Big 12: Iowa State Cyclones

Recapping the Big 12 pro days

March, 30, 2015
Mar 30
4:00
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The Big 12's pro day slate wrapped up last week. With at least three likely first-round selections and many more out to prove they merit early round consideration, this is shaping up to be a solid year for Big 12 in the NFL draft. Who stepped up on their big day? Here's a look back at how the conference's top draft prospects performed, plus a few under-the-radar players to keep an eye on:

Kansas State (March 10)
Big name: WR Tyler Lockett. After running a 4.4 40 time and doing a killer job in shuttle drills at the NFL scouting combine, Lockett didn't need to improve his numbers at his workout. He did get another chance to show off that speed in pass-catching drills and reportedly impressed.
Sleeper: WR Curry Sexton. No guarantees he gets drafted, but he might end up being a hard guy to cut. Sexton proved his talent and work ethic last fall, and his measurables at pro day (4.66 in the 40, 32-inch vertical) should be good enough to help get some looks.

Oklahoma (March 11)
Big name: WR Dorial Green-Beckham, DT Jordan Phillips. DGB, now up to No. 16 in Todd McShay's newest mock, is safely inside the first round and performed well in agility drills to go along with his workout. Phillips, a borderline first-rounder, didn't need to improve his combine stats either but did show off his athleticism in drills after checking in at 6-foot-5 and 327 pounds.
Sleeper: TE Blake Bell. It's not a deep year for tight end prospects in the draft, but Bell continues to climb that list. He didn't need to participate in timing events after clocking a 4.8 in the 40 at the NFL scouting combine, but he did show off his progress as a route-runner and pass-catcher.

Oklahoma State (March 12)
Big name: DT James Castleman. Getting snubbed for a combine invite only gave Castleman more motivation, and he trimmed down from 315 to 299 pounds for his showcase. His testing numbers won't blow you away (5.4 in the 40, 4.67 shuttle, 25 reps on the bench), but Cattleman should get late-round consideration.
Sleeper: DB Josh Furman. The Michigan transfer stepped up at his pro day with testing numbers that would have ranked among the top five safeties at the NFL combine. The highlights? A 40-yard dash of 4.47 seconds, a 38-inch vertical and a 124-inch broad jump. That'll get him noticed.

West Virginia (March 13)
Big name: WR Kevin White. The No. 7 prospect in McShay's latest mock stood by his 40 time from Indianapolis (4.35) and didn't need to improve his testing numbers. He set out to prove he should be the first receiver selected with a stellar showing in his receiving drills, which were run by Bears receivers coach Mike Groh.
Sleeper: WR Mario Alford. He knew he was a lot faster than the 4.43 40-yard dash he ran at the combine. How much faster? Alford clocked a blazing run of 4.25 in the 40 during his pro day and showed scouts why he'd be an electric receiver and returner at the next level.

Texas Tech (March 13)
Big name: No likely early-round selections from this year's group, but the star of the day had to be WR Bradley Marquez. He ran a 40 in 4.52 seconds, showed off a 38-inch vertical and did a nice job catching passes from the scouts on hand, putting himself in position to be a potential late-round selection.
Sleeper: LB V.J. Fehoko. He hit 32 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press, a feat only one other linebacker in the draft matched at the NFL scouting combine. Fehoko slimmed down to 223 pounds for his agility workouts and could be an intriguing prospect when he gets into a camp.

Baylor (March 18)
Big name: QB Bryce Petty. After months of working with George Whitfield, Petty put on a show with his pro day, completing 69 of 77 passes and showing he can make all the throws. Where he'll get drafted is still a mystery, but Petty did all he could to make his case.
Sleeper: WR Antwan Goodley. He didn't redo his 40 time (4.44) but did log nice showings in the vertical jump (35 inches) and broad jump (10 feet, 7 inches). Goodley had a few drops during his workout, but there's more than enough tape on him that shows an explosive target for the next level.

Texas (March 24)
Big name: DT Malcom Brown. With defensive line coaches from three NFL organizations running his rapid-fire drills, Brown was put to the test and did everything expected of a guy projected for the No. 23 pick in McShay's mock. He stood by his combine numbers.
Sleeper: WR Jaxon Shipley. He and fellow wideout John Harris didn't get combine invites, so shining at this pro day was a must. Shipley surprised scouts with a 40 time of 4.49 seconds. He spent much of his past two seasons banged up, but he's healthy now and that 40 time only helps.

<Iowa State (March 24)
Big name: TE E.J. Bibbs. He answered any fears about his offseason knee surgery with a 40-yard dash of 4.86 seconds and good performances in his vertical and broad jumps. Bibbs should be a mid-round selection and a valuable one.
Sleeper: WR Jarvis West. With 27 NFL reps in attendance, West ran a 40 of 4.36 seconds and produced a 38 1/2 inch vertical. Both would've put him in the top 10 among receivers at the combine. Not bad at all.

Kansas (March 25)
Big name: LB Ben Heeney. No need to improve on any of his combine measurements, though Heeney did redo the bench press and once again hit 19 reps. His position drills were run by a rep for the Cowboys, who are in need of linebackers.
Sleeper: DB Dexter McDonald. The guy isn't lacking for athleticism, that's for sure. He logged a 40 time of 4.42 seconds plus a 40 1/2-inch vertical and an 11-foot-2 broad jump.

TCU (March 27)
Big name: LB Paul Dawson. After disappointing at the combine, Dawson got back on track with a strong showing in front of three NFL DCs with a 40 time of 4.75, a five-pound weight loss and a performance in position drills that received good reviews.
Sleeper: CB Kevin White. You'd think he would be a little faster than 4.62 in the 40, but he sure does play fast. White was slowed somewhat by a hamstring issue but still displayed the ball skill that made him one of the conference's best corners.

Big 12 recruiting scorecard

March, 30, 2015
Mar 30
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The latest from the Big 12 on the recruiting trail:

BAYLOR
Total commits: 7
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 4
The latest: The Bears hosted two big-time defensive recruits for unofficial visits this weekend: ESPN 300 linebacker Michael Divinity and ESPN 300 defensive end Isaiah Chambers. Both stopped by after attending camps over the weekend and have a long list of high-profile suitors. Getting them to check out Waco while they passed through was a nice move by Art Briles' staff that can only help their chances.

IOWA STATE
Total commits: 0
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Cyclones were the first to extend an offer to junior college cornerback Kamal Hardy last week, and he's expected to make an unofficial visit in April. Hardy reportedly has a longstanding relationship with assistant Maurice Linguist and could become a priority target, considering Iowa State's needs in the secondary for 2016.

KANSAS
Total commits: 1
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0
The latest: One pipeline that new coach David Beaty will work hard to establish in Texas is at Cedar Hill High. The Jayhawks recently extended an offer to a good sleeper prospect, wide receiver Josh Stewart, and have also offered 2017 QB Avery Davis and WR Jaylon Jackson. It makes sense for Kansas to go after as many FBS-caliber players as possible from one of the best programs in the DFW area, a back-to-back state champion.

KANSAS STATE
Total commits: 1
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0
The latest: Getting defensive Xavier Kelly back on K-State's commitment list is not going to be easy. In the week since Kelly reopened his recruiting process, he's received offers from the likes of Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame and Ole Miss and set up a summer visit to Michigan. Kansas State will continue to recruit him hard, but those options are clearly going to give Kelly a lot to think about this spring.

OKLAHOMA
Total commits: 3
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Sooners appears to have locked in on their top quarterback target for this class: ESPN 300 standout Austin Kendall. The nation's No. 225 recruit was recently offered a scholarship and took an unofficial visit to Norman, one that seems to have significantly helped OU's chances. Kendall named Kentucky his front-runner a week ago, and Auburn and Florida are also in the mix for Kendall, a former Tennessee pledge.

OKLAHOMA STATE
Total commits: 3
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0
The latest: Oklahoma State could have an opportunity to bring in one more running back for the 2015 class. Former Stanford RB Kelsey Young, a graduate transfer who would be eligible to play in 2015, reportedly visited for an Oklahoma State practice last week. Young rushed for 331 yards as a backup for Stanford during his junior season. If he picks the Pokes, he'd come in with Chris Carson and Jeff Carr to help this run game right away.

TCU
Total commits: 8
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Horned Frogs are in good shape for defensive end Caleb Roddy, who reportedly called his visit to TCU this spring the best he's taken yet. Roddy, who holds nearly a dozen offers, comes from the same Denham Springs program in Louisiana that produced Frogs defensive end Tevin Lawson, so that connection could help.

TEXAS
Total commits: 4
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 3
The latest: Texas hosted several key recruits over the weekend during Texas Relays, including LSU wide receiver pledge Dee Anderson, Baylor defensive tackle pledge Jordan Elliott and coveted cornerback Eric Cuffee. The Horns were also able to get a bunch of incoming freshmen -- including out-of-state signees in tight end Devonaire Clarington and cornerback Davante Davis -- in town to watch practice on Friday and Saturday.

TEXAS TECH
Total commits: 3
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0
The latest: You don't see this too often, but Texas Tech was able to secure a late pledge from a 2015 recruit in junior college OT Paul Stawarz. The 6-foot-5, 295-pound lineman's only other FBS offers came from Northern Illinois and Appalachian State, but Tech got him in on an official visit last week and will sign him to enroll in the program this summer. The addition of Stawarz completes a six-man offensive line class that should beef up Tech's depth during the next few years.

WEST VIRGINIA
Total commits: 7
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Mountaineers have reportedly taken an early lead for running back Kennedy McKoy, a three-star recruit out of North Carolina. Though McKoy does hold offers from North Carolina and NC State and has checked out Virginia, West Virginia put itself in front with a strong impression during McKoy's unofficial visit to Morgantown this spring.

10 spring developments: Big 12

March, 30, 2015
Mar 30
10:00
AM ET

Colleague Mark Schlabach offered up a nice breakdown on Monday of some key things we have already learned from spring practices around the country. Here is a closer look at some Big 12 spring storylines and developments worth watching going forward:

1. Sooners rally after scandal: Oklahoma's football team took a 16-day break from spring practice after the school was rocked by the release of a video featuring racist chants from a now-defunct campus fraternity. Bob Stoops and his players participated in demonstrations, spoke out frequently against the racism and worked hard to rally both their team and their community in the wake of the scandal. The Sooners returned to practice on Tuesday in black uniforms, seemingly more unified than ever.

[+] EnlargeSeth Russell
Tony Gutierrez/Associated PressSeth Russell seems to have taken control of Baylor's quarterback competition.

2. Seth Russell proving himself: Although Baylor coach Art Briles hasn’t showered Seth Russell with praise after his scrimmage performances, the quarterback has clearly sent a message this spring to anyone questioning whether he’s ready to lead the Bears. He threw for 345 yards and four TDs in the Bears' Friday Night Lights scrimmage, and from day one of spring practice, there has been very little talk of a true quarterback controversy in Waco.

3. TCU’s battles still unresolved: Coach Gary Patterson is paying close attention to a handful of vacancies in his starting lineup and hasn’t named any clear-cut starters just yet. Although cornerback Torrance Mosley recently earned some praise in the big-time battle to replace Kevin White, that race is undecided. Same goes for the five-man battle at linebacker and the four-man competition for the No. 2 quarterback job. The battles will continue until Patterson gets the answers he needs.

4. Beaty bringing his own style: New Kansas coach David Beaty says the first day of practice was the most fun he’s had since taking the gig, and you can tell he’s getting creative to make an impression. He’s highlighting Kansas' Players of the Day on his Twitter account and pushing the Jayhawks to places they have never gone in terms of tempo with 94 plays in 44 minutes on their first day of spring ball.

5. Texas Tech quarterback battle won’t end soon: Coach Kliff Kingsbury hasn’t seen enough to name Patrick Mahomes or Davis Webb his guy at quarterback. After Tech’s scrimmage in Midland, Texas, on Saturday, he told reporters the competition could continue into the fall. With Webb still limited in contact situations and Mahomes working to balance his time between football and baseball, it’s probably no surprise that no decision is imminent.

6. Swoopes has early lead at Texas: That is an awfully premature take because the Longhorns haven’t even been practicing for a full week, but Tyrone Swoopes worked with the No. 1 offense to start off the spring as he splits reps with Jerrod Heard. In the only practice open to reporters, Swoopes displayed superior passing ability, but both ran the ball much more than usual in the up-tempo attack. Players say Swoopes is their incumbent starter for now, and we’ll see whether that changes much in April.

7. ISU loves its WRs: Iowa State's dream offensive scenario -- getting Allen Lazard, D'Vario Montgomery and Quenton Bundrage all on the field together -- is starting to come to fruition this spring now that Bundrage is back from his season-ending injury. Paul Rhoads and his staff have high hopes for the trio and their ability to make this offense far more explosive, and they expect Lazard to become one of the league's premier wideouts.

8. Walsh stays; Garman goes: Oklahoma State’s three-quarterback situation resolved itself right away this spring when Daxx Garman elected to transfer and J.W. Walsh decided to return and compete for whatever playing time he can get. Walsh is finally healthy again and says he will keep prepping as if he’s the starter, but he’s done an admirable job of taking young starter Mason Rudolph under his wing in the meantime.

9. Mountaineers focused on margins: Dana Holgorsen says he’s putting more emphasis at the start of spring practices on one area that must improve: turnover margin. West Virginia ranked 120th in FBS in that category last season (minus-15) and is devoting more time to ball security, strips and takeaways. "If we can get better at that," Holgorsen says, "that’ll win us some more games." He’s not wrong.

10. Watch out for McGowan: As devoted Big 12 blog readers know, we’ve long been fascinated by Baylor’s mountain-sized lineman LaQuan McGowan. If you missed Jake Trotter’s feature on the 400-pounder, his background and his move to tight end this spring, be sure to check it out. If Briles allows McGowan get the ball in his gigantic hands more often, we’ll all be in for a fun season.

In today's Twitter mailbag we discuss 400-pound tight end LaQuan McGowan, players off the radar that could become All-Big 12 selections, and the backfields at TCU and Oklahoma.

Condolences to West Virginia fans for Thursday's historical beatdown. Still, I know of eight other Big 12 fanbases that wished their teams would have advanced to the Sweet 16.

On to the 'bag:

I actually asked Seth Russell which would be worse, getting sacked by Shawn Oakman or trying to tackle McGowan. He said Oakman. I respectfully have to disagree. Oakman is a bad dude, but nobody is stopping McGowan with a head of steam, Oakman included.

Trotter:You mean in one game? By the way, I hope you guys took time to read my McGowan piece earlier in the week. I enjoyed interviewing him. Interesting kid with a fascinating backstory.

Trotter: Texas would be the most attractive destination. Any of Braxton Miller, J.T. Barrett or Cardale Jones would start with little resistance from what the Longhorns have on the roster. And Texas would be an option for any of the three for obvious reasons, including the track record of Charlie Strong and his staff working with Teddy Bridgewater at Louisville.

Trotter: At this moment, it's difficult to envision the game going much differently than it did last season. The addition of transfer linebacker Mike Mitchell and freshman defensive tackle Breiden Fehoko will help the run defense, and coordinator David Gibbs will have the players in the right gaps. But the Razorbacks completely mowed over the Red Raiders last season. You either have the horses or you don't, and Tech has long way to go to prove it can up its own again up front against a power-running team such as Arkansas.

Trotter: No update. Carry on.

Trotter: If I had to bet, I'd put heavy money on Baker Mayfield being the opening-day starter. There's a lot to like about Mayfield, notably his confidence and savvy. But people, notably Sooners fans, seem to forget that Mayfield really struggled against the better teams while at Texas Tech two years ago. Can OU win a Big 12 championship with Mayfield behind center? I'm not sure.

Trotter:It's a possibility. He's going to be buried on depth chart behind Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon. True freshman Rodney Anderson had been turning heads this spring, too, before he suffered an MCL sprain. Apparently, Keith Ford's sister posted something on Facebook suggesting he might transfer. But Ford was at practice this week.

Trotter:The TCU backfield is going to be good. Aaron Green, who can reel off big plays, is an all-conference caliber talent; Shaun Nixon, meanwhile, was highly touted coming out of high school. But I don't know that it's necessary going to be markedly better than last year's group. Don't forget, B.J. Catalon was excellent before suffering the head injury.

Trotter:Hmm... I would definitely take Trevone Boykin, Mason Rudolph and Pat Mahomes over Sam B. Richardson. But after that, there are no slam dunks. Seth Russell obviously could have a big season, but he has only one career start. Skyler Howard is going to have to be more accurate to rank near the upper tier of Big 12 QBs. Joe Hubener has potential, but he's an unknown. I mentioned my concerns with Mayfield above. So is it unthinkable that Richardson becomes the fourth- or fifth-best QB in the league? No. He'll have good wideouts to throw to, and he has a ton of experience. The key for Richardson is health. He's been severely banged up the last two years, and when that's happened, his effectiveness has plummeted.

Trotter: Not sure how off the radar you want to go, but here are a few guys who have never had any honorable-mention recognition that could be first-teamers in 2015: Oklahoma State safety Jordan Sterns, Baylor nickelback Travon Blanchard, Oklahoma center Ty Darlington, Iowa State guard Daniel Burton, Texas defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway, Texas Tech cornerback Nigel Bethel and TCU cornerback Ranthony Texada.

Trotter:Well, if you believe you're a big-time program that can compete with anyone, you go out and schedule the Ohio States of the world. Oklahoma has been doing it since Bob Stoops arrived, and it served the Sooners well during the BCS era. Texas has recently ramped up its scheduling as well. As a conference champ, you have to beat someone of note in the non-conference to guarantee yourself a spot in the playoff. TCU will have plenty of opportunities to do that in the coming years.

Trotter: Who didn't see that TCU fan tweet coming?

Running back Chris Carson could hold the key to Oklahoma State’s offense, wide receiver DeDe Westbrook could take Oklahoma’s new spread attack to another level and defensive tackle Demond Tucker could provide much-needed strength in the middle of Iowa State’s defense.

That trio is among the nine ESPN Junior College 50 recruits who signed with Big 12 schools and have the potential to become household names in the conference this fall.

SportsNation

Which ESPN JC50 signee will have the biggest impact in 2015?

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    20%

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    35%

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    27%

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    8%

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    10%

Discuss (Total votes: 3,258)

Which ESPN JC 50 newcomer do you expect to have the biggest impact?

Carson was a late addition to the Cowboys' signing class as OSU looked to secure a backfield mate for quarterback Mason Rudolph. The No. 12 player in the ESPN JC 50, Carson brings good size (6-foot-2, 210 pounds) and the ability to be a workhorse for Mike Gundy’s program.

Westbrook is already on campus and participating in spring drills with the Sooners. The No. 14 player in the ESPN JC 50 combines quickness and speed with good size (6-1, 175), which makes him a candidate to excel in the slot or on the outside in Lincoln Riley’s offense.

Rasul Douglas will add to a talented West Virginia secondary in the summer. The No. 23 player in the ESPN JC 50 has the size (6-2, 200) and athleticism to be a versatile asset for WVU’s defense, with the skills to play cornerback or safety.

Tucker was a much-needed addition for the Cyclones defense. After Iowa State struggled with its depth and production along its defensive front in 2014, Tucker is participating in ISU’s spring practices with a eye on making an major impact this fall. His quickness could help him become a disruptive force for the Cyclones defense.

Five other ESPN JC 50 signees could have a similar impact in the Big 12. Cornerback Will Johnson (No. 15 in the ESPN JC 50) is already impressing during the first few practices at OU, and the Sooners secondary is looking for playmakers heading into the fall.

Offensive tackle Maurice Porter (No. 31 in the ESPN JC 50) could add additional depth for Baylor’s offensive line when he arrives in the summer.

Guard Jamal Danley (No. 39 in the ESPN JC 50) is going through spring drills with OU as he battles to make an impact on a Sooners offensive line that must replace four starters.

Texas is hoping Quincy Vasser (No. 45 in the ESPN JC 50) can help lessen the loss of Cedric Reed at defensive end.

Motekiai Maile (No. 49 in the ESPN JC 50) could help replace James Castleman in the interior of OSU’s defense, helping free opportunities for returning Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year Emmanuel Ogbah.

Who do you think will have the biggest impact? Vote now and leave a comment below.

Allen Lazard played up to blue-chip reputation during his debut season at Iowa State, but the wide receiver has higher expectations for his sophomore year, writes Tommy Birch of The Des Moines Register.

Cyclones coaches say Lazard, who finished with 593 yards on 45 catches last fall, is noticeably more confident this spring. He's out to win every one-on-one battle and snag every ball thrown his way.

"I think he can be as good as anybody as far as this league's concerned because of the knowledge that he's gained and what it takes to play and to play effectively at this level," ISU coach Paul Rhoads said. "He has the physical tools."

Lazard will draw more attention from opponents in 2015 -- Big 12 defensive coaches aren't going to sleep on a 6-foot-5, 218-pound playmaker -- and he's certainly a second-year guy worth keeping a close eye on. No player is capable of elevating Iowa State's offense quite like he can.

Fielding a strong pass defense is critical in the Big 12.

The conference is full of offenses that look to spread opponents and attack them through the air, putting pressure on defensive backs and pass rushers alike. Yet it can be difficult to measure defensive success against those offenses as passing yards per game and completion percentage can be misleading particularly on teams that feature high-scoring offenses that end up forcing opponents to throw for the majority of the game.

Passing yards per attempt is one key stat that give a good gauge of which teams have efficient pass defenses that are harder to defeat than it may appear. With the help of ESPN Stats and Information, here's a look at the Big 12 rankings in passing yards per attempt (conference games only) since TCU and West Virginia joined the conference in 2012.

[+] EnlargeDavid Porter
AP Photo/LM OteroThe Kansas State Wildcats have allowed only 6.7 yards per pass attempt over the past three seasons.

1. Kansas State 6.7
Summary: The Wildcats are very good at forcing offenses to take what they are willing to give. Opponents 61.5 completion percentage is ninth among Big 12 teams yet their low yards per pass attempt average is a sign they tackle well after limiting opponents to short completions. Outside of standouts Ty Zimmerman and Randall Evans, KSU doesn’t tend to have superstars in the secondary but their performance as a unit is unmatched.

2. Oklahoma State 6.86
Summary: The Cowboys allow 277.85 passing yards per game but their yards per pass attempt average make them one of the Big 12’s top pass defenses. OSU’s up tempo, high scoring offense resulted in the defense facing a conference-high 40.52 pass attempts per game during the past three seasons. Talented defensive backs like Justin Gilbert and Kevin Peterson have helped the Cowboys withstand the barrage.

3. Texas 6.93
Summary: The Longhorns defense has been solid overall, ranking first in passing yards per game (220.3), sack percentage (8.4 percent) and touchdowns per pass attempt (3.6). A combination of talented defensive backs (Kenny Vaccaro, Quandre Diggs) and pass rushers (Jackson Jeffcoat, Alex Okafor) cemented UT’s place in the top three.

4. Oklahoma 7.02
Summary: The Sooners are among the top two in passing yards allowed (241.7) and completion percentage (54.9) helping to land them a spot in the top half of the conference. Current NFLers Aaron Colvin and Tony Jefferson are among the former Sooners who made OU’s pass defense one of the Big 12’s better units before a disappointing 2014 season put dents in that reputation.

5. TCU 7.18
Summary: The Horned Frogs’ opponent completion percentage (54.9), third-down conversion percentage (31.3) and first down per pass attempt percentage (28.8) were the best in the Big 12. But TCU’s yards per completion percentage (13.57) was ninth in the conference and doomed them to a spot outside the top four despite featuring some of the Big 12’s best defensive backs in Jason Verrett, Chris Hackett and Kevin White.

6. Baylor 7.39
Summary: The Bears explosive offense resulted in BU’s pass defense facing 37.67 pass attempts per game which contributed to them finishing in the bottom third of the conference in passing yards per game (278.33, eighth) and third down conversion percentage (43.4, tenth). This is one element of Art Briles program that requires continued improvement if BU is going to extended its Big 12 title run.

7. Texas Tech 7.68
Summary: The Red Raiders ranked near the bottom of the Big 12 in several categories but their touchdown-to-interception percentage stands out above the crowd. Tech gave up 3.88 touchdowns per interception during this span, nearly a full touchdown worst than any other team in the Big 12. Nigel Bethel, Tevin Madison and Justis Nelson are among the young defensive backs on the roster with the talent to help turn this Red Raider trend around.

8. Iowa State 7.74
Summary: The Cyclones landed at the bottom of the Big 12 in passing yards allowed per game (292.3) and sack percentage (3) as ISU struggled to slow the pass happy attacks of the Big 12. Cornerback Nigel Tribune and safety Kamari Cotton-Moya provide hope the Cyclones can improve their pass defense in 2015.

9. West Virginia 8.21
Summary: The Mountaineers pass defense is one main reason WVU has been up and down during its first three seasons in the conference. Losing one-on-one battles and shoddy tackling have resulted in a Big 12-worst 13.92 yards per completion. Yet WVU enters the 2015 with the Big 12’s best combination of talent and experience in the secondary so the Mountaineers could start to build a better reputation this fall.

10. Kansas 8.24
Summary: The Jayhawks struggled in pretty much every category, allowing opponents to complete 62.9 percent of their attempts while also allowing 35 percent of those attempts to result in first downs. A lack of sacks (3.6 sack percentage, eighth) and interceptions (2.2 interception percentage, ninth) helped cement KU’s spot at the bottom of the Big 12. To make matters worse KU enters the 2015 looking to replace the bulk of its secondary including All-Big 12 cornerback JaCorey Shepherd.

Big 12 morning links

March, 25, 2015
Mar 25
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Deep-fried nachos sound like they have potential, but I'd prefer some Fried S'mOreo.

  • Is TCU the No. 3 team in the country right now? Not in the opinion of Gary Patterson, who expressed some displeasure after the Horned Frogs' practice on Tuesday. His team got tired in the heat, his defensive line isn't playing great, his linebackers aren't there yet and he knows there's a long way to go before the season opener. No reason to fret, TCU fans: this is more about Patterson sending a message to his team. He's going to have to guard against complacency and inflated ego in his locker room as expectations continue to rise.
  • Kansas opened spring ball on Tuesday, and senior quarterback Michael Cummings took the first-string snaps ahead of Montell Mozart, according to Jesse Newell of the Topeka Capital-Journal. New coach David Beaty says there's no need to read too much into that, though he did declare he plans to pick one starter and won't rotate QBs. More importantly, the Jayhawks got their first taste of their new pace with 94 plays in 44 minutes. That's pretty dang quick.
  • E.J. Bibbs quieted a lot of the concerns about his knee on Tuesday at Iowa State's pro day. The tight end, a likely late-round pick who underwent postseason surgery, ran a nice 40 time (4.86) and showed off his athleticism with some good testing numbers in front of NFL scouts. Knowing how hard it is to find good tight ends at the college level, you'd think Bibbs will get a long look from a few organizations during this draft process. Good to hear he's healed up nicely after missing the Cyclones' final two games.
  • Texas opens spring practice on Wednesday with some glaring issues along its defensive line. The Longhorns released their pre-spring injury report, and half of the team's scholarship defensive linemen are going to be out or at least limited this spring. That includes potential starters Desmond Jackson, Caleb Bluiett and Quincy Vasser. We won't get to see exciting redshirt freshman Derick Roberson until the fall, either. The good thing for new D-line coach Brick Haley is a bunch of his healthy guys -- Poona Ford, Shiro Davis and Naashon Hughes stand out -- could really use those extra snaps.
  • And finally, in case you need a little extra to bring some joy to your morning, here's a video of beloved Baylor tight end LaQuan McGowan catching passes with one hand. We're not worthy! The 400-pound behemoth continues to establish himself as the most interesting man in the Big 12 this spring, and Jake is going to have a lot more on him in a great story today.

Big 12 morning links

March, 24, 2015
Mar 24
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The St. Louis Raiders? Seriously? I'm all for bringing the NFL to L.A., but come on.

  • After a break of more than two weeks, Oklahoma returned to the practice field on Monday. Its players are wearing black to continue their efforts toward eliminating racism on OU's campus following the SAE fiasco. You have to respect the fact that Sooners players are taking this problem seriously and haven't just moved on now that the national controversy has seemingly passed. As for on-field news, Joe Mixon and Dede Westbrook are earning praise, and all four quarterbacks are reportedly getting near-equal reps.
  • Charlie Strong talked quarterbacks and a whole lot more on Monday to kick off Texas' first week of spring practice. Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News offers a solid recap here and makes some good points about the kind of building that's ahead for Strong and his Longhorns. Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman offers a fine take on talk of rebuilding, too. As I wrote about yesterday, Strong is still working to build up a lot more than just the talent level when it comes to this team.
  • Kansas is opening spring practice on Tuesday, and David Beaty sounds fired up to get started. Matt Tait of the Lawrence Journal-World caught up with the new head coach on the eve of practice and got him to lay out some of his goals for spring ball. You will notice Beaty rarely talks about specific players in these interviews -- it sure seems like he's trying to bring a clean-slate mentality to finding out what he's working with on this roster. Beaty's emphasis on establishing a clean brand of football in terms of penalties, turnovers and special teams is probably a good start, too.
  • Former Oklahoma tight end Taylor McNamara is transferring to USC, he announced Monday night via Twitter. His plans to depart had been largely expected for the past month, and McNamara seems to be making a smart move here. He'll graduate from Oklahoma in May and play right away for a Trojans team that's thin at tight end while Bryce Dixon is suspended. Blake Bell's move to tight end really marginalized McNamara's chances to help Oklahoma in 2014, so you can't blame him for wanting to start over closer to home.
  • Here's an interesting look by Bobby La Gesse of the Ames Tribune at Iowa State's Jake Campos and why improved flexibility is going to be a difference-maker for the touted tackle this fall. It's a close examination of how a 6-foot-8, 295-pound lineman can get more effective simply by making a change as minor as doing more ankle stretches. If you're an O-line junkie, I think you'll enjoy this read.

Big 12 recruiting scorecard

March, 23, 2015
Mar 23
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Spring ball rolls on and a few new commitments rolled in, too. The latest from the Big 12 on the recruiting trail:

BAYLOR
Total commits: 7
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 4
The latest: The Bears hosted a big group of recruits for its "Friday Night Lights" scrimmage, including incoming freshmen and targets from several classes. One big man on campus was ESPN 300 lineman J.P. Urquidez, a 6-foot-6, 305-pound tackle from Copperas Cove, Texas. Urquidez also visited Miami recently and has those two schools high on his list along with Texas and Oklahoma. He's expected to make his decision this spring.

IOWA STATE
Total commits:
0
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Cyclones still have not landed a commitment for 2016. They do continue to pursue defensive end Noah Fant, though that's getting more challenging. The defensive end out of Omaha, Nebraska, recently took an unofficial visit to Nebraska and is expected to check out Purdue next. Getting him in for ISU's junior day was a good move, but Fant is drawing more and more interest these days.

KANSAS
Total commits: 1
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0
The latest:
Kansas could face an interesting battle for offensive lineman Chris Hughes of Harker Heights, Texas. He's been offered by KU, North Texas and now Texas Tech, and you wonder if his stock will rise this spring. The younger brother of Texas players Naashon Hughes and Camrhon Hughes is 6-foot-3 and 260 pounds, but doesn't hold an offer from the Longhorns yet. Can KU fight to steal him from the state of Texas?

KANSAS STATE
Total commits: 1
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Wildcats lost a big-time commit over the weekend when defensive end Xavier Kelly elected to reopen his recruitment. Kelly, whose stock has been on the rise this spring, had committed to KSU back in November but is reportedly focusing on Michigan, Oregon and TCU at the moment. He checked in at 6-foot-6 and 230 pounds with a 4.55-second 40-yard dash at The Opening regional camp in Arlington, Texas.

OKLAHOMA
Total commits: 3
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Sooners got one of the nation's best running back recruits on campus. ESPN 300 running back Devwah Whaley, the nation's No. 34 recruit, took an unofficial visit to Norman over the weekend. Texas A&M is presumed to be the frontrunner for Whaley at the moment, but OU is right there in the mix along with Texas, Georgia and several other programs.

OKLAHOMA STATE
Total commits: 3
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0
The latest: Who might Oklahoma State take at quarterback for 2016? The favorite sure seems to be Nick Starkel, a 6-foot-3, 175-pound passer from Argyle, Texas. Though his only FBS offers are from Oklahoma State and Old Dominion, Starkel had a good showing at his Elite 11 tryout in Dallas earlier this month and is expected to visit Stillwater again at the end of the month.

TCU
Total commits: 8
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Horned Frogs' first commit for 2017 is in the books: Roshauud Paul. The athlete from Bremond, Texas, pulled the trigger on a commitment last Tuesday and is being recruited as a receiver/corner. As a sophomore, he helped lead Bremond to a Class 2A state title as a quarterback with more than 3,200 total yards and 40 TDs.

TEXAS
Total commits: 4
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 3
The latest: Texas actually has five pledges for 2016, as quarterback Matthew Merrick will grayshirt and enroll next spring. That's his final decision after several schools (led by Florida) pushed hard following signing day to flip Merrick and get him enrolled in the fall. Merrick and ESPN 300 commit Shane Buechele both are expected to arrive in Austin in January. Merrick has a big arm and will be a nice development prospect.

TEXAS TECH
Total commits: 3
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0
The latest: Texas Tech's staff landed a good one in Donte Coleman. The tight end from West Mesquite High in Texas turned down a dozen other good offers to pick the Red Raiders on Saturday. Coleman, who hauled in four TDs as a junior, could be a matchup nightmare in Tech's scheme at 6-4 and 220 pounds.

WEST VIRGINIA
Total commits: 7
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0
The latest: West Virginia's newest pledge came from Zach Sandwisch of Toledo, Ohio, an outside linebacker who likes how he'll fit in the Mountaineers' defensive plans. Sandwich racked up 80 tackles in 10 games while helping lead Central Catholic to a state title as a junior. He took visits to West Virginia, Indiana, Toledo and Bowling Green before reaching his decision last week.

Big 12 morning links

March, 23, 2015
Mar 23
9:00
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Best of luck to Texas Tech sports information director Blayne Beal, who is leaving for a job in the private sector. Being SID can be a tireless gig. But Blayne is a great guy who did a great job.

  • Baylor had its "Friday Night Lights" scrimmage (more on this on the blog later this morning) and new Bears QB Seth Russell showed that Baylor should continue to have big-play ability even without Bryce Petty. Russell was little up-and-down with his accuracy in rainy weather, but still tossed four touchdown passes. The Bears only suffered one injury, to cornerback Xavien Howard, who suffered an ankle injury early in the scrimmage. Baylor will be light in the secondary the rest of the spring. Safeties Orion Stewart and Terrell Burt and cornerback Ryan Reid have all sat out this spring, nursing injuries.
  • TCU receiver Josh Doctson will miss the rest of spring practice because of a broken bone in his hand, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Carlos Mendez. Doctson, who will need surgery to correct the break, led the Horned Frogs with 1,018 receiving yards last season. Doctson is expected to be ready to go for the fall. But his injury will open up an opportunity for some of TCU's younger receivers to make an impression. The Horned Frogs were already without receivers Deante' Gray and Emanuel Porter this spring.
  • Mendez also had un update on how TCU's search at linebacker is going. With Paul Dawson and Marcus Mallet both gone, the Horned Frogs have basically had to start from scratch, Mendez writes. "We got a long way to go at linebacker," coach Gary Patterson told Mendez. "There's just a lot of learning to it. They'll get there. Or I'll move somebody there." Despite losing key players elsewhere defensively, the Horned Frogs should be in good shape both in the secondary and up front. Linebacker will be the key to whether the Horned Frogs will field a top-two Big 12 defense for a fourth straight year.
  • Without any other upperclassmen at the position on the roster, the pressure is on Tyler Brown to give Iowa State something at running back, according to the Ames Tribune's Bobby La Gesse. This is a huge spring for Brown, and a big chance for him to establish himself as the Cyclones' featured runner. But he will have to earn it. The Cyclones are high on the potential of freshman Mike Warren, who redshirted last year. Martinez Syria is also back after filling the short-yardage role last season. Running back is by far the biggest question on the Iowa State offense. Sam B. Richardson has solidified his standing as the starting quarterback. The group of receivers is talented with the likes of Allen Lazard and Quenton Bundrage. And the offensive line is experienced.
  • Like Brown, Oklahoma State running back Rennie Childs has a shot this spring to command a big role, points out the Tulsa World's Bill Haisten. With Dez Roland and Tyreek Hill gone and Chris Carson and Jeff Carr not set to arrive until the summer, Childs will get the bulk of the work in the Cowboys' backfield this spring. Last week, we listed Childs as one of our "on the spot" players for this very same reason.

The production from Kansas State's quarterbacks in the past three seasons should make it no surprise the Wildcats have become mainstays in the Big 12 title race.

Since TCU and West Virginia joined the Big 12 in 2012, the Wildcats have had the conference's most productive quarterbacks ahead of Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and other Big 12 programs that have a reputation for stellar signal-callers. With the help of ESPN Stats and Information, here's a closer look at the Big 12 Total QBR rankings (conference games only) since 2012.

(Note: Total QBR is a ESPN metric used to determine a quarterback's impact. Here is a detailed explanation of Total QBR.)

1. Kansas State, 79.5
2014: 83.5, 1st
2013: 71.8, 3rd
2012: 83.2, 2nd

Summary: The combination of Jake Waters and Collin Klein helped push the Wildcats to the top of the list. Klein’s 83.9 Total QBR in 2012 is the third-best in the Big 12 since 2012, and his 23 rushing touchdowns helped offset a 16:9 touchdown-interception ratio. Waters’ 83.2 Total QBR led the Big 12 in 2014 and was fifth overall during this span. The Wildcats were the only program with two quarterbacks in the top five.

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty
Allen Kee/ESPN ImagesIn 2013, Baylor's Bryce Petty had the Big 12's best statistical season for a quarterback in the last three years.

2. Baylor, 78.6
2014: 71.2, 4th
2013: 85.4, 1st
2012: 78.8, 4th

Summary: Bryce Petty had the Big 12’s best season during this span, recording a 86.2 Total QBR and earning Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year during the 2013 season. Nick Florence finished with a 79.5 Total QBR in 2012, helping offset Petty’s 71.4 a year ago. The Bears started one of the conference’s top quarterbacks in each of the past three seasons, a feat only K-State can match.

3. Oklahoma, 74.5
2014: 75, 2nd
2013: 57.8, 7th
2012: 83.9, 1st

Summary: Landry Jones had the Big 12’s second-highest Total QBR during this span, recording a 84.4 in 2012 during the last season OU used a air raid-style offense. After a horrible 2013 season full of uncertainty at the position, the Sooners landed third on this list thanks to Trevor Knight’s 79.4 in 2014.

4. Texas Tech, 69.4
2014: 68.9, 5th
2013: 67.2, 5th
2012: 72.5, 6th

Summary: Davis Webb’s 77.7 Total QBR in 2013 is yet another reason to pump the brakes on the Patrick Mahomes coronation. It was the Red Raiders' best and among the top 10 in the conference during this span. Mahomes (70.7 in 2014) and Seth Doege (71.4 in 2012) join Webb among the top 15 in the Big 12 during the past three seasons, giving the Red Raiders three quarterbacks in the top 15, more than any other Big 12 program.

5. Oklahoma State, 66.4
2014: 46.3, 9th
2013: 74.6, 2nd
2012: 72.7, 5th

Summary: Clint Chelf is the sole reason the Pokes finished in the top half of the conference. His Total QBR was second in the Big 12 at 83.8 in 2013 and 13th in the Big 12 at 71.2 in 2012. Chelf was constantly battling for his spot during his final two seasons, but when Oklahoma State turned the offense over to him, he produced.

6. Texas, 65
2014: 58.4, 8th
2013: 70.1, 4th
2012: 66.7, 7th

Summary: This sums up the Longhorns' quarterback struggles. Case McCoy’s Total QBR of 69.1 in 2013 was the Longhorns' highest Total QBR during this span. Tyrone Swoopes recorded a 58.2 in 2014 and David Ash had a 67 in 2012.

7. West Virginia, 64.3
2014: 64, 6th
2013: 44.1, 9th
2012: 81.2, 2nd

Summary: Things went downhill for Dana Holgorsen’s team after Geno Smith recorded a 80.5 Total QBR in 2012, sixth in the Big 12 during this span, then headed to the NFL. Clint Trickett started the 2014 season strong, but his turnover-filled second half of the season dropped his final Total QBR to 61.9. Yet that was still better than the 54.9 he recorded in 2013.

8. TCU, 58.5
2014: 72.5, 3rd
2013: 47.9, 8th
2012: 54.2, 8th

Summary: This underscores just how bad the Horned Frogs production at quarterback was during TCU’s first two seasons in the Big 12. And that lackluster production came partially with Trevone Boykin under center. Boykin recorded a 52 Total QBR in 2013 before jumping to a 71.8 in 2014. It was one of the nation's highest jumps from a returning quarterback.

9. Iowa State, 54.9
2014: 58.8, 7th
2013: 56.7, 6th
2012: 47.5, 9th

Summary: One big reason the Cyclones have been going downhill since TCU and West Virginia entered the league is their subpar quarterback play. Fortunately for Iowa State, Sam Richardson has the potential to make quarterback a strength for the Cyclones in 2015.

10. Kansas, 31.7
2014: 44.5, 10th
2013: 20.2, 10th
2012: 30.7, 10th

Summary: The Jayhawks are the only team that showed no movement in the standings in any of the three seasons. It doesn’t get much worse than KU’s production in 2013. It’s easy to see why Kansas decided to go in a different direction with the hope David Beaty can spark a change at quarterback.

Big 12 morning links

March, 19, 2015
Mar 19
9:00
AM ET

Is that Dahntay Jones?

