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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    30%

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    26%

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    8%

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    16%

Discuss (Total votes: 462)

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.

On the spot: TCU QB Bram Kohlhausen

March, 26, 2015
Mar 26
12:00
PM ET

During the next two weeks, we'll be featuring 10 Big 12 players who are on the spot this spring. Maybe they are coming back from injury. Maybe they have much to prove after a disappointing 2014 season. Maybe they are embroiled in a key position battle. Whatever the case, this spring is big for them.

Today's player on the spot: TCU backup quarterback Bram Kohlhausen

Who? If you find yourself asking that, it’s perfectly OK. The better question is why.

Last season, only two Big 12 programs managed to survive a full 13-game season with the same starting quarterback from start to finish. Kansas State did it, though Jake Waters was so beat up he probably should’ve missed some time. And TCU pulled it off.

Along the way, Trevone Boykin established himself as a Heisman contender and unquestionably the most improved QB in the country. He took some big hits -- sometimes willingly on touchdown dives -- and he kept on playing. But he didn’t survive unscathed.

Boykin hurt his non-throwing wrist in the middle of the season against Baylor, a bone fracture that will require a procedure later this spring. The Horned Frogs were fortunate this injury wasn’t severe, especially late in the season.

For how special Boykin was, folks at TCU will tell you there’s a good reason why his worst performances came in November at West Virginia and Kansas. Matt Joeckel, his backup, couldn’t travel to those games after enduring a season-ending injury. The senior Texas A&M transfer played a huge role in Boykin’s on-field maturation. He served as a mentor on the sideline, offering up advice and insight about what defenses were bringing. Joeckel was also a trustworthy option in case Boykin went down.

This spring, TCU simply doesn’t have that luxury. And coach Gary Patterson is taking the issue seriously.

“Right now we’ve got one; that’s it,” Patterson said this week. “We’ve got a long way to go with the rest of them. We’ve got one quarterback right now we can win the Big 12 title with.”

Kohlhausen, a juco transfer who started his career at Houston, got mop-up time in four games last season. The senior might be the front-runner for the No. 2 gig by default. Another backup, sophomore Zach Allen, got to take snaps at quarterback in one game. And then there’s redshirt freshmen Foster Sawyer and Grayson Muehlstein, who have promising futures but zero experience.

None of them made a good impression on Patterson and his staff in TCU’s most recent spring scrimmage. Somebody will have to step forward and prove he can handle driving the high-tempo attack against a real defense.

Because no matter how great Boykin plays this fall, it only takes one bad play for the plan to change. A TCU team this good can’t afford to live one snap away from the destruction of its College Football Playoff dream.

AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas Longhorns' first day back in the world of spread ball looked just like any other in Big 12 country.

Quarterbacks Tyrone Swoopes and Jerrod Heard practiced faking handoffs -- a nod to prepping for pop passes -- before firing throws. They got the Longhorns lined up in three-receiver shotgun and pistol sets. They didn’t hesitate to tuck and dash for the sideline when they found space. And once one play ended, the next began seconds later.

“It’s very fast,” running back Johnathan Gray said. “We hit the field running and didn’t stop until practice was over. Guys were pretty dog tired.”

[+] EnlargeCharlie Strong
AP Photo/Michael ThomasAfter finishing last season ninth in the Big 12 at 68 plays per game, Charlie Strong's Longhorns are looking to pick up the pace on offense.

Gray and his Texas teammates are embