Big 12: Kansas Jayhawks

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 1

September, 2, 2014
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Weekend recruiting wrap: Big 12 

September, 2, 2014
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The opening week of college football is in the books, and recruits definitely were paying attention to how teams in the Big 12 played. While Baylor, Texas, Oklahoma, TCU and Kansas State all dominated, Oklahoma State nearly pulled off an upset against reigning national champion Florida State, and West Virginia gave Alabama all it could handle before taking a loss.

The week wasn't one featuring multiple athletes taking official visits, but from a recruiting spin, it did have its moments. Here is a quick recap of what happened.

Big 12 morning links

September, 2, 2014
Sep 2
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Happy Tuesday and a belated congratulations to Kevin Durant for becoming one of the richest dudes in Big 12 history.
  • This was a good weekend for the Big 12 if you ask its head coaches. Underdogs Oklahoma State and West Virginia both put up a valiant four-quarter fight against potential College Football Playoff teams Florida State and Alabama, respectively. Big 12 coaches polled Monday during the league's weekly teleconference sensed that sent a message about the depth of the conference. They weren't expecting blowouts in those high-profile showdowns. I don't think anybody is going to underestimate OSU or WVU going forward.
  • Cedric Golden of the Austin American-Statesman has a bold take following the news David Ash is out: Jerrod Heard should start. The true freshman didn't join the program until June, so he still has a lot to learn. But he came to Austin with one heck of a pedigree and he does bring a dual-threat ability to an offense that's going to neeed some new wrinkles. It doesn't seem like Charlie Strong strongly considered Heard to start vs. BYU, but he might need to in the next few weeks if Tyrone Swoopes struggles.
  • Who's ready for the first Big 12 conference game of 2014? Kansas State and Iowa State meet on Saturday. Bill Snyder wishes his players had a little more experience going into their Big 12 opener. Paul Rhoads, on the other hand, sees this game as a great chance to motivate his players after their blowout loss to North Dakota State. Personally, I'm a fan of these anomaly games. Oklahoma-West Virginia was a weirdly close game a year ago when they met in Week 2. With so few good non-conference rivalry games early in the season, why not get Big 12 ball rolling early?
  • Gary Patterson makes an interesting point, in light of the injuries at Texas and Baylor: Does having two quarterbacks help TCU's Big 12 title hopes? He settled on Trevone Boykin for the Horned Frogs' season opener but is reserving the right to also use Matt Joeckel next Saturday when TCU takes on Minnesota. He seems comfortable with that QB situation. He's less enthusiastic about how TCU's defense fared outside of its base package. But, hey, that's what bye weeks are for.
  • Came across this over the weekend and it's a shame this has fallen under the radar: Kansas has created a comic book-themed website in devotion to linebacker Ben Heeney. Benton Smith of KUsports.com got players to chime in on "The Diabolical Defender" and what makes him so special. Kudos to the KU sports information staff for showing one of the Big 12's most underappreciated players the love he deserves.

Big 12 FPI rankings

September, 1, 2014
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ESPN's Football Power Index (FPI) is a measure of team strength that is meant to be the best predictor of a team's performance going forward for the rest of the season. Every week, ESPN will be updating its FPI to compile a ranking based on 10,000 simulations of the rest of the season using FPI, results to date and the remaining schedule.

Here is how the Big 12 stacks up after Week 1 of the season:

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Big 12 morning links

August, 29, 2014
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Happy Friday, everybody. Just one more day of work until the best three-day weekend of your year (until next weekend). Hang in there.
  • The Topeka Capital-Journal went long on Bill Snyder's legacy in a package -- entitled "Manhattan Project" -- that you're gonna want to check out. Here's the main piece by Ken Corbitt, and Kevin Haskin came up with a fun list of what-ifs when you think back on Snyder's tenure. One observation from Corbitt's piece that stands out: Had Snyder not come along and rescued the Wildcats, might they have been kicked out of the Big Eight? That's how dire the situation Snyder inherited was becoming. Everything he's achieved in the 25 years since has been flat-out stunning.
  • Texas finally released its depth chart on Thursday. The big news? True freshman Jason Hall is slated to start at strong safety, making him the Longhorns' first opening-day true freshman starter since Blake Gideon in 2008. Hall is one of 10 freshmen who made the depth chart. Another key decision came on the offensive line. With Desmond Harrison suspended for the opener, Texas moved Kennedy Estelle back to right tackle and promoted Marcus Hutchins to left tackle. The former scout-team defensive tackle has never started a game. That makeshift line is going to have to keep David Ash clean against North Texas.
  • Who is Texas Tech's fastest player? Might seem like a silly question, but Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal wisely points out that the number of speedsters the Red Raiders have had has been on the uptick in recent years. I'd put my money on receiver Jakeem Grant, who told the paper he sees speed becoming a real advantage for Tech's offense this year. Its receiving corps is full of guys you'd want in on the fastest-man race. Newcomers Justin Stockton and Mike Mitchell are also getting talked up for their legit speed. If the perception is true, and Tech does have that much speed at each receiver spot, Davis Webb is going to have some fun throwing deep.
  • One team we have admittedly not written about much this week is Kansas. For the second year in a row, the Jayhawks open their season with a bye. The weekend off does provide a strategic advantage for Charlie Weis: He got to watch Week 2 opponent Southeast Missouri State play its season opener last night, a 77-0 win over Missouri Baptist. The week gave KU more time to address its running back situation, and Weis says freshman Corey Avery and juco transfer De'Andre Mann are "1 and 1A."
  • Lastly, I enjoyed this story by Jason Kersey of The Oklahoman on what goes into the groundskeeping crew's efforts to prepare Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium for a ballgame. Bob Stoops, he of so many hot offseason takes, argues grass fields are the best. I don't have a strong feeling either way on that one, but I must say I did not know a field requires up to 300 gallons of paint in one weekend.
While some college coaches are playing possum about their starting quarterbacks with the season just around the corner, Kansas coach Charlie Weis took a different approach.

Weis named sophomore Montell Cozart the Jayhawks' starting quarterback in mid-April, leaving opponents no doubt who would be the man under center this fall. But Weis’ early choice also left no doubt in the minds of Cozart’s teammates.

The result of the pre-summer decision has paid off.

[+] EnlargeMontell Cozart
AP Photo/Orlin WagnerKansas QB Montell Cozart is reaching for more success as a sophomore.
When the Jayhawks announced their captains and leadership committee last week, linebacker Ben Heeney, safety Cassius Sendish and receiver Nick Harwell were named captains after garnering the majority of the votes, while Cozart, offensive lineman Pat Lewandowski and defensive lineman Keon Stowers earned enough votes to separate themselves from the rest of the squad and join the captains on the leadership committee. Cozart is the only non-senior on the six-player committee which was voted on by the players.

“That’s what you’re hoping for,” Weis said. “By putting him in that position in May you’re hoping by the time you’re ready to play the players are looking at him as a guy they can rally around.”

For Weis it was more important to put Cozart in a position to emerge as a leader and difference-maker on KU’s offense before the summer so everyone knew who would be the triggerman in John Reagan's new offense.

“He’s more mature than a lot of sophomores I’ve seen,” Harwell said. “He’s soft-spoken but he’s a leader.”

Cozart earned the starting role during the spring after an roller-coaster freshman season. He appeared poised for a redshirt year, watching the first five games from the sidelines, until his redshirt was removed before the Jayhawks’ home game with Oklahoma. He played in KU’s final seven games (three starts), finishing 23 of 63 passing for 227 yards and two interceptions. He added 66 carries for 214 yards and one touchdown.

Yet his emergence as a leader didn’t begin until after his first season in the program.

“He’s done his part as a quarterback and leader to push us,” tight end Jimmay Mundine said of Cozart’s impact on the Jayhawks’ summer workouts.

His leadership traits were largely unseen during his true freshman campaign, but they were among the traits that intrigued Weis when he visited Cozart at Kansas City (Missouri) Bishop Miege High School during the recruiting process.

“I went to his high school and he couldn’t go anywhere without everyone following behind him,” Weis said. “They all gravitated to him. He was obviously, not just the quarterback, but the leader. I knew we would eventually see that from him. I’m happy it’s happening sooner rather than later.”

Now, as a sophomore, the future—and present— of the Jayhawks' offense is in the hands of Cozart. When the Jayhawks become the last Big 12 team to open its season when Southwest Missouri State visits Memorial Stadium on Sept. 6, it will be a different Cozart taking the snaps for KU.

“He’s a young guy who has grown a lot since last season,” Harwell said. “I feel like he’s ready for the big stage.”

It’s a stage he didn’t shy away from when thrown into the fire against Oklahoma in his first collegiate game. And the players’ vote completely validated Weis’ decision to name Cozart the starter before the summer and revealed Cozart’s emerging leadership skills.

“The statement was made by [the players], not by me, by their votes, they can see that [rallying around Cozart] happening,” Weis said. “They’ve set it up for him to be the leader of the team as you move forward into the future.”

Big 12 teleconference rewind

August, 25, 2014
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Monday morning, the Big 12 held its first weekly coaches teleconference of the season.

Here is what was said, and my thoughts:

Jake Trotter: The Longhorns won't need Jaxon Shipley this week. But they will need him the following weekend against BYU. With quarterback David Ash working his way back into form, he will need Texas' most experienced and accomplished wideout on the field.

Trotter: The injuries to Brandon Bourbon and Taylor Cox hurt Kansas' depth. But De'Andre Mann and Corey Avery were pushing for the top spots on the depth chart before the injuries. The depth took a hit. But the Jayhawks should be fine at running back, provided they suffer no more injuries.

Trotter: The BCS was kind to the Sooners over the years, notably in 2003 and 2008. It remains to be seen whether the playoff committee will look favorably on Oklahoma as well.

Trotter: That is high praise. As a player and coach, Mike Gundy played against some formidable opponents, including some powerhouse Oklahoma and Nebraska teams as a player, then a pair of national championship teams at Oklahoma and Texas as a coach. The combination of Florida State's prominence and Oklahoma State's inexperience is hardly an ideal combination for an opener.

Trotter: Bill Snyder traditionally has preferred to utilize one primary running back, and Charles Jones evidently will get the first shot to replace John Hubert. Whoever emerges from the competition will have the opportunity to shine playing alongside quarterback Jake Waters, receiver Tyler Lockett and behind an offensive line with a pair of all-conference performers.

Trotter: The loss off Icky Banks, a starter last season, in the non-conference hurts, but at least they get him back for the conference portion of the season. The Mountaineers have senior Travis Bell and Terrell Chestnut to at least bridge the gap. The good news is West Virginia has a reliable cover man at the other cornerback in Daryl Worley.

Trotter: Whether Texas Tech makes a big jump defensively will hinge heavily on how big an impact the junior-college defensive linemen make. The Red Raiders were gashed against the run last season. They need some of these big men up front, notably, 340-pound nose guard Rika Levi, to help shore that up.

Trotter: This is interesting. The Baylor Bears were formidable last season defensively, headlined by All-American safety Ahmad Dixon and All-Big 12 linebacker Eddie Lackey. But there is no doubt the defensive line is going to be better this season. If the secondary comes around the way coach Art Briles think it will, Baylor might not suffer the downturn defensively many are predicting.

Trotter: It was an uncharacteristically poor season for the Iowa State defense, which ranked last in the league in rushing defense, and seventh in pass defense. Improving those numbers won't come easy, but the Cyclones have some experienced pieces in the front seven to work with in tackle Brandon Jensen, ends Cory Morrissey and Mitchell Meyers, and linebackers Jared Brackens, Alton Meeks, Jevohn Miller and Luke Knott.

Trotter: No surprise here. My money is on Trevone Boykin getting the first snap. But as coach Gary Patterson has hinted, this competition could linger into September.

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Big 12 recruiting scorecard

August, 25, 2014
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Here's the latest around the Big 12 on the recruiting trail:

BAYLOR
Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Bears commitment Chad President appears ready to start his season for Temple (Texas) High School, throwing for four touchdowns in a scrimmage on Friday. President is an ESPN 300 receiver whom the Bears will give a shot to play quarterback when he arrives on campus in January after enrolling early.

