week. It feels good to be here. Finally. Everybody's excited and everybody's undefeated.

Iowa State will start things off for us on Thursday night, but the season won't feel like it's truly begun until Saturday morning's first kickoff -- scheduled for 12:30 p.m. ET between Missouri and Illinois in St. Louis.

Here are a few guesses, of the educated variety, on what the conference landscape will look like in December.

North division winner: Nebraska

The safe bet, but the right bet. No defense in the North can compete, and if the Huskers get some consistency from the quarterback position, they could be poised for a national title run.

South division winner: Oklahoma

Texas will start the season on top of my power rankings, but Oklahoma is my gut pick to win the division. Texas' defense might be better, but it won't be a lot better. On offense, Oklahoma has the more experienced quarterback, more talent and proven production at the skill positions and if the offensive line is as good as coach Bob Stoops says it is, Oklahoma will have a chance to run the table.

Big 12 Champion: Oklahoma

The Sooners can match the Huskers on defense. The same can't be said for Nebraska on offense, specifically at its most important position, quarterback. The gap between Zac Lee and Landry Jones will be much wider on a neutral field than it was in Lincoln last season. The Sooners send the Huskers to the Big Ten with a loss.

Offensive MVP: Jerrod Johnson, quarterback, Texas A&M

He's got the receivers. Plenty of them, in fact. He's got two good running backs for balance and two inexperienced but talented freshmen tackles. He's the most talented and productive quarterback in the conference and if the Aggies are going to upset the order, he'll need a big year.

Co-Defensive MVPs: Jared Crick, defensive tackle, Nebraska and Travis Lewis, linebacker, Oklahoma

Crick will prove himself without Suh this season, and Lewis will rebound from his "down" year in 2009, surpassing his 109 tackles from his sophomore season.

Surprise team: Kansas State

Picked by some to finish last in the division, the Wildcats will be improved, play in a bowl game, and maybe even be a factor in the North race late in 2010. They may have the least flash of any team in the Big 12, but they are among the conference's most disciplined. Only three teams had fewer penalties last year, and that number could shrink in 2010.

Team most likely to disappoint: Texas A&M

It's not the team's fault, but expectations are sky high in College Station for Year 3 of the Mike Sherman era, an era that's seen just 10 wins in two season. To fulfill those expectations, they'll need the defense to improve but the Aggies aren't immune from the bottom falling out. A 3-3 start is possible with games in Stillwater, against Arkansas in Dallas and against Missouri after an easy start to the schedule. The brutal November stretch could be a bitter end to close the season.

Surprise player: T.J. Moe, wide receiver, Missouri

The former high school quarterback had two catches last season. He's been impressive in the slot from spring through fall, and without Danario Alexander, he might be Blaine Gabbert's No. 1 target this season.

Newcomer of the Year: Toney Clemons, wide receiver, Colorado

I'll toe the company line on this one. Clemons is physically impressive and should have plenty of opportunities to make plays with Tyler Hansen at quarterback.

Freshman of the Year: Kenny Stills, wide receiver, Oklahoma

Oklahoma needs a reliable second option at receiver. The true freshman has shown enough to prove he can start, and be that option opposite Ryan Broyles.

Coach of the Year: Bo Pelini, Nebraska

The Huskers' defensive transformation under Pelini has been remarkable. In 2007, under Bill Callahan, they ranked 115th out of 120 teams in scoring defense. In 2008, Pelini's first season, they ranked 81st. Last year, they were the nation's best, allowing 18 (!) fewer points per game. That defense could be enough to put the Huskers back in the BCS.

Can't Miss Game: You shouldn't need help pegging this one. You helped name it over the summer. The Big Beef or The Quarrel at Memorial. They spent the summer pointing fingers. Now, barring a Big 12 title game rematch, Nebraska and Texas will have a chance to settle it on the field for the last time.
If you haven't noticed just yet, Friday's college football content at ESPN.com is all about the quarterbacks. We've ranked the conference's top 5 individual quarterbacks, but now it's time to take a broader look at who's in good shape behind center and who's in trouble across the conference.

The discrepancy between the South's QBs and the North's is somewhat jarring, especially when you see it on paper (bandwidth?) like this. Only one North team made the top six, and the bottom five teams are all from the North.

Five schools (four in the North) still have their starters up in the air, and that makes this a little tricky, but here's how I'd rank them:

[+] EnlargeJerrod Johnson
Brett Davis/US PresswireJerrod Johnson is not only the best quarterback in the conference, he's also the best player.
1. Texas A&M: The Aggies boast the preseason player of the year at quarterback and the man at the top of our Big 12 player list from earlier this summer, Jerrod Johnson. I also got a few e-mail requests from some Aggies fans to stress -- once again -- that it's juh-RAHD, not Jared from Subway. Word has apparently not reached every corner of Big 12 country just yet. It might if the Aggies can win more than six games like they did in 2009. But Johnson broke out in a big way last season, throwing for 3,579 yards, 30 touchdowns and just six interceptions while also running for 506 yards and eight touchdowns.

2. Baylor: Trust in Robert Griffin's knee lands the Bears here, significantly higher than they're used to considering the strong quarterback tradition across the Big 12 for the past decade. But Griffin will still have to regain his status as the conference's most electrifying player on a reconstructed knee after missing the final nine games of the previous season with a torn ACL. Baylor also has a nice situation at backup quarterback because of the injury with sophomore Nick Florence, who threw for 427 yards in Baylor's lone conference win -- at Missouri -- last season.

3. Missouri: Blaine Gabbert has a claim as the conference's best quarterback, and he'll try to snatch it as a junior after playing much of his sophomore season with a bum ankle, courtesy of a soggy Ndamukong Suh sack. Despite being hobbled for most of conference play, he still racked up 3,593 passing yards and 24 touchdowns. If he stays healthy, he might get a chance to showcase his underrated wheels, too. Freshman James Franklin is impressing in camp and hanging on to his job as Gabbert's backup over Jimmy Costello, Ashton Glaser and little brother Tyler Gabbert.

4. Oklahoma: Landry Jones should benefit from his first full spring and preseason camp taking the first-team reps, but he'll need a second reliable target opposite Ryan Broyles to emerge if he wants to improve on his 26 touchdowns and 3,198 yards as a redshirt freshman. Jones also needs to limit his turnovers after throwing a league-high 14 interceptions in 2009, but it's worth noting that seven of those came away from Owen Field against top-tier defenses in Texas and Nebraska. He didn't play a good defense in Norman, but he threw 18 touchdowns to just four interceptions and helped the Sooners stretch their home streak to 30 games. Backup Drew Allen is untested and inexperienced, but has potential and wouldn't inspire panic if Jones finds injury in 2010.

5. Texas Tech: No team has two quarterbacks with as much skill and experience as Texas Tech, but unlike receivers or running backs, the Red Raiders can't play both of them. Regardless of who wins the competition in Lubbock, Texas Tech will be in great shape with Taylor Potts or Steven Sheffield. You heard a few hundred words on the details of this race earlier this morning.

6. Texas: This may look silly in November, but it's tough to put Garrett Gilbert on top of anyone else on this list who has already proven themselves. Clearly, the potential is there, and he's inspired a lot of confidence from his coach and team, but making good on that potential will mean finding a solid target to replace the only player he's ever thrown a real touchdown to: Jordan Shipley. If Gilbert goes down, Texas would have to rely on a pair of true freshmen: Connor Wood or Case McCoy, Colt's little brother.

7. Oklahoma State: This won't be the last time you hear about the Cowboys 26-year-old former minor leaguer, Brandon Weeden. Just make good decisions, make easy throws to open receivers who make plays with the ball and he should put up big numbers in new offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen's version of the Air Raid. Oklahoma State got to see Houston's offense in person last season and wanted it for themselves. Now they've got the man who coordinated the best offense in college football a year ago and an unquestioned, mature starter to run it. If he's injured, the Cowboys would have to rely on one of two freshmen, Clint Chelf or most likely Johnny Deaton, to run the offense.

8. Iowa State: Coach Paul Rhoads says no player on his team has improved from Year 1 to Year 2 more than Austen Arnaud, but he'll need to prove it on the field to move up this list. He's probably likely to improve on his 2,015 yards passing to go with 15 touchdowns, but he's right behind Jones in the interception column, with 13. That number has to shrink for the Cyclones to get back to a bowl game. Talented sophomore Jerome "JT" Tiller led the Cyclones to their marquee win over Nebraska and should take the reins next year. The future looks bright in Ames.

9. Colorado: Tyler Hansen not emerging from preseason camp as the starter would be shocking, and he'll get a lot more help this year with a beefed-up receiving corps that's among the conference's most underrated. Newcomers Paul Richardson, Travon Patterson and preseason Big 12 Newcomer of the Year Toney Clemons will join the reliable Scotty McKnight. If Hansen goes down, at least they'll have an experienced vet behind him in Cody Hawkins. Freshman Nick Hirschman looked good in the spring and provides some hope for the position in the future.

10. Nebraska: A two-quarterback system is never ideal, but it might work for the Huskers. Zac Lee is the best passer of the group competing for the starting job, but using the athletic Taylor Martinez or Cody Green in spot duty, similar to last year, could very well happen. But Bo Pelini would much prefer if one player -- most likely Lee, in my opinion -- would emerge and improve on his play from 2009, when he threw for 2,143 yards, 14 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

11. Kansas: Kale Pick is untested, and so are Jordan Webb and junior college transfer Quinn Mecham. Pick, however, seems like the favorite to win the job. The Jayhawks need a spark on offense, and Pick could provide it. He'll have some nice receivers to throw to in sophomore Bradley McDougald, senior Johnathan Wilson and tight end Tim Biere. Former cornerback Daymond Patterson looks ready for a good year in the slot.

12. Kansas State: Carson Coffman needs to improve from his play last year that cost him his job early last season. Beating out Collin Klein and Sammuel Lamur won't be easy -- and the competition between the three is still pretty tight -- but Coffman's experience gives him a slight edge. Whoever wins the race will lean on the league's leading rusher, Daniel Thomas, and a revamped receiving corps with transfers Brodrick Smith from Minnesota and Chris Harper from Oregon. The Wildcats hope the duo will add the spark that was missing from the team's offense in 2009.

Thoughts on the All-Big 12 team

July, 22, 2010
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The Big 12 announced its preseason award winners and All-Big 12 team Thursday. Here's who's on the list:

Offensive Player of the Year: Jerrod Johnson, QB, Texas A&M

Co-Defensive Players of the Year: Jared Crick, DT, Nebraska; and Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M

Newcomer of the Year: Toney Clemons, WR, Colorado

Offense

QB: Jerrod Johnson, Texas A&M

RB: DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma

RB: Daniel Thomas, Kansas State

WR: Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma

WR: Jeff Fuller, Texas A&M

TE: Mike McNeill, Nebraska

OL: Ryan Miller, Colorado

OL: Nate Solder, Colorado

OL: Tim Barnes, Missouri

OL: Tanner Hawkinson, Kansas

OL: Stephen Good, Oklahoma

OL: Kyle Hix, Texas

PK: Alex Henery, Nebraska

KR: Cyrus Gray, Texas A&M

DEFENSE

DL: Aldon Smith, Missouri

DL: Jared Crick, Nebraska

DL: Jeremy Beal, Oklahoma

DL: Sam Acho, Texas

LB: Travis Lewis, Oklahoma

LB: Von Miller, Texas A&M

LB: Keenan Robinson, Texas

LB: Brian Duncan, Texas Tech

DB: Prince Amukamara, Nebraska

DB: Aaron Williams, Texas

DB: Quinton Carter, Oklahoma

DB: Blake Gideon, Texas

DB: Curtis Brown, Texas

P: Derek Epperson, Baylor

PR: Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma

A few notes/thoughts from the team:

  • Only three players were unanimous selections: Jared Crick, Travis Lewis and Jeremy Beal. Other guys I'm surprised didn't earn that distinction: Ryan Broyles at receiver, Aaron Williams and Nate Solder.
  • Ties at linebacker, defensive back and offensive line forced the conference to make room for an extra spot.
  • The media's opinion of DeMarco Murray is somewhat divided, so I was a little unsure who would nab the second spot on the ballot. I'd be interested to see how close it was between him, Roy Helu, Kendall Hunter and Alexander Robinson.
  • Home run selection of Toney Clemons as Newcomer of the Year. If I'm guessing, the fact that he was the No. 1 pick in Colorado's spring game helped him earn this honor. An action like that by players speaks pretty loudly.
  • I definitely prefer football over basketball in these situations, which doesn't have to deal with freshmen on the preseason all-conference team.
  • I'm interested in how close the vote was between Missouri's Grant Ressel and Nebraska's Alex Henery. Henery's punting skills make him the clearly more valuable player, but talking strictly place-kicking, it's pretty close, and Ressel's additional accuracy is quantifiable.
Here's the list breakdown by team:

1. Oklahoma - 7

2. Texas - 6

3. Nebraska - 4

3. Texas A&M - 4

5. Missouri - 2

5. Colorado - 2

7. Baylor - 1

7. Kansas - 1

7. Kansas State - 1

7. Texas Tech - 1

11. Oklahoma State - 0

11. Iowa State - 0
1. Texas

The defending champs will have one of the nation’s best defenses again, and perhaps its best secondary. Garrett Gilbert spent the spring validating his performance in the national title game, showing some of his near-limitless potential. The Longhorns won’t be easy to unseat in 2010, especially if they finally discover a running game.

2. Oklahoma

Here’s why the Sooners are here: The gap between Oklahoma’s offense and Nebraska’s offense is wider than the one between the Sooners’ defense and the Huskers’ defense. If Oklahoma’s offensive line can show improvement next season, the Sooners won’t have trouble scoring with the amount of talent they have at the skill positions, talent that’s much better than Nebraska’s.

3. Nebraska

The Huskers get Missouri and Texas in Lincoln and don’t see the Sooners, which has Big Red looking for a big season, but don’t count on another 10-win season if the offense doesn’t improve. The offense previewed its fall reopening in the 33-0 bowl win over Arizona, but if the quarterback play isn’t solid, the reopening could be a bad thing. With what could be the best defense in football again, and two solid backs in Roy Helu Jr. and Rex Burkhead, the Huskers’ floor is pretty high and the ceiling is even higher.

4. Missouri

Home losses to Nebraska and Baylor ended any chance the Tigers had of winning the North in 2009, but they bring back a lot from last year’s eight-win team and have a lot of experienced talent at linebacker and receiver ready to replace the big names -- Sean Weatherspoon and Danario Alexander -- they lost from last year’s team. Blaine Gabbert has to show he’s ready to become a household name, and if he does, the Tigers could make a serious run at the North.

5. Texas A&M

The Aggies kept almost the entire core from last year’s team, but remember, A&M still only won six games last season. It’ll be replacing three offensive linemen who could stop the Aggies' skill position players -- cumulatively the best in the conference -- from being as productive as they could be. One of those replacements should be true freshman Luke Joeckel, but if the defense improves and the line re-establishes itself, the Aggies are South contenders. If not, they won’t be much better than a seven-win team.

6. Kansas State

The Wildcats aren’t built to win 10 games just yet, but if Nebraska and Missouri stumble, they’ll be there to slip into the North conversation just like last season, when they were one upset win over the Huskers from a trip to Arlington. Carson Coffman took hold of the starting quarterback job in the spring, but he’ll need to keep it in the fall and be productive with his three new receivers to lighten the load on running back Daniel Thomas. If that happens, there’ll be more happy Saturdays than sad ones in Aggieville.

7. Texas Tech

Injuries kept the Sticks vs. Potts debate from really heating up this spring, but the switch to a higher risk/reward strategy with an aggressive defense could be fun to watch next season. The Red Raiders are deep at running back and receiver, but look for the former to get more touches this fall than they have in over a decade.

8. Oklahoma State

The Cowboys grabbed hold of Dana Holgorsen’s offense this spring, and Brandon Weeden grabbed hold of the starting role. Oklahoma State should have an impact player at each level of the defense in defensive end Ugo Chinasa, safety Markelle Martin and linebacker Orie Lemon, but they’ll need the rest of the D to solidify for the Cowboys to climb to a higher rung of the South ladder.

9. Iowa State

Iowa State is getting better, but the tough schedule and young defense will make it difficult for the Cyclones to improve on their 7-6 record in 2009. Five linebackers from last year’s team graduated, and the three likely starters this year, sophomore A.J. Klein, Jake Knott and juco transfer Matt Tau’fo’ou have a combined 41 career tackles. Iowa State is solid in the secondary, but with the amount of quality running backs in the North, a good defense up front is more important. It's also replacing two starters on the defensive line.

10. Baylor

A bowl game isn’t out of reach for the Bears, but they’ll have to prove something before they move out of the South’s cellar. Robert Griffin gives Waco hope, but the other 21 guys have to provide substance for Baylor to succeed. Replacing two safeties, two linebackers who combined for 190 tackles last season and an offensive line shift to replace All-American center J.D. Walton could make Baylor’s early road a bumpy one.

11. Kansas

Kansas will be short on talent this year, but expectations are measured after losing plenty on both sides of the ball. The Jayhawks are a team that could get a lot better as the season progresses, but when it starts, they’ll have a lot of work to do. They’ll be competitive in the bottom half of the North, but slipping past rival Kansas State to finish in the top half of the division is about as good as it could get for the Jayhawks in Turner Gill’s first season. Not having Texas or Oklahoma on the schedule could help make that happen.

12. Colorado

Transfer Toney Clemons infuses some excitement into the Colorado faithful, and alongside Markques Simas and leading receiver Scotty McKnight, the Buffaloes could have one of the more underrated receiving corps in the conference, helping loosen things up for Rodney Stewart. But the defense gave up the second-most points in the conference last season, and there’s little reason to think they’ll be a lot better in 2010. Scoring 22 points a game and allowing just under 29 is the opposite of a recipe for success.
Colorado finished its spring workouts with the annual spring game on Saturday, and Tyler Hansen sat atop the depth chart at quarterback for the Buffaloes. Hansen and Cody Hawkins suited up against each other in the spring game and both performed well, but coach Dan Hawkins remained non-committal after the game in deciding on a clear starter entering the lengthy summer break.

[+] EnlargeTyler Hansen
AP Photo/David ZalubowskiIt appears the battle for the starting quarterback job between Tyler Hansen (9) and Cody Hawkins will go into fall camp.
"You'd love to make a decision after the spring's over, but it's great for our competition and great for our guys to keep battling," Hawkins said.

But it could also be great for Hawkins' "guys" to have a clear starter and leader entering summer workouts, allowing either Hawkins or Hansen to embrace the role of "starting quarterback," and all the off-the-field effects of that role. Clearly, Hawkins prefers the former.

Hansen took over for Cody Hawkins mid-game during an Oct. 10 loss to Texas and started for the remainder of the season. During that stretch, the Buffaloes were 2-5, with wins over Kansas and Texas A&M. In Hawkins' starts, the Buffaloes went 1-4 with the lone win coming against Wyoming and losses against West Virginia, Toledo and Colorado State.

In Saturday's spring game, Hansen threw three touchdowns and completed 17 of 22 passes for 170 yards. Hawkins threw two touchdowns and completed 20 of 26 passes for 220 yards.

You can't put too much stock into it, but Hansen led the Gold team to a 37-27 win. Both have to be encouraged by completing over 75 percent of their attempts.

"I don't know why, unless you had a guy who won 10 games, would say, 'Yeah, you're the guy,'" Dan Hawkins said.

Judging by those comments, only wins will secure either quarterback a job, and the Buffaloes won't have a chance at any more for almost four months.

A few other notes from the Buffaloes spring game:

  • Michigan transfer Toney Clemons had plenty of eyes on him all spring, and they must have liked what they saw. In the draft for the spring game, the Colorado captains selected Clemons with the first overall pick. Clemons caught four passes for 33 yards.

  • The second pick in the draft, All-Big 12 offensive tackle Nate Solder, caught a touchdown pass from Hawkins on a tackle-eligible play at the goal line in the fourth quarter. "We were supposed to run it all last season," Solder said. "We finally got the chance."

  • The Gold team busted out the Haka before the game, a Polynesian war dance made popular most recently by Hawaii in college football and the All Blacks, New Zealand's rugby union team.

  • Freshman quarterback Nick Hirschman threw one pass in the scrimmage -- and completed it to Andre Simmons for an 83-yard touchdown. That's good enough for a quarterback rating of 1127.20.

Pre-spring Big 12 Power Rankings

March, 5, 2010
3/05/10
4:00
PM ET
1. Texas

Texas has plenty of question marks, namely at receiver. Repeating as Big 12 champs would be a lot easier if one of its talented running backs emerges to flirt with 1,000 yards and takes some of the pressure off first-year starter Garrett Gilbert. Tre’ Newton is the most likely candidate, but Foswhitt Whittaker, or Fozzy Bear as I prefer to refer to the running back, wins if the tiebreaker is best name.

2. Oklahoma

The defense will be fearsome again, even after losing both starting cornerbacks and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. DeMarco Murray looks to take on an expanded role in the run game, but the offensive line will have to improve quickly for his increased touches to translate into increased yardage.

3. Nebraska

Nebraska finally made it back to the Big 12 title game after a two-year run by Missouri representing the North. Even after Ndamukong Suh’s exit, the teeth of the Husker D should be strong, with junior defensive tackle Jared Crick and sophomore defensive tackle Baker Steinkuhler mucking up the front lines. Both will be on display during the spring. The offense had one of its best performances of the season against Arizona in the Holiday Bowl, but enters the spring with plenty to prove.

4. Missouri

Blaine Gabbert will continue to mature along with his young receivers, who lose the lanky Danario Alexander. Gabbert could put up gawdy numbers as a junior, but he’ll need the secondary to improve if the Tigers can challenge for the North.

5. Texas A&M

The Aggies looked like a trainwreck at moments in 2009, (48-point loss to Kansas State? What? 55-point loss to Oklahoma? Ouch.) but their entertaining offense will take a backseat to Tim DeRuyter’s new 3-4 defense as the main attraction for spring.

6. Kansas State

The dark horse to win the North in 2010 came within a game of matching up with Texas in Dallas in 2009. Year 2 of the Bill Snyder Reboot could be fun to watch. The Wildcats had the fewest turnovers (18) of any team in the Big 12 last season, but losing Brandon Banks removes some of K-State’s explosiveness on offense.

7. Oklahoma State

Oklahoma State hoped they could make a run at the Big 12 South last season, but got embarrassed in losses to Texas and Oklahoma. A South title in 2010 might be a stretch, but the spring could set up another solid season for Mike Gundy’s Cowboys.

8. Baylor

Finding replacements for All-Big 12 defenders Joe Pawelek and Jordan Lake should be the prime concern for the spring, but it will definitely be good to see Robert Griffin III get back on the field.

9. Texas Tech

What injustice! The Red Raiders below the Bears? Tommy Tuberville is a good coach, but the transition to Tech could be a difficult one. Don’t be surprised if the Red Raiders prove me wrong, but somebody’s got to finish last in a great South division. There won’t be an easy win for anyone against South teams this season. I mentioned this in Thursday's chat, but I’m interested to see how Tuberville’s second go-around with the spread offense (see: Tony Franklin) goes. Easing up on his trigger finger might be a good idea.

10. Kansas

Turner Gill loses a lot of offense without Todd Reesing, Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe. Sophomore running back Toben Opurum could emerge as one of the conference’s young stars this spring.

11. Colorado

Tyler Hansen and Toney Clemons bring some excitement to the Buffaloes spring, but the offensive line is also a concern. Maxwell Tuioti-Mariner returns from injury to help talented lineman Nate Solder protect Hansen and pave the way for running back Rodney Stewart, one of just three scholarship backs who will practice this spring.

12. Iowa State

The Cyclones depleted defense (only four starters return) could make it tough for Austen Arnaud to produce wins no matter how well he plays. Plenty of spots up for grabs there, and linebacker Jake Knott is one to watch as a new starter. Paul Rhoads impressed with a bowl win last season, but what does it say about a team when its best win (Nebraska) came by only two points when it forced eight turnovers and committed none?

Thanks for the support the first week, fans. Enjoy the weekend.
Here's a breakdown of three issues facing each program heading into the spring:

Baylor Bears
Spring practice starts: March 16
Spring game: April 10

1. Quarterback Robert Griffin III's surgically repaired right knee. Griffin hasn't played since tearing the ACL in his right knee in the third game of the '09 season. He recently said he's ahead of schedule in rehabilitation, but probably won’t do much during spring practice. He'll wear a heavy knee brace and won’t participate in contact drills.

2. New linebackers. The Bears lost strongside linebacker Antonio Jones and middle linebacker Joe Pawelek, who combined to make 190 tackles last season. Senior Earl Patin, who also has played some defensive end during his career, is poised to replace Pawelek in the middle. But Patin will have to hold off highly regarded youngsters Chris McAllister and LeQuince McCall, who redshirted in ’09. Senior Chris Francis is probably the top candidate to replace Jones on the strong side.

3. Safety. The Bears must replace both of their starting safeties, including All-Big 12 performer Jordan Lake, who started 36 games in a row. Junior college transfer Byron Landor and sophomore Mike Hicks will get the first looks in the spring. But they'll have to hold off incoming freshman Ahmad Dixon, one of the top prospects to ever sign with Baylor, after he arrives for fall camp.

Colorado Buffaloes
Spring practice starts: March 6
Spring game: April 10

1. Michigan transfer Toney Clemons. Buffaloes coach Dan Hawkins called Clemons his team's most exciting receiver while he sat out the '09 season under NCAA transfer rules. The cousin of Arizona Cardinals receiver Steve Breaston, Clemons could bring an interesting dynamic to the CU offense. His arrival couldn't come at a better time, either, after Markques Simas was suspended indefinitely for violating team rules.

2. Linebacker. The Buffaloes must replace their two most productive linebackers after losing Marcus Burton and Jeff Smart. The departed seniors combined to make 105 solo tackles and 6.5 sacks last season. Senior Michael Sipili is the top candidate to replace Burton in the middle, and sophomore Jon Major might get the first crack at replacing Smart on the weak side.

3. Offensive line. The unit's inconsistency has dogged Hawkins' offense in each of his first four seasons. Eight offensive linemen had significant playing time in '09, so the Buffs are looking for more stability up front. The return of sophomore guard Maxwell Tuioti-Mariner from a pair of knee injuries, and early arrival of junior college transfer Eric Richter might shore up the interior line.

Iowa State Cyclones
Spring practice starts: March 23
Spring game: April 17

1. Linebackers. The Cyclones lost each of their starting three linebackers: Josh Raven, Jesse Smith and Fred Garrin. Junior Jacob Lattimer is in line to replace Raven on the strong side, and two highly regarded sophomores are in line to fill the other spots. A.J. Klein, who had 17 tackles in 13 games as a freshman, might get the unenviable task of replacing Smith, who led the Big 12 in tackles in '09. Jake Knott, who had 23 tackles as a freshman, is the top candidate to start on the weak side.

2. Wide receiver. Iowa State lost leading receiver Marquis Hamilton, who had 50 catches for 606 yards with four touchdowns in '09. Tight end Derrick Catlett, another top receiving threat, also is gone. The good news: Junior Darius Reynolds returns from a broken leg that caused him to miss all but four games last season. Reynolds, who earned the moniker "Money" for his big-play potential, had 13 catches for 72 yards before he was hurt in practice in late September. Junior college tight end Ricky Howard enrolled in classes in January and will participate in spring practice.

3. Defensive line. Two starters will have to be replaced after ISU lost right end Christopher Lyle and tackle Nate Frere. Lyle led the team with five sacks in '09; Frere was a pretty good run-stopper. Sophomores Cleyon Laing and Roosevelt Maggitt will get strong looks at end, and senior Austin Alburtis and sophomore Jake McDonough will move into the tackle rotation.

Kansas Jayhawks
Spring practice starts: March 27
Spring game: April 24

1. Quarterback. New Kansas coach Turner Gill might have one heck of a competition on his hands. Sophomore Kale Pick is a mobile option, after averaging 11.9 yards per rushing attempt in 2009. Junior college transfer Quinn Mecham, who enrolled in classes at Kansas in January, threw for 3,091 yards with 40 touchdowns and 11 interceptions at Snow College in Utah last season.

2. Wide receiver. The Jayhawks have to replace departed stars Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe, which will be no easy task. The duo combined to catch 186 passes for 2,322 yards with 17 touchdowns last season. Bradley McDougald and Johnathan Wilson were proven targets last season, but younger players such as Chris Omigie and incoming freshman Keeston Terry will have to help this fall.

3. Secondary. The Kansas defense gave up too many big passing plays and didn't create enough turnovers last season. The Jayhawks will have to replace strong safety Darrell Stuckey, who led them with 93 tackles in '09. Senior Phillip Strozier will get the first crack at replacing the heart and soul of the Kansas defense.

Kansas State Wildcats
Spring practice starts: March 21
Spring game: April 24

1. Oregon transfer Chris Harper. In 2008, Harper played wide receiver and quarterback for the Ducks as a freshman. He became the first Oregon player in eight years to run, pass and catch a touchdown in the same season. Harper, a native of Wichita, Kan., might figure into Kansas State's quarterback or wide receiver plans after sitting out the '09 season under NCAA transfer rules.

2. Quarterback battle. Harper and two other players will probably battle to replace departed senior Grant Gregory. Senior Carson Coffman, who started the '09 season at quarterback, figures to be back in the mix, along with junior college transfer Sammuel Lamur.

3. Defensive line. The Wildcats have a couple of gaping holes to fill up front defensively. End Jeff Fitzgerald, who had 40 tackles and 10 tackles for loss in '09, has to be replaced, along with tackles Daniel Calvin and Chidubamu Abana. Junior college transfer Javonta Boyd, who has already enrolled in classes, could help in the interior line.

