Big 12: TCU Horned Frogs

Big 12 morning links

August, 19, 2014
Aug 19
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A lot of good tweets out there about Johnny Manziel's gesture to the Washington Redskins on "Monday Night Football," but my favorite? The excuse his agent came up with. Good times. On to the links:
  • The final verdict on Joe Mixon's discipline Monday -- a one-season suspension and removal from the roster -- evoked an excellent column from Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman, who writes that no matter what a courtroom decides, Mixon will always been the guy who hit the girl. Powerful stuff, and Tramel is dead-on. Mixon is now stuck with a reputation that will endure well beyond one football season. He's right, too, that if the video gets released this might get worse for the freshman running back. John E. Hoover of the Tulsa World mentions an OU precedent Mixon might want to follow: Dusty Dvoracek, who rejoined the Sooners a year after a similar incident and still had a productive career.
  • Gary Patterson made his quarterback decision Monday night: There is no decision. Trevone Boykin and Matt Joeckel will both play in the season opener against Samford on Aug. 30. As Carlos Mendez of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports, it's as much a strategy move as an indicator of indecision. He took the same approach to prep for LSU last season, all the way down to putting both Boykin and Casey Pachall on the field for TCU's first offensive snap. Realistically, Patterson wants to see what both do against Samford so he can reassess during the bye week before hosting Minnesota. Gotta have a more clear-cut plan by then, right?
  • Meanwhile, at Iowa State, a definitive call: Sam B. Richardson will start at quarterback. Randy Peterson of the Des Moines Register writes that Richardson's push to win the job was an inspiring one. He was the No. 3 quarterback to play in the spring game, and now he's back on top thanks to a determined rally this summer. He deserves major props for that comeback, and Paul Rhoads believe Richardson has been excellent in fall practice. Bobby La Gesse of the Ames Tribune points out that what ISU really needs is the Richardson who nearly upset Texas a year ago.
  • Baylor's McLane Stadium opens in two weeks and is 99 percent complete. The Waco Tribune had a thorough recap of the tour reporters were given of stadium on Monday as the final touches come together. Baylor also unveiled an iPhone app that lets you watch replays right from your seat. If you want a closer look, the Dallas Morning News has a great gallery. I went on that tour and, I have to say, that place is a gem. The locker room, recruiting room and suites definitely stood out, as did (selfishly) the greatly expanded press box. We'll see how it handles a crowd of 45,000, but so far McLane Stadium is living up to the hype.
  • Two teams facing tough questions at cornerback right now: Texas Tech and West Virginia. In Lubbock, true freshmen Jah'Shawn Johnson and Tevin Madison have both impressed and are poised to make the two-deep, if not become starters. At WVU, MetroNews is reporting Ishmael Banks, a 12-game starter last year, could be academically ineligible this season. Both programs feel they have a good No. 1 corner in Justis Nelson and Daryl Worley, respectively, but these No. 2 cornerback spots are critical position battles that will have a real effect on how these inconsistent defenses bounce back in 2014.

Position battle update: TCU QB

August, 18, 2014
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TCU will soon have an answer to its offseason-long question of who will replace Casey Pachall. Here's what we know:

Contenders: Senior Matt Joeckel, junior Trevone Boykin

Not contenders: Freshmen Foster Sawyer and Grayson Muehlstein are both expected to redshirt this fall, according to TCU coach Gary Patterson.

What they replace: While Pachall's final two seasons at TCU might best be described as rocky, he did leave Fort Worth as one of the school's top three all-time passers in completions, passing yards and passing TDs while ranking first in completion percentage. Between his suspension in 2012 and his injuries in 2013, Pachall was at times unreliable for this Horned Frog offense. Still, he started 23 career games and isn't easy to replace.

What they offer: Now that's what makes this competition so interesting, because each one brings a different kind of experience to the table.

Joeckel has the experience of operating an Air Raid offense with confidence, and that's crucial as TCU makes its transition to an offense that should resemble what we've seen from Oklahoma State and Texas Tech in recent years. He's had great mentors in Kevin Sumlin, Jake Spavital and Kliff Kingsbury. He has prototypical size and, after four years on the bench in College Station, he's hungry.

The downside is Joeckel showed up in June. He had a ton of catching up to do and he's done an admirable job so far, but not enough to lock down the job from Day 1.

Boykin brings a different kind of experience: He knows this team. The players know him. He's won a few games with them. He dropped 15 pounds this offseason and is in the best shape of his life. The OCs are new to him, but otherwise, this is Boykin's fourth year in the program. He says working with Sonny Cumbie has raised his game. And he happens to be one of the best athletes on the team.

The only problem with that is, if this race is dead even, is TCU better off going with Joeckel knowing that Boykin can still be a dynamic receiver? Wouldn't you prefer to have both on the field? Boykin is playing QB throughout camp with every intention of winning that job, but no doubt that idea was crossed Patterson's mind.

Prediction: We all expected Joeckel to win this in the end, but I'm betting on Boykin. There seems to be real enthusiasm about how he responded to competition this summer. Realistically, though, TCU's best course of action might be to use both QBs in their opener against Samford and then re-evaluate during the two weeks they have to prep for Minnesota.

Big 12 recruiting scorecard

August, 18, 2014
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We're less than two weeks away from the season and only 170 days away from national signing day. Here's your weekly update on where each Big 12 program stands on the recruiting front:

BAYLOR
Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: ESPN 300 WR Chad President made it official: He's now a Baylor Bear. President, who's been committed since last summer, inked financial aid papers with the Bears this week. Coach Art Briles appears intent to let the 6-foot-3, 195-pound standout from nearby Temple, Texas, play quarterback when he enrolls early.

IOWA STATE
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: ISU will soon get a visit from one of their top targets, junior college CB Antoine Albert of Diablo Valley College in California. The 6-foot-2 defender has seen his offer list grow considerably -- now including Tennessee and Arizona -- but Iowa State got in the mix early and has to like its chances.

KANSAS
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Jayhawks are having a hard time winning recruiting battles within their own state. That'll make the guys KU can get even more important. Keep an eye on safety Darreon Jackson from Derby, Kansas. He's a move-in who came from a big-time Texas program, Mesquite Horn, where he earned all-district honors at linebacker. Charlie Weis' staff should like its chances with him.

KANSAS STATE
Total commits: 9
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Wildcats continue to do an impressive job of locking down their backyard. Their latest pledge came from three-star OT Evan Applegate, who's listed at 6-foot-7 and 280 pounds. Applegate turned down offers from Arkansas, Oklahoma State and Nebraska to join a KSU class that's off to a nice start.

OKLAHOMA
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 5
The latest: The Sooners have missed on a bunch of big-time offensive line targets, but they got a good one last week in Cody Ford. OU coaches convinced the three-star offensive guard from Pineville, Louisiana, to back out of his six-month pledge to TCU and join fellow linemen Bobby Evans and Dominique Hearne in their class.

OKLAHOMA STATE
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: OSU beefed up its offensive line class last week with the addition of three-star tackle Joshua Jones and junior college tackle Brandon Pertile. Jones, one of the top linemen in the Houston area, chose the Pokes over Texas Tech and TCU. Pertile spent one year at Georgia State before enrolling at Mesa Community College in Arizona.

TCU
Total commits: 16
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: TCU has joined what should end up being a long list of suitors for 2016 DE Erick Fowler. The ESPN Junior 300 defender from Manor, Texas, went up to Fort Worth last week to watch a fall practice and went home with an offer. He now has at least six, and that list will continue to grow.

TEXAS
Total commits: 14
ESPN 300 commits: 7
The latest: The Longhorns are among the top contenders for Mesquite (Texas) Poteet teammates LB Malik Jefferson and ATH DeAndre McNeal, and both have decided to announce their decisions in late December. McNeal might project out best as a linebacker in college, but he now says he wants to play offense. They'll take their official visit to out-of-state schools, and one lucky program could snag both for Christmas.

TEXAS TECH
Total commits: 9
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The leaders of Tech's class, ESPN 300 recruits Jarrett Stidham and Breiden Fehoko, are both set to enroll early and have now signed financial aid papers with the school. The ability to unofficially sign in August is a beneficial deal for all involved, because Tech coaches are now permitted unlimited calls and visits (and even public tweets) with their top two committed guys.

WEST VIRGINIA
Total commits: 17
ESPN 300 commits: 2
The latest: The Mountaineers already have two QBs committed for their 2015 class, but they could be chasing another in Lamar Jackson. The three-star dual-threat passer from Boynton Beach, Florida, reportedly intends to take an official visit to Morgantown this fall and will also check out Nebraska. With David Sills and Chris Chugunov already on board, it'll be interesting to see how seriously WVU pursues him.
Today, we debut our Big 12 true freshman power rankings, which we’ll update occasionally through August and the season. This list combines the factors of playing time and potential impact.

Without further ado, the Big 12 freshman power ranks:

1. Dravon Henry, FS, West Virginia: After just a few months in Morgantown, Henry is pushing to be the starting free safety for the opener against Alabama, another team that also recruited him hard. The ultra-athletic Henry could also be a factor in the return game. He and cornerback Daryl Worley give the Mountaineers potentially two of the best young defensive backs in the Big 12.

2. Allen Lazard, WR, Iowa State: The gem of Iowa State’s recruiting class has not disappointed this preseason. He is already getting first-team reps alongside Quenton Bundrage and E.J. Bibbs. If he continues to progress, Lazard could round out a dynamic pass-catching trio.

3. K.D. Cannon, WR, Baylor: Cannon is behind Lazard, but only because the Bears are loaded at wide receiver. Cannon has been equally as impressive. Baylor coach Art Briles acknowledged that Cannon has proved to be even faster than he thought while recruiting him.

4. Armanti Foreman, WR, Texas: Foreman has taken full advantage of the injuries and dismissals Texas has endured at the wide receiving position this preseason. He might even have a chance to start the opener against North Texas.

5. Corey Avery, RB, Kansas: Avery could be heir in the Kansas backfield to departed All-Big 12 running back James Sims. Avery has wowed with his ability to make defenders miss and has recently begun to receive first-team snaps.

6. Dimitri Flowers, FB, Oklahoma: The Sooners raved about Flowers in the spring before he suffered an injury in the spring game. The 220-pound Flowers, who has drawn comparisons to former Oklahoma fullback Trey Millard, is healthy again and figures to be a big part of the Sooners’ pistol attack.

7. James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State: Up until late in the recruiting process, this small-school Texas standout’s only other offer was from Texas State. But the Cowboys have apparently uncovered a diamond in the rough in Washington, who has been turning heads with his knack for catching any pass in his direction. Oklahoma State is deep at receiver, but Washington has played himself into a rotation role.

8. William Crest, QB, West Virginia: Clint Trickett was named the starter over the summer, but Crest is vying to become West Virginia’s second-team quarterback. That could be a critical role, considering Trickett’s injury history. Dana Holgorsen also has hinted at installing a special offensive package for his athletic quarterback.

9. Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech: Davis Webb is the clear-cut starter in Lubbock, but Mahomes is showing he might be ready to be a reliable backup. Mahomes tossed five touchdown passes during a scrimmage over the weekend. That might also be an indictment of Tech’s second-team defense. But even against air, five touchdowns is impressive.

10. Emanuel Porter, WR, TCU: With Trevone Boykin still working at quarterback, the Horned Frogs need help at receiver. They’ve been getting it from Porter, who has impressed the coaching staff with his penchant for making big plays downfield.

On the radar: Dalvin Warmack, RB, Kansas State; Jeffery Mead, WR, Oklahoma; Justin Stockton, RB, Texas Tech

Big 12 morning links

August, 14, 2014
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I had Peanut Butter Crunch while writing these morning links. What will you have while reading them?
  • I've always felt that Texas A&M transfer Matt Joeckel would eventually emerge as the starter in TCU's quarterback competition. Maybe that assertion was wrong. Coach Gary Patterson told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Travis L. Brown that after TCU's second scrimmage Tuesday, Trevone Boykin holds a slight edge over Joeckel in the quarterback battle. I still contend it makes sense to start Joeckel at quarterback and Boykin at wide receiver. Joeckel has more experience in the offense TCU is attempting to install, and Boykin instantly would become one of TCU's best receivers. But if Boykin is clearly the better quarterback this preseason, Patterson will have to start him. By the way, kudos to TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte for adding California to the future schedule. The Horned Frogs now have home-and-homes coming up with Minnesota (2014-15), Arkansas (2016-17), Ohio State (2018-19) and Cal (2020-21). That's solid.
  • Several times we've written about the talent and potential of the Big 12's true freshman skill class. But one player we've overlooked is Kansas running back Corey Avery, who has been turning heads in Lawrence this preseason, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal's Jesse Newell. Avery has been getting carries with the first-team offense, and could be the instant successor to James Sims in the Kansas backfield. Maybe this shouldn't be so surprising. Avery was one of the gems of Charlie Weis' signing class in February, choosing the Jayhawks over Baylor, LSU and Ohio State.
  • Iowa State's already-thin defensive line has taken yet another hit. Junior college defensive end Gabe Luna might have to redshirt after injuring his back, the Ames Tribune's Bobby La Gesse reports. The Cyclones have already lost incoming defensive tackle Terry Ayeni to a torn ACL, as well as tackles David Irving and Rodney Coe, who were booted from the team in the spring. The Cyclones still have good players up front. End Cory Morrissey was an honorable mention All-Big 12 pick last year. Noseguard Brandon Jensen has started to come on again after rejoining the team after spring ball. But Iowa State's depth up front has been decimated. That's a scary way to begin the season for a unit that finished last in the league in 2013 in sacks and rushing yards allowed.
  • When it comes to his quarterbacks, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy likes to keep things mysterious. This year is no different, writes The Oklahoman's Kyle Fredrickson. Gundy has yet to name veteran J.W. Walsh his starter. And he curiously said at a booster event last week that former walk-on Daxx Garman would get 10-15 snaps in the Florida State game. Who knows what will happen with Oklahoma State's QB situation, given the track record of the last two seasons. But it's worth keeping an eye on Garman. Because of his leadership and experience, Walsh remains the front-runner to start the opener. But Garman's superior arm strength could ultimately be a better fit for this Oklahoma State offense, which is loaded with wide receivers that can make plays in the passing game downfield.
  • Kansas State's Tyler Lockett and Baylor's Antwan Goodley are the league's only returning 1,000-yard receivers. But don't sleep on West Virginia's Mario Alford being a contender to pass the 1,000-yard barrier in Dana Holgorsen's offense. As the Charleston Gazette's Dave Hickman points out, Alford really came on late last season with 450 receiving yards in the Mountaineers' final four games after being moved from the slot to the outside. With better quarterback continuity and a year of experience behind him, Alford could be in for a big season.

TCU Horned Frogs season preview

August, 13, 2014
Aug 13
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video
» More team previews: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC 


Previewing the 2014 season for the TCU Horned Frogs:

Key returners: DT Chucky Hunter, S Sam Carter, CB Kevin White, RB B.J. Catalon, QB Trevone Boykin

Key losses: DE Devonte Fields, CB Jason Verrett, QB Casey Pachall, WR Brandon Carter

Most important 2014 games: Oct. 4 vs. Oklahoma, Oct. 11 at Baylor, Nov. 8 vs. Kansas State

Projected win percentage: 58.4 percent

Over/under Vegas odds: 8 wins

[+] EnlargeSam Carter
Andrew Dieb/Icon SMIThe Horned Frogs hope safety Sam Carter helps lead one of the Big 12's best defenses.
Instant impact newcomers: Quarterback Matt Joeckel. Johnny Manziel's backup at Texas A&M made the move to TCU this summer with the intention of winning the starting job. He is comfortable running an Air Raid offense, which gives the senior a leg up on his peers, but Gary Patterson still says the quarterback competition is wide open.

High point from 2013: Beating Iowa State 21-17. Boykin scored with 38 seconds left, one of his three rushing touchdowns of the day, helping the Horned Frogs stop a three-game losing streak. Some might say the way TCU battled then-No. 9 Baylor in the season finale was a higher high, but that ended in a tough 41-38 loss.

Low point from 2013: Losing to Kansas State 33-31. K-State kicker Jack Cantele drilled a 41-yard field goal with 3 seconds left to stun TCU after the Horned Frogs had taken the lead late in Manhattan. That loss put TCU at 4-7 and ineligible for a bowl game for the first time since 2004.

Best-case scenario for 2014: The new-look offense engineered by Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie gets rolling under Joeckel's guidance, the defense is one of the Big 12's best and the Horned Frogs shock Baylor and Texas Tech and start the season 7-1. The Frogs lose intense, close games against K-State and at Texas, but at 9-3, they aren't complaining.

Worst-case scenario for 2014: TCU loses three of its first five (Minnesota, Oklahoma, Baylor) and can't seem to figure out the right fit at quarterback. Start off that way, and the schedule suddenly looks a lot scarier. Throw in a few injuries, and worst case, you're talking about potentially another 4-8 or 5-7 season.

X factor: Close games. Let's recap last season: TCU was within three points of LSU in the fourth quarter, tied 10-10 with Texas Tech midway through the fourth, trailed 13-10 for most of the fourth against Oklahoma, cut it to 17-10 in the fourth against Oklahoma State, went to overtime against West Virginia, led 31-30 with 2 minutes left at Kansas State and was in field goal range down three points in the final minute against Baylor. They lost them all. The probability of that happening again seems slim.

They said it: "I think the key is to find the guy that has the swagger, that allows us to move the football, score the points and the guy that's not going to turn the ball over. Felt like last year, if we just would have done that, we would have had an opportunity to win a couple more ballgames. So really that's what we're trying. But we don't really have a timetable or anything else. It's just finding that guy that makes the offense go, and when you put all the pieces of the puzzle together, what makes us the best football team we can possibly be." -- Patterson on the quarterback battle.
February is still months away, which means there is plenty of time for all of the Big 12 programs to fill holes in much-needed spots. With signing day on Feb. 4, conference programs are hoping the next few weeks will be beneficial from a recruiting standpoint.

Here are some must-get 2015 recruits who will help bolster each Big 12 school’s recruiting class.

TCU's new offense is a receiver’s dream.

"This is the type of offense a receiver wants to be in," Horned Frogs receiver David Porter said. "You get to spread the defense out and get the ball in open spaces."

Bragging rights among TCU’s skill guys are up for grabs and on the minds of playmakers like Porter and running back B.J. Catalon.

[+] EnlargeDavid Porter
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsReceiver David Porter is excited about the potential for big plays in TCU's up-tempo offense.
"We talk about that every day," said Porter who rooms with Catalon. "Who is going to have the most catches? Who is going to make the most plays. We’re always talking about this offense."

Yet the Horned Frogs’ new up-tempo attack won’t mean TCU will be abandoning the running game. When Mike Leach’s "Air Raid" style attack is at the root of an offense, the assumption tends to be made that moving the ball on the ground is a thing of the past. That belief is well-earned, evidenced by Leach’s Washington State squad ranking last among FBS teams at 18.7 rush attempts per game in 2013.

Yet new offensive coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie aren’t expected to put TCU’s talented running backs on the cupboard shelf. As the Leach offense has grown and expanded, with several different guys putting their spin on it, the running game has become a integral part of its success at several different places, including Oklahoma State, where Meacham helped the Cowboys rank in the top five nationally in total offense from 2010-12 before his lone season at Houston.

In 2013, Houston averaged 33.5 rush attempts per game with Meacham at the helm and Texas Tech, Cumbie’s former team, averaged 32.7 rush attempts per game. Those rush attempt per game numbers are music to the ears of TCU center Joey Hunt.

"I came from an offense in high school where we ran the ball all the time," Hunt said. "I want to continue to run the ball, too, [so we] have big plays running and passing.”

Up-tempo spread offenses at OSU, Texas Tech, West Virginia and Baylor are known for their high-flying passing games, yet OSU and Baylor averaged more rush attempts than pass attempts a year ago. Not surprisingly, those two squads found themselves in the thick of the Big 12 title race in November.

Balance is key.

"You have to run the ball," Hunt said. "We want to have a balanced offense. Be able to run the ball when we need to and pass the ball when we need to."

Having that ability is arguably the thing that separated Baylor’s offense from the rest last season. The Bears could throw when they wanted to throw or run when they wanted to run, and both aspects of the offense set up the other.

With Meacham and Cumbie in charge, TCU hopes to do the same. The tempo has increased, with Porter calling it "crazy" and Hunt admitting "it’s different" and noting that he has taken on a centerpiece role in the tempo change as the guy who gets on the ball and sets the rhythm for the entire offense.

It is creating excitement and anticipation for TCU’s offense to debut on Aug. 30 against Samford, because it’s not just a new offensive system the Horned Frogs' OC duo has brought to Fort Worth, Texas.

"They have swagger and confidence," Hunt said. "And that’s what our offense needs."

Big 12 recruiting scorecard

August, 11, 2014
Aug 11
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You aren't the only one interested in the start of preseason camp at various Big 12 schools. Several recruits have taken the opportunity to visit during preseason preparations to get a better feel for what to expect at each program as recruiting heats up.

BAYLOR
Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Manor (Texas) defensive end Erick Fowler, ranked No. 192 in the ESPNJr300, visited Baylor this week. His offers include Baylor, Nebraska, Oklahoma and UCLA. The four-star prospect has the ability to play defensive end or linebacker at the collegiate level.

IOWA STATE
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Cyclones landed a commitment from receiver Denver Johnson (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma/Casady) last week. At 6-foot-3, 212 pounds, the three-star playmaker would bring terrific size to ISU’s receiving corps. After a slow start, the Cyclones have secured nine commitments since June.

KANSAS
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: Former Maryland receiver Nigel King joined the Jayhawks and is eligible immediately. He has the ability to help KU’s passing attack after 33 receptions for 450 yards and four touchdowns for the Terps in 2013. A graduate transfer, King will be a junior this season.

KANSAS STATE
Total commits: 8
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Wildcats have entered the chase for Rancho Santa Margarita (California) Catholic High School prospect Austin Maihen with an reported offer to the 6-foot-5, 285 pound tackle. KSU joins Northern Arizona and San Diego State on his offer list.

OKLAHOMA
Total commits: 9
ESPN 300 commits: 5
The latest: ESPN300 safety Jamile Johnson Jr. (Dallas/South Oak Cliff) decided to decommit from the Sooners and re-open his recruiting last week. The Sooners no longer appear to be in the race for his services with Johnson after finding themselves on the outside looking in when he released his top 5 schools later in the week.

OKLAHOMA STATE
Total commits: 8
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Cowboys joined TCU and Baylor as stops for elite 2017 defensive end Anthony Hines (Plano, Texas/East) last week. Currently committed to Mississippi State, Hines already has around 50 offers and spent the week making stops at several schools in the region.