IOWA STATE
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: Lawton (Oklahoma) athlete Darreyl Patterson will make his official visit to Iowa State this weekend. The three-star prospect has offers from ISU, Kansas State, Washington State and others.

KANSAS
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: Junior college players represent the bulk of KU’s class with eight of its 13 current commitments from the juco level. The Jayhawks continue to do a terrific job in North Texas, with four of their five high school commitments from the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

KANSAS STATE
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Wildcats added arguably their top commitment of the class with a verbal from Tucker (Georgia) cornerback Duke Shelley last week. The three-star prospect turned down Clemson, Tennessee, Wisconsin and others to commit to Bill Snyder’s program.

OKLAHOMA
Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 5
The latest: The Sooners added more bulk to their recruiting class with a pledge from three-star guard Dru Samia of Danville, California/San Ramon. Samia, who turned down offers from Texas Tech, UCLA, Oregon State, Cal and Washington State, is the fourth offensive lineman on OU’s commit list.

OKLAHOMA STATE
Total commits: 8
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Cowboys will get the chance to impress receiver offer Ryan Newsome of Aledo, Texas, who plans to attend OSU’s season-opening tilt with Florida State on Saturday. Newsome tweeted his plans to join Cowboys commit Ronald Jones at the game. Newsome also has plans to officially visit OU and Texas, with Oregon, Tennessee and UCLA rounding out his official visit list.

TCU
Total commits: 16
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: One name to keep an eye on for the Horned Frogs could be Euless (Texas) Trinity defensive end Tipa Galeai. He doesn’t have an offer but visited the school last week and could be a long-term, developmental prospect to keep an eye on at 6-foot-6, 206 pounds. The three-star prospect boasts offers from Utah, Utah State and Washington State.

TEXAS
Total commits: 14
ESPN 300 commits: 7
The latest: Long Beach (California) Poly cornerback Iman Marshall, the No. 8 player in the ESPN300, started a buzz on Twitter last week by asking fans of OU and UT to help him decide where to go for his fifth official visit. He already plans to visit Florida State, LSU, Notre Dame and Michigan with his other officials.

TEXAS TECH
Total commits: 9
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Red Raiders reportedly offered Class of 2016 prospect Keith Corbin last week. The Beaumont (Texas) West Brook receiver also has an offer from Ole Miss. A big, athletic target at 6-2, 175 pounds, Corbin could see his offer list reach double digits.

WEST VIRGINIA
Total commits: 17
ESPN 300 commits: 2
The latest: WVU quarterback commitment David Sills had a terrific weekend, accounting for seven touchdowns in his team’s 58-56 overtime win over Spartanburg, South Carolina.
In today's mailbag, we discuss what team should be on upset alert Week 1, Baylor's front seven, Oklahoma's linebackers, Kansas' running backs and "College GameDay" possibilities this year for the Big 12.

As an aside, the season starts next week, which means we'll be looking to select our first guest picker of 2014. Click here and sell us on why you should be the Week 1 guest picker. And, as always, creativity counts.

Now, to the 'Bag:

Trotter: Iowa State. The Cyclones face the three-time defending FCS champs in North Dakota State, which toppled Kansas State in Manhattan last year. The Bison lost their coach, Craig Bohl, to Wyoming. Several key starters from last year are gone, too. But North Dakota State opened No. 2 in the FCS polls for a reason. Don't forget, Iowa State lost to Northern Iowa last season, as well. This is not a game the Cyclones can afford to play poorly in. Trotter: Eventually, yes. When, who knows? But it will happen. Trotter: Yes. Brandon Bourbon and Taylor Cox reportedly performed well this preseason, but so have De'Andre Mann and Corey Avery. I think the Jayhawks will be fine at running back -- provided nobody else there gets injured. Trotter: This has more to do with Trevone Boykin -- and the work he's put in this offseason -- than it does anyone else. Obviously Boykin has responded well to having Sonny Cumbie as his position coach. But Boykin has gotten into phenomenal shape and really focused on becoming a better quarterback. As result, it appears that he has. Trotter: Oklahoma is going to be fine at linebacker. Obviously the depth took a hit. But Jordan Evans showed as a true freshman last year that he can play at a high level. The Sooners would be better with Shannon on the field. But they're not going to be that much worse off without him, either. Trotter: I'm not sure Baylor is going to have the best front in the country, as Art Briles suggested in the spring. But it has a chance to be one of the three-best in the Big 12. Andrew Billings is one of the best young tackles in the league. Shawn Oakman has the ability to become a star. And Bryce Hager is one of the most proven linebackers in the conference. This has the potential to be a special group. Trotter: That would be tough. The Baylor loss would happen late in the season. It would rob Oklahoma of its best chance for landing a marquee win. And Baylor, by defeating the Sooners, would theoretically surge ahead in the Big 12 playoff pecking order. So I don't see Oklahoma making the playoff without a win over the Bears. Trotter: I can't see it, not this year at least. This isn't the Big 12 of 2008. Let's assume that the playoff would at the least include Florida State and the SEC champ. The Big 12 then getting two teams in would entail the playoff committee leaving out the champs from the Pac-12 and Big Ten, plus a potential second team from the SEC. There are a couple scenarios, however, where it might be feasible. Say Kansas State beats Auburn, loses at Oklahoma, but beats Baylor in the season finale. An 11-1 K-State would be an attractive second Big 12 playoff possibility (along with, say, an undefeated Oklahoma) because of the marquee non-conference victory over Auburn and the marquee win at the end of the season in Waco. So it's not impossible. Then again, it's probably more likely that the Big 12 gets left out completely than it gets two teams in. Trotter: Deante Burton is the player to watch. He had a big spring, and has the size and strength to go up and get the ball downfield. With every defense focused on containing Lockett, Burton should get plenty of one-to-one opportunities. Trotter: Some possibilities include: Baylor-Oklahoma on Nov. 8; the Red River Showdown on Oct. 11; Kansas State-Oklahoma on Oct. 18; Baylor-Texas on Oct. 4; and Oklahoma-Texas Tech on Nov. 15. Trotter: The fact that neither DeMarcus Robinson nor Charles Jones nor Jarvis Leverett seized the job in the spring gives Dalvin Warmack the chance. It's been radio silence in Manhattan the last week or so. But if Bill Snyder (who likes redshirting his freshmen) announces before the opener he's not going to redshirt Warmack, that will be the sign that Warmack is going to play a lot. Trotter: If West Virginia gets back to a bowl game facing such a difficult schedule, I would consider it to be a successful season. Especially with what the Mountaineers would have coming back for 2015. Trotter: Texas has one of the most iconic looks in all of college football. Many schools need alternate uniforms to grab the attention of recruits and generate energy in their programs. Texas is not one of them.

Position battle update: Kansas RB

August, 22, 2014
Aug 22
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With Brandon Bourbon and Taylor Cox lost for the season, the task of replacing one of the Kansas Jayhawks' top all-time rushers now falls on three newcomers. Here's where they stand:

Contenders: Freshman Corey Avery, junior De'Andre Mann, freshman Joe Dineen

Who they replace: James Sims finished his career in the No. 3 spot in the Kansas career record books in rushing yards with 3,592 yards and ranked No. 2 in rushing TDs and 100-yard games. He was the workhorse of the Jayhawks' offense and a 35-game starter. You can't replace a guy like that -- and all his production -- with just one back.

What they offer: Unpredictability. Who knows what to reasonably expect from this group?

Avery, a true freshman, was a four-star recruit from Dallas Carter and a critical find for this class. He chose Kansas over Nebraska two days before signing day, and that decision obviously looks wise now that he's walking into a chance to be a featured back from Day 1.

He's not particularly big or fast, but Avery is good in space and was very productive as a senior (1,667 yards, 10.5 yards per carry, 18 TDs). He was one of the most underrated backs in Texas last year and he has a big chance to shine. But you'd think Charlie Weis will want others to share the load.

Mann, a junior college transfer, put up huge numbers last year with 2,037 total yards and 30 TDs at Hartnell College. He was ESPN's No. 5 juco running back. Dineen is more of a wild card, a former three-star recruit who played quarterback in high school and safety early on in fall practice. He moved because of Kansas' shortage of rushers.

One stat that matters in this conversation: The Rice offense that new KU offensive coordinator John Reagan oversaw last year averaged 49.9 rushes per game. This offense should pound the rock, no matter who's in the backfield.

Prediction: Kansas divvies up the carries, at least until a reliable option emerges. Avery and Mann each get 10-15 carries a game to start off and quarterback Montell Cozart chips in 10-plus rushes a game, including in the option game. You could also see some jet sweeps with receivers Nick Harwell and Tony Pierson. It's a good thing Kansas has a first-week bye, because that's extra time to prepare for what could be a challenging situation.

Big 12 preseason recruiting report card 

August, 22, 2014
Aug 22
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Currently, 119 athletes in the 2015 class have announced their verbal commitments to play college football in the Big 12. Of those players, 23 are ESPN 300 athletes -- and there’s still plenty of time for the conference to land more of the nation’s best.

Look for an uptick in conference recruiting as the fall approaches, but here’s an analysis on how Big 12 teams are looking as of now for the Class of 2015.


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Big 12 morning links

August, 22, 2014
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Kevin Durant offered $265 million? Is he worth it? The answer may surprise you.
  • Lane Kiffin's arrival at Alabama creates some uncertainty for West Virginia, writes Mike Casazza of the Charleston Daily Mail. A new quarterback and new offensive coordinator is making it difficult for the Mountaineers' new defensive coordinator Tony Gibson to prepare for the Crimson Tide. Even with all the uncertainty, nothing will matter if WVU cannot stop the run. If Alabama wins the battle up front and the Crimson Tide's exceptional running backs find room to roam, it won't matter who is taking the snaps or calling the plays.
  • Texas coach Charlie Strong detailed the Longhorns' starters on Thursday, with multiple freshman and walk-ons showing up in the mix for a starting role in Strong's first season. Safety Jason Hall, tackle Darius James are among the freshman who could become starters while sophomore walk-ons Dylan Haines, a safety, and Ty Templin, a receiver, could end up earning roles. It's a clear sign everyone began with a clean slate under Strong and the new coach is willing to give anyone, no matter class or scholarship status, a chance to contribute if they show the commitment he's requiring from his players.
  • On Thursday, Mike Gundy did everything but name J.W. Walsh the starting quarterback for Oklahoma State's opening game against Florida State, writes Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman. If indeed Walsh does start for the Cowboys it would be the right move for Gundy's squad. The junior has the most experience and he's the best runner of the quarterbacks on campus. With relatively an unproven offensive line set to battle the defending national champions, Walsh brings traits that could allow OSU to test the Seminoles ability to handle a game plan full of quarterback run game.
  • The bulk of Kansas' freshman class talked to the media for the first time on Thursday, with running back Corey Avery getting plenty of attention after the Jayhawks lost a pair of senior running backs earlier this week. But fellow freshman Kyron Watson, a linebacker, sounds like he's been just as impressive as Avery on the defensive side of the ball. Weis calls Watson a "sideline-to-sideline" player and the ESPN300 linebacker is expected to play as a true freshman for the Jayhawks. So keep an eye on Watson as KU could have its understudy for Ben Heeney already on campus.
  • Last but not least, this terrific read from Kellis Robinett of the Kansas City Star reveals Ryan Mueller's journey from overlooked prep recruit to sack master at Kansas State. Mueller has become known for hard work, on and off the field. He is the Big 12's leading returning sack leader with 11.5 in 2013, more than Texas' Cedric Reed, Oklahoma's Eric Striker and other Big 12 defenders who enter the season with more preseason hype. Bold prediction: Mueller reaches double-digit sacks for the second season and makes those who think he is a flash in the pan regret questioning his ability.