Missouri Tigers
Spring practice starts: March 9
Spring game: April 17

1. Wide receiver. The Tigers have to replace Danario Alexander, who led the country with 1,781 receiving yards in 2009. Juniors Jerrell Jackson and Wes Kemp both caught more than 20 passes last season, but younger players like T.J. Moe and Rolandis Woodland are going to have to contribute more. Incoming freshman Marcus Lucas could help in the fall.

2. Linebacker. The Tigers bring back two of their starting three linebackers, but three-time All-Big 12 selection Sean Weatherspoon is the one who left. Sophomore Donovan Bonner heads into spring camp as the top candidate to replace Weatherspoon on the weak side, and Will Ebner and Andrew Gachkar are back at the other linebacker spots.

3. Defensive line. Two starters are gone on the defensive front: end Brian Coulter and nose tackle Jaron Baston. At least the Tigers know they’re set at one side, with end Aldon Smith coming back after totaling 19 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks in '09. Marcus Malbrough and Jacquies Smith will battle for starting end, and Terrell Resonno could move into the vacant tackle spot.

Nebraska Cornhuskers
Spring practice starts: March 24
Spring game: April 17
What to watch:

1. Will quarterback Zac Lee keep his starting job? After Lee was plagued by inconsistency throughout the '09 season, offensive coordinator Shawn Watson is expected to open the competition during spring practice. Sophomore Cody Green, senior Latravis Washington and freshman Taylor Martinez will all be given a fair chance to win the job.

2. Defensive tackle. Nebraska fans won't see All-American Ndamukong Suh commanding double-team blocks along the line of scrimmage. Even after losing one of the most decorated players in school history, the Cornhuskers figure to be pretty good up front. Jared Crick and Baker Steinkuhler will man the middle, with Pierre Allen and Cameron Meredith entering spring camp as the favorites at ends.

3. Rex Burkhead. The sophomore burst onto the scene after Roy Helu Jr. was hurt early in the Huskers' 33-0 rout of Arizona in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl, rushing for 89 yards with one touchdown. Burkhead was very explosive running out of the Wildcat package, so look for Watson to try and utilize him even more to make the Nebraska attack less predictable.

Oklahoma Sooners
Spring practice starts: March 8
Spring game: April 17

1. Offensive line. The Sooners have a lot of questions up front on offense, after left tackle Trent Williams and right guard Brian Simmons departed. Will junior Donald Stephenson finally be ready to contribute at left tackle after being suspended for all of the ’09 season? Will center Ben Habern be ready after breaking his leg late in the ’09 season? When will Jarvis Jones return from a broken heel?

2. Linebacker Ronnell Lewis. The sophomore had a break-out game in the Sooners’ 31-27 victory over Stanford in the Sun Bowl, finishing with six tackles and a forced fumble. With starting linebackers Keenan Clayton and Ryan Reynolds departing, Lewis will assume a starting role on the strong side. Redshirt freshman Tom Wort is projected to start in the middle, with junior Travis Lewis starting on the weak side.

3. Secondary. The Sooners have shuffled their defensive backs after losing cornerbacks Dominique Franks and Brian Jackson. Sophomore Demontre Hurst is in line to replace Franks at field cornerback, and senior Jonathan Nelson has moved from strong safety to boundary cornerback. Junior Sam Proctor is expected to replace Nelson at strong safety, and senior Quinton Carter is back at free safety.

Oklahoma State Cowboys
Spring practice starts: March 8
Spring game: April 17

1. Quarterback Brandon Weeden. The 26-year-old junior is the top candidate to replace Zac Robinson, who broke nearly every OSU passing record. Weeden was a second-round choice of the New York Yankees in the 2002 amateur baseball draft. If he can grasp new offensive coordinator Dana Holgorson's spread offense quickly, the Pokes' passing game should again be potent in 2010.

2. Defense. Defensive coordinator Bill Young will have his hands full this spring trying to replace nine starters. The only returning starters are defensive end Ugo Chinasa and strong safety Markelle Martin. The Pokes have to replace three starters on the defensive line, three linebackers and three defensive backs. Three newcomers -- linebacker Caleb Lavey and defensive backs Devin Hedgepeth and Malcolm Murray -- will get early looks in spring camp.

3. Offensive line. The Cowboys will have to replace star left tackle Russell Okung, left guard Noah Franklin, center Andrew Lewis and right tackle Brady Bond. Juniors Nick Martinez, Casey LaBrue and Grant Garner will be the top candidates to fill open starting spots.

Texas Longhorns
Spring practice starts: Feb. 26
Spring game: April 4

1. Quarterback Garrett Gilbert. The sophomore was thrust into action after Colt McCoy injured his shoulder against Alabama in the Citi BCS National Championship Game and played admirably well in tough circumstances. The Longhorns might change their identity on offense with a young quarterback under center, so developing a running game to take pressure off Gilbert might be a top priority.