TCU
Total commits: 17
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: Gary Patterson’s desire to switch offenses to, in part, help recruiting is paying off for the Horned Frogs. TCU’s commitment list is tied with West Virginia as the biggest in the conference and features at least five receivers as it looks to add firepower to its new up-tempo passing attack.

TEXAS
Total commits: 14
ESPN 300 commits: 7
The latest: Texas joined Oklahoma as one of five teams that are scheduled to get an official visit from ESPN300 receiver Ryan Newsome. The Aledo (Texas) standout plans to visit UT on Oct. 4 and the Sooners on Nov. 8. Newsome is the No. 173 player in the ESPN300.

TEXAS TECH
Total commits: 9
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Red Raiders continued to make a statement on the recruiting trail with the pledge of Arlington (Texas) Bowie tackle Madison Akamnonu. The No. 248 player in the ESPN300, Akamnonu picked Tech over Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and TCU.

WEST VIRGINIA
Total commits: 17
ESPN 300 commits: 2
The latest: Dana Holgorsen’s program continues to have success in Florida, earning a commitment from Miami (Florida) Norland cornerback Antonio Howard. A three-star prospect, Howard picked WVU over offers from Clemson, Penn State and others. Seven of the Mountaineers’ 17 pledges are from Florida.

Big 12 Power Rankings: Preseason

August, 11, 2014
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In today’s mailbag, we discuss OU’s limbo players, Oklahoma State QB J.W. Walsh, Kansas State running back Dalvin Warmack, TCU coach Gary Patterson and whether the Red River Showdown would ever become a night game.

I took Twitter questions for this mailbag. But you can always submit a mailbag entry the traditional way by clicking here.

On to the 'bag:
Trotter: I have a bunch of favorites. Hideaway Pizza in Stillwater. Spanky's in Lubbock. Vitek's BBQ in Waco. They have a Primanti Bros. in Morgantown now. I always hit the Pappasito's near TCU's campus on the way out of Fort Worth. There are 20 places I like to eat at in Austin. I've never been to Hickory Park, but that's on my bucket list next time I'm in Ames.

Trotter: Can we wager on this?

Trotter: Not even a little. He's one of the main reasons TCU is even in the Big 12 with a new stadium. The last couple of years have been ugly, on and off the field. But two mediocre seasons while transitioning into a new conference do not wipe out Patterson's previously sterling track record.

Trotter: No chance. Officials at both schools would be nervous of what might transpire in the stands and out in the fair (where beer is served) between the burnt orange and crimson fan bases if that game were played at night.

Trotter: He has a chance. None of the veterans have seized that job yet. That keeps the door cracked for Warmack to be a factor, especially if he shines this preseason or early in the year if/when he gets a shot on the field.

Trotter: I'm going to guess zero. If Joe Mixon indeed hit a woman and broke bones in her face, he should have to sit out this season at the very, very least, regardless of the circumstances. But, the longer this Norman police investigation lingers, the more it makes you wonder...

Trotter: The Cowboys really, really want J.W. Walsh to be their guy. He's the leader of this team, and brings the toughness that you crave from your quarterback. But Daxx Garman's skill set is a better fit for the scheme Oklahoma State wants to run. Unlike Walsh, he has the arm strength to get the ball downfield to the receivers, which is the strongest position group on the entire team. Walsh is the quarterback. But if the offense bogs down again, as it did early last year, I think the staff will have no choice but to give Garman a chance.

Trotter: All four players would help the Sooners, but the answer is Dorial Green-Beckham. He's an NFL talent, and brings the one thing the Sooners really don't have right now, which is a big, physical receiver who can go up, make the catch and get the ball downfield. He would complement the rest of this offense really well. That said, the Sooners could use Baker Mayfield. Trevor Knight only started and finished three games last year. He has a tendency to get nicked up, and with Blake Bell now a full-time tight end, the current backups are inexperienced. Having the reigning Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year as a backup quarterback would be a nice insurance policy to have.

Trotter: Actually, there has been no signal whatsoever that the league has any interest in expanding. It will be interesting to see how the league fits into the playoff era. If the Big 12 struggles to get a team into the playoff, then I believe that would prompt the league to rethink the status quo. But one reason why the Big 12 has no interest in expanding is the lack of viable free agent options out there that would bring more to the revenue pie than they would take out. 
This week, we’ve been focusing the players who delivered the best individual seasons in college football history.

Today, Vince Young and Barry Sanders are squaring off in the finals of our greatest season bracket. (You can vote for either by clicking here).

 While some old-school stars like TCU QB Davey O’Brien made the list, the majority of players highlighted for delivering the best season at their school in ESPN.com’s The Season played after 1960.

But there were some big-time seasons that came before 1960. Here are a few of the best that came from Big 12 schools:

Bobby Layne, QB, Texas (1947): Layne notoriously liked to have a good time off the field, but he was lethal on it. He finished sixth in the Heisman voting in 1947 and was a consensus All-American after leading the Longhorns to a 10-1 record, including a win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

Tommy McDonald, HB, Oklahoma (1956): McDonald led the ’56 Sooners in passing, rushing and receiving and might have won the Heisman had teammate Jerry Tubbs not split the vote with him. With McDonald leading the way, the Sooners won the national championship as part of their famed 47-game winning streak.

Sammy Baugh, QB, TCU (1936): Baugh finished fourth in the Heisman voting after completing 50 percent of his passes and throwing 12 touchdowns. He would go on to have one of the most decorated careers in NFL history with the Washington Redskins.

Jerry Tubbs, C/LB, Oklahoma (1956): Tubbs became the first Sooner to win the prestigious Walter Camp Award. Despite playing center and linebacker, he also finished fourth in the Heisman voting.

Bob Fenimore, RB, Oklahoma A&M (1945): Before Barry Sanders and Thurman Thomas, there was Bob Fenimore. The “Blonde Bomber” led the nation in rushing in 194, and finished third in the Heisman voting behind only Army’s “Mr. Inside” (Doc Blanchard) and “Mr. Outside” (Glenn Davis).

Billy Vessels, RB, Oklahoma (1952): Vessels became the first Sooner to capture the Heisman Trophy. He scored 18 touchdowns and rushed for 1,000 yards at the advent of Bud Wilkinson’s Oklahoma dynasty.

Ray Evans, HB, Kansas (1942): Evans led the nation in passing in 1942 and once owned the NCAA record of 60 passes attempted without an interception. After the war, he came back to Kansas to star for the Jayhawks again in football and basketball.

Jack Crain, RB/DB, Texas (1940): Crain helped resurrect the Texas program under coach Dana X. Bible. The “Nocona Nugget” was the first Longhorn to show up in the top 10 of the Heisman voting.

Larry Isbell, QB, Baylor (1951): Isbell was an All-American in football and in baseball. He led the Bears to the Orange Bowl and placed seventh in the Heisman voting.

Dwight Nichols, QB, Iowa State (1959): Nichols became the first Cyclone to place in the top 10 of the Heisman voting. He finished his career as the all-time Big Seven leading rusher.
Devonte Fields is running out of second chances. He needs to recognize that as he leaves for Stephen F. Austin.

A story that began with incredible promise ended Wednesday with a Twitter post and a quiet exit. Fields, the Big 12's preseason Defensive Player of the Year, is leaving TCU and the trouble he created there behind to start over at the FCS level.

[+] EnlargeDevonte Fields
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsTroubled former TCU defensive end Devonte Fields is looking for a new start at FCS Stephen F. Austin.
He'll be able to play right away for the Lumberjacks. He'll move to Nacogdoches, Texas, a small East Texas town 200 miles from home, and perhaps that'll help him stay out of trouble. But Fields is bringing with him a reputation badly in need of repair.

Gary Patterson deserves credit for trying to make this work. Fields put the first strike on his record just two weeks after signing with TCU in 2012 after being arrested for marijuana possession. When he violated team rules after his freshman season, Patterson handed down a two-game suspension.

The Horned Frogs stood by Fields in January, too, when he was attacked, robbed and threatened at gunpoint at his home. When he got back on the field this spring for the first time since a foot injury ended his sophomore season early, TCU coaches didn't take it easy on him. They downplayed the hype and even listed him as a backup on the post-spring depth chart in the hopes of further motivating him.

And until a few weeks ago, it seemed like this story was positioned to end happily. The local kid makes good, learns from his mistakes and becomes a star again. Big 12 reporters weren't dumb to gives Fields the league's top preseason defensive honor. As his 10-sack rookie year proved, he's a special talent.

But Fields allegedly did something no amount of talent can overcome. He can escape to SFA, but he can't run away from the misdemeanor assault charges he was arrested for on July 24.

Fields denies he assaulted ex-girlfriend Haley Brown, and she has recanted her claim that a handgun was involved. The legal process over whether Fields punched her in the face still isn't over. Still, TCU was right to sever ties by calling Fields "separated" from the program.

He'd been given more than enough chances and warnings. He broke the trust he'd attempted to rebuild this spring.

What Patterson is left with now is a defense that still could be one of the Big 12's best. There are quality players at every level of the unit, led by defensive tackle Chucky Hunter, safety Sam Carter and cornerback Kevin White. Terrell Lathan, TCU's returning sacks leader with five in 2013, can take over Fields' spot.