  • The Dallas Morning News looks at the five biggest issues facing Baylor football this spring, including health. Shehan Jeyarajah contends that it is important for the Bears to enter the fall with a healthy roster. While there are some position battles to be decided, I'd largely agree. There's really no reason to put established stars like Spencer Drango, Andrew Billings or Corey Coleman in harm's way repeatedly for Art Briles' program. It would be a good idea to have players like those take minimal reps in contact situations this spring. What do they have to prove?
  • The Oklahoma football team is the wrong messenger in the protest against the racist fraternity video at OU, suggests The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel. It's a thought-provoking piece that is worth a read and Tramel makes several good points, yet there are so many deeper issues in play here that it is hard to properly address them in one single attempt.
  • The Dallas Morning News also looks at the five biggest issues facing Oklahoma, including the Sooners secondary. The installation of Lincoln Riley's offense will get plenty of attention once the Sooners return to the field on Monday but none of it will matter if new secondary coach Kerry Cooks doesn't fix OU's secondary. There is talent on the roster but the group underachieved in 2014 and this spring should show if Cooks has turned the boat in the right direction.
  • Texas Tech is another team with five issues to address via the Dallas Morning News including a switch to the 4-3 defense under new defensive coordinator David Gibbs. The lack of continuity for the Red Raiders defense is pretty shocking with Gibbs set to become the seventh defensive coordinator at Tech in seven years. It's not hard to understand why the defense has struggled with players pretty much having to adapt to new coaching on a yearly basis.
  • The Dallas Morning News also looked at five issues the Texas Longhorns need to address this spring. Leadership is No. 2 on the list after Charlie Strong repeatedly questioned the leadership on his team in 2014. Even with some of the questions on the roster, I could be convinced leadership should be No. 1. Why? Because I think it will be critical for the Longhorns not to underachieve this fall. And that starts with leadership.

Austin Woods doesn't know Mitchell Meyers personally. But there might not be anyone who knows what Meyers is going through better.

Meyers, one of Iowa State's top defensive players, was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma earlier this year.

Three years ago as a junior offensive lineman at Oklahoma, Woods was diagnosed with the same.

[+] EnlargeMitchell Meyers
AP Photo/Luke LuThrough a released statement, Iowa State's Mitchel Meyers says he's "determined to embrace the process and fight this with a positive attitude."

"I've read his story," Woods said. "It's very similar. You're a young guy in the best shape of your life, playing football. Then you go to the doctor and they tell you you have cancer. That's really tough."

But as Meyers has fallen into one of the fights of his life, Woods has a message of hope for the Cyclones' defensive end.

Today, Woods remains in remission. He's in his second year as an offensive quality control coach for the Sooners. It was hardly easy, but he was able to practice through the exhausting chemotherapy treatments during the spring and summer and ultimately fill a key reserve role on the Oklahoma offensive line that 2012 season.
"There is light at the end of the tunnel," Woods said.

Meyers, a defensive lineman who was one of only four Iowa State players to start all 12 games last season as a sophomore, has declined to do interviews since his diagnosis became public. He did release a statement last month that he was "determined to embrace the process and fight this with a positive attitude."

Woods says such a positive attitude is paramount.

"That's the only thing you can control," Woods said. "You can't control how you feel after the chemo. But you can control your attitude. That's the one thing that helped me get through it."

Woods said he was fortunate in that the chemotherapy didn't debilitate him to the point he couldn't go to class or even work out with the team. He didn't lose his hair or drop a ton of weight, either. But as Woods notes, everyone has a different reaction to the treatments. The important part, Woods said, is not to view yourself as a victim.

"You have to keep trucking along," Woods said. "It's hard. After four hours of getting chemicals pumped into you, you get frustrated. There are days you don't want to get up. You're gonna feel tired. You're gonna feel bad. But you can't feel sorry for yourself. You can't see yourself as being ill."

Woods, however, said his support system was his biggest asset to beating the cancer.

"I couldn't have gotten through it without them," Woods said of his family, his friends and his teammates. "They kept me going. They didn't treat me differently. That meant a lot."

Meyers seems to have a similar support system in Ames, where he's staying to get his treatment.

"I have the greatest teammates in the world," he added in his statement. "It's been humbling to see their care and words of encouragement."

Meyers is hoping to play football again, perhaps as soon as this fall. But for now, he's focused on getting better.

"I just hope my story can inspire him," Woods said. "Help him to get through what he's going through."

Big 12 morning links

March, 18, 2015
Mar 18
9:00
AM ET

Not easy to find football links this morning. Everybody is writing about some basketball tournament. Weird.

  • Recruiting has gotten expensive for Iowa State, which has to travel farther distances than its Big 12 brethren to find players. In 2013, the Cyclones picked up a $584,510 recruiting tab -- the third-highest among Big 12 public schools and roughly $107,000 more than Iowa spent that year, according to a USA Today study, which included money spent on transportation, lodging and meals for recruits on school visits and coaches on recruiting trips. You can see the entire database here. Oklahoma ($834,326) and Texas Tech ($622,897) were the only Big 12 public schools that spent more than the Cyclones.
  • TCU won a recruiting battle with Metroplex rival SMU, and landed 2017 athlete Roshauud Paul. SMU was the first to offer Paul in mid-February. Three days later, Paul attended TCU junior day and picked up an offer there. Paul fits the profile of many past successful TCU recruits. As a sophomore, he finished with 1,545 yards passing, 1,670 yards rushing and 39 total touchdowns; he also recorded 33 tackles as his team won a state title. In case you didn't know, the Horned Frogs are also off to a fast start on their 2016 class, too, with eight commitments, including three from the ESPN Junior 300.
  • Eric Kiesau and Charlie Weis Jr., who were both part of the Kansas staff last season, have landed in off-the-field roles at Alabama, according to the Tuscaloosa News. Kiesau was Kansas' wide receivers coach last season, arriving via Washington last offseason. He'll be an offensive analyst for the Crimson Tide. It's unclear what role Weis Jr. will have.
  • Joe Parker, who worked at Texas, Oklahoma and most recently as the deputy athletic director at Texas Tech is the new athletic director at Colorado State. Parker helped run the day-to-day athletic operations at Texas Tech.
  • Actor/comedian Kevin Hart confessed on the Jimmy Kimmel Show that he threw up after working out with the Texas football team. Did Hart at least enjoy himself before getting sick? “I'm gonna be honest with you… no,” Hart replied. “Not at all. It was one of those things that was a good idea at first. I threw up right after. It's a true story, it's a true story. I didn't let them see it though. They were like, ‘Kev, you good?' And I was like, ‘Yes I am!' And I gave like a Longhorn symbol and walked out and threw up on the wall. I didn't even clean it up, I just ran. I didn't want nobody to know it was me. I just took off.” Good stuff.

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