2. Defense. The unit is in good hands with coordinator Will Muschamp, but he'll have to replace many of the star players from 2009. End Sergio Kindle, tackle Lamarr Houston, linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy and safety Earl Thomas are all gone. Younger players such as end Alex Okafor and tackle Tyrell Higgins will have to turn it up a notch during spring practice.

3. Wide receiver. Jordan Shipley, who was McCoy's favorite target, also departed. Seniors James Kirkendoll and John Chiles, junior Malcolm Williams and sophomore Marquise Goodwin will have to be more consistent in their route running and pass catching. Other receivers such as D.J. Monroe and DeSean Hales will be trying to crack the receiver rotation during the spring, before talented freshmen like Darius White, Mike Davis and Demarco Cobbs arrive on campus.

Texas A&M Aggies
Spring practice starts: March 23
Spring game: April 17

1. New defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter, who built one of the country’s best units at Air Force last season. He inherits an A&M defense that was woefully porous last season and will switch to a 3-4 scheme. Nine starters are coming back on defense, including pass-rushing specialist Von Miller. DeRuyter will spend the spring trying to install his system and getting his players comfortable with it.

2. Offensive line. The Aggies must replace three starting offensive linemen: left tackle Michael Shumard, center Kevin Matthews and right tackle Lee Grimes. Juniors Joe Villavisencio and Danny Baker and sophomore Stephen Barrera have to be ready to step up this spring.

3. Special teams. The Aggies’ special teams weren’t so special last season, as they ranked 104th in net punting, 91st in kickoff return defense and 49th in kickoff returns among FBS teams. Aggies coach Mike Sherman is putting a new emphasis on special teams, which cost his team dearly in its 44-20 loss to Georgia in the Independence Bowl.

Texas Tech Red Raiders
Spring practice starts: March 7
Spring game: April 17

1. Quarterbacks. With former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville replacing Mike Leach at Texas Tech, senior quarterbacks Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield figure to start spring camp on a level playing field. Potts started 10 games last season, throwing for 3,440 yards with 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Sheffield started two games and threw for 1,219 yards with 14 touchdowns and four picks. New offensive coordinator Neal Brown, who was hired from Troy, runs a version of the spread offense, but Tuberville will probably incorporate more of a traditional running game into the offense.

2. Defensive line. New defensive coordinator James Willis has to replace three starters on his defensive front: ends Brandon Sharpe and Daniel Howard and tackle Richard Jones. Making matters worse, the top two reserve ends in 2009 were seniors, along with the backup nose tackle.

3. Offensive line. O-line coach Matt Moore, who was retained from Leach's staff, has to replace three starters: center Shawn Byrnes, right guard Brandon Carter and right tackle Marlon Winn. Juniors Justin Keown and Mickey Okafor and sophomore LaAdrian Waddle will probably be given first crack at replacing them. Incoming junior college transfer Scott Smith could play stand-up end in Tech's 3-4 scheme, and junior college defensive tackle Donald Langley might also have an impact in spring practice.
Tags:

Big 12, Jerrell Jackson, Danny Baker, Chris Omigie, James Kirkendoll, Ben Habern, Steven Sheffield, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Toney Clemons, Baylor Bears, Earl Patin, Malcolm Williams, Jared Crick, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Missouri Tigers, Colorado Buffaloes, Phillip Strozier, Taylor Martinez, Donald Stephenson, Travis Lewis, Chris Harper, Sam Proctor, Cody Green, Oklahoma Sooners, Kansas State Wildcats, LaTravis Washington, Kansas Jayhawks, Rolandis Woodland, Taylor Potts, Iowa State Cyclones, Alex Okafor, Garrett Gilbert, D.J. Monroe, John Chiles, Cleyon Laing, Markques Simas, Jake Knott, Nick Martinez, Jacquies Smith, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Jarvis Jones, Texas Longhorns, Donald Langley, Pierre Allen, Baker Steinkuhler, Scott Smith, Terrell Resonno, Johnathan Wilson, Carson Coffman, Michael Sipili, Aldon Smith, Brandon Weeden, Quinton Carter, Texas A&M Aggies, Rex Burkhead, Markelle Martin, Bradley McDougald, Cameron Meredith, Marquise Goodwin, Andrew Gachkar, Demontre Hurst, Tim DeRuyter, Ahmad Dixon, Keeston Terry, Quinn Mecham, Caleb Lavey, Devin Hedgepeth, Malcolm Murray, Ronnell Lewis, A.J. Klein, Austin Alburtis, Byron Landor, Casey LaBrue, Chris McAllister, Darius Reynolds, DeSean Hales, Donovan Bonner, Eric Richter, Grant Garner, Jacob Lattimer, Jake McDonough, Javonta Boyd, Jeff Fitzgerald, Joe Villavisencio, Jonathan Nelson, Justin Keown, LaAdrian Waddle, LeQuince McCall, Marcus Lucas, Marcus Malbrough, Maxwell Tuioti-Mariner, Mickey Okafor, Ricky Howard, Robert Griffin III, Roosevelt Maggitt, Sammuel Lamur, Stephen Barrera, Tyrell Higgins, Ugo Chinasa, Will Ebner

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