The Frogs fielded the No. 2 total defense and No. 1 run defense in the league last season without Fields. But he did bring star power and playmaking ability to this group that's impossible to match.

Now Fields will seek a new beginning with the Lumberjacks. He'll have to convince first-year coach Clint Conque he's committed and focused on keeping his slate clean. If Fields does gets his act together, he'll face a familiar foe in his first career game at SFA: Kansas State.

That's the first of 12 opportunities for the 6-foot-6, 250-pound lineman to prove he's still one of the nation's most dominant pass rushers. He is eligible to enter the NFL draft after the season, but whether the league will want him depends on how Fields utilizes these next 10 months.

The abrupt end of his TCU career is a sad ordeal for all involved. But now is the time for Fields to take responsibility. He's getting a do-over, and you hope he's learned some lessons.

Fields has at least learned one thing over and over again: He's one slip-up away from squandering it all. If his stint in Nacogdoches ends the way his TCU career did Wednesday, he'll have no one to blame but himself. His next chance just might be his last.

Devonte Fields transferring from TCU

August, 6, 2014
Aug 6
10:31
PM ET
TCU has lost one of the Big 12's top players before the season has even begun as defensive end Devonte Fields announced that he is transferring to Stephen F. Austin.

"Just wanted to say thanks to TCU for the opportunity! Anxious to start a new chapter of life at SFA!! #Stillreppinpurple! #Blessed #Newstart," tweeted the the Big 12 preseason Defensive Player of the Year.

Fields was "separated" from TCU after he was accused of assaulting his ex-girlfriend July 20. He turned himself in to police four days later after being served with a misdemeanor assault warrant.

To continue reading this story, click here.
This week, ESPN.com has launched The Season -- a project we've been working on the last month. After diligent research and debate, we have compiled who we think produced the greatest individual season for every FBS school, including the Big 12 programs.

Brandon, Max and I had a hand in putting together the list for the Big 12.

Nine of the 10 that ultimately made the list were the players I pushed for (I actually had Michael Bishop over Darren Sproles for Kansas State, for reasons I'll detail below).

You can read the list here. But here's a snapshot of the Big 12 players who delivered the season above all others.

Baylor: Robert Griffin III, QB, 2011
My take: This one was easy. Mike Singletary was a great player. But Griffin's 2011 season transformed the program, which will culminate with the opening of McLane Stadium later this month.

Iowa State: Troy Davis, RB, 1996
My take: Only Barry Sanders, Kevin Smith and Marcus Allen have rushed for more yards in a season than Davis. The only Iowa State season that comes close was Davis' 1995 season in which he rushed for 2,010 yards.

Kansas: Gale Sayers, RB, 1963
My take: Sayers' 1964 season was magnificent, too, when the "Kansas Comet" led the Jayhawks to a 15-14 upset over Oklahoma. How monumental was that win? Kansas has defeated the Sooners only six times since.

Kansas State: Darren Sproles, RB, 2003
My take: Sproles was fabulous player and had a fabulous season. But Bishop had the Manhattan Miracle one game away from the national championship game. He also finished second in the Heisman voting.

Oklahoma: Lee Roy Selmon, DE, 1975
My take: With so many great seasons to consider, Oklahoma was one of the toughest programs to sift through. But as good as Billy Sims, Adrian Peterson, Sam Bradford and Tommy McDonald were, none dominated the way Selmon did. He was the heart and soul of the Sooners' dominating run through the mid-1970s.

Oklahoma State: Barry Sanders, RB, 1988
My take: Forget college football. Sanders' 1988 season was one of the greatest in the history of sports.

Texas: Vince Young, QB, 2005
My take: Earl Campbell had the better career and was the better player. But Young had the better single season in 2005, strapping the Longhorns to his shoulders and carrying them to the school's first national title in 35 years.

TCU: Davey O'Brien, QB/DB/P/K, 1938
My take: How loaded was TCU at quarterback in 1935? O'Brien actually backed up Sammy Baugh, who would go on to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Texas Tech: Michael Crabtree, WR, 2007
My take: Though the numbers weren't anywhere as good, I actually pushed for Crabtree's '08 season. But it's hard to argue against 134 receptions, 1,962 receiving yards and 22 touchdowns.

West Virginia: Major Harris, QB, 1988
My take: The Mountaineers have enjoyed some remarkably talented players offensively in recent years in Pat White, Tavon Austin and Geno Smith. But none took West Virginia as far as Harris did.

Both Young and Sanders are in the playoff for the best season overall. You can vote for both by clicking here.

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