Big 12 morning links

August, 21, 2014
Aug 21
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At least we don't have to worry about volcanoes canceling any games in Big 12 country.
  • The Ames Tribune's Bobby La Gesse has a piece on how exactly Sam B. Richardson reclaimed Iowa State's starting quarterback job. According to La Geese, Richardson's comeback was fivefold: He cleaned the slate, packed on the pounds, developed his pocket presence, increased his sense of urgency and began speaking up in the huddle. Amidst a preseason full of ugly storylines in the league, Richardson's resurgence has been one of the positive developments. The Cyclones have long been searching for their long-term answer at quarterback. Richardson's unforeseen upturn offers hope Iowa State might have finally uncovered that answer.
  • The plan along for the Texas Tech offensive line has been to start Dominique Robertson at left tackle, and slide All-Big 12 performer Le'Raven Clark inside to guard. But according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal's Don Williams, Clark is back at left tackle, while Robertson is working with the second team. Ideally, the Red Raiders would like to keep Clark inside, where he would boost the running game. But they're not about to take any chances protecting the blind side of quarterback Davis Webb. If there is any doubt about Robertson, Clark is going to be at left tackle -- even if that means changing the original plan.
  • Though losing running backs Brandon Bourbon and Taylor Cox to season-ending injuries was a blow, the Jayhawks can take solace in the camps that freshman Corey Avery and junior-college transfer De'Andre Mann have produced so far. "Corey and De'Andre, they both had amazing camps," said Kansas linebacker Ben Heeney. "They are both exceptional players and they're going to do very good." The injuries were certainly a setback, but the Jayhawks still might have enough in the cupboard to take a much needed step forward offensively. Nick Harwell and Tony Pierson form the best receiving duo Kansas has enjoyed since Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe roamed Lawrence. Montell Cozart has reportedly progressed this camp. And the players have responded well so far to new offensive coordinator John Reagan and his spread offense.
  • Baylor coach Art Briles said sophomore receiver Corey Coleman's hamstring injury is still healing and his return is uncertain. The Bears already lost veteran receiver Clay Fuller for weeks because of a broken clavicle, and before that, Robbie Rhodes, who was dismissed during the offseason. Coleman seemed primed to be one of the league's breakout players this season, and he still could be. But such injuries have cracked the door even more for true freshman wideout K.D. Cannon to make a big splash early in the Baylor attack.
  • Texas defensive tackle Desmond Jackson said he's tired of everybody saying the Longhorns' defense is "soft." There's one easy way to change that. Don't give up 550 rushing yards this time around to BYU.

 

 
The Wall Street Journal took an interesting look at how college football’s coaches have fared against AP Top 25 teams during their careers. Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops has the best overall record at 50-23, a clear sign of the program’s consistency and success in big games under the veteran coach. He’s earned the nickname “Big Game Bob.”

Here’s a look at how each Big 12 coach has fared against the AP Top 25 at their current school. For a look at their career record, you can go to the original piece on The Wall Street Journal’s website.

Art Briles at Baylor: 7-19

Paul Rhoads at Iowa State: 4-19

Charlie Weis at Kansas: 0-8

Bill Snyder at Kansas State: 23-43

Bob Stoops at Oklahoma: 50-23

Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State: 15-20

Gary Patterson at TCU: 14-14

Charlie Strong at Texas: 0-0 (2-2 at Louisville)

Kliff Kingsbury at Texas Tech: 2-3

Dana Holgorsen at West Virginia: 5-6

A few quick thoughts:
  • These numbers just reinforce Stoops' ability to win games against top competition. People like to point at OU’s Allstate Sugar Bowl win over Alabama as the return of “Big Game Bob” but that conveniently overlooks road wins at Florida State and Notre Dame in games that garnered plenty of national attention in the past three years.
  • It shouldn’t be a surprise to see Gary Patterson join Stoops as the lone current Big 12 coaches with a record of .500 or better against AP Top 25 teams. A couple of substandard seasons in the Big 12 shouldn’t completely erase years of dominating performances from the Horned Frogs under Patterson.
  • It’s quite revealing to see Kingsbury has faced more AP Top 25 teams than Strong. In one season at Tech, Kingsbury saw a Top 25 squad five different times yet Strong coached four games against AP Top 25 teams in four seasons at Louisville. It will be interesting to see how Strong handles the clear step up in competition, week in and week out.
  • Four wins against AP Top 25 teams shows the ability of Paul Rhoads to get the best out of his Iowa State teams. His 4-19 record isn’t great but it could be a lot worse.
  • Bill Snyder and Mike Gundy rank second and third in total wins against AP Top 25 teams which is to be expected as Snyder at KSU and Gundy at OSU have taken their programs to previously unseen levels during their time as head coach at their respective schools.
  • Holgorsen's 5-6 record is solid, particularly for a coach on the hot seat heading into the season. His five wins against AP Top 25 teams in three seasons at WVU could be one reason not to overlook the Mountaineers' chances to surprise in 2014.
With the opening weekend of college football just a little more than a week away, we make some calls on who some of the top passers, rushers and receivers might be:

After Bryce Petty, Davis Webb, Trevor Knight and Jake Waters, who will lead the Big 12 in passing?

Chatmon: This is a tough one, but I’m going to go with West Virginia’s Clint Trickett. The Mountaineers have the skill-position talent to support Trickett, and the senior has a year of experience in Dana Holgorsen’s offense under his belt. I fully expect to see an improved Mountaineers’ offense and Trickett should play a key role in that improvement.

Olson: Gee, we’ve really narrowed that down, haven’t we? The best way I can put my answer is this: Oklahoma State will finish with more passing yards as a team than Texas, so I guess I have to go with J.W. Walsh. While I can envision Daxx Garman earning a couple starts at some point, I still think Walsh will put up good numbers. David Ash might be a smarter choice here, but his injury history makes it a tough call.

Trotter: I can’t pick any of the quarterbacks from Oklahoma State or TCU, since it’s still unclear how much any of them will play. And I can’t go with Montell Cozart, given that his best asset right now is his wheels. That leaves Ash, Trickett and Sam B. Richardson. Ash has an injury history. Then again, so do Trickett and Richardson.And while West Virginia and Iowa State have other intriguing quarterback options, Texas really does not.This is Ash’s show. And he has shown at times in the past he has the ability to put up big passing numbers.

[+] EnlargeJohnathan Gray
David K Purdy/Getty ImagesJohnathan Gray is a consensus pick to lead the Big 12 in rushing this season.
Who will lead the league in rushing?

Chatmon: Johnathan Gray is a easy choice for me. A healthy Gray is easily the best running back in the Big 12, and Texas’ offense will be built around its running game. Gray, who has a 4.8 yards-per-carry average in his career, will get plenty of opportunities, and he will take advantage of them.

Olson: Gray. It’s a really difficult prediction because I do think Shock Linwood will surpass 1,000 yards. I also think Baylor loves Devin Chafin and Johnny Jefferson enough that there’s going to be a equitable sharing of carries in Waco. Texas, meanwhile, won’t have Baylor’s passing game and should go all-in on a run-first mentality. Gray was on pace for more than 1,100 yards last year before his Achilles tear. He’s healthy again, and I think he can have a huge year.

Trotter: I have to agree with Brandon and Max. When healthy, Gray has proven to be the best all-around back in the league, and he is the best bet here. But keep an eye on Oklahoma State running back Tyreek Hill. If the Cowboys make him their offensive workhorse, he has the big-play ability to have a monster season. Sure, durability would be a question. But speed would not.

After Tyler Lockett and Antwan Goodley, who will lead the Big 12 in receiving?

Chatmon: Jakeem Grant immediately comes to mind here, but I’m going to go with Oklahoma’s Sterling Shepard. The Sooners’ passing game should be improved with an improved Knight, and Shepard has the skills to make defenses play for leaving him in one-on-one situations. Grant will garner increased attention from secondaries while Shepard, helped by OU’s running game, should have more chances to make game-changing plays.

Olson: Did you know: In 2013, six of the Big 12’s top eight receivers in yardage played for either Baylor or Texas Tech. So I would be pretty stupid not to go with Grant here. Not only was he one of those six and very productive as a No. 3 option, but he’s also going to get a nice chunk of the 106 receptions (!) and 152 targets (!!!) that went to Jace Amaro last year. Tech’s No. 2 option, Eric Ward, had more catches (83) and targets (122) than Goodley. That’s insane. Grant is going to feast on their leftovers.

Trotter: Grant missed two games and was the third banana in Tech’s passing offense last year. And he still finished sixth in the league in receiving. With Ward and Amaro gone, Grant will take over as the Red Raiders’ primary receiving threat. And with quarterback Webb budding with confidence and the Red Raiders primed to air it out, Grant is easily the best bet here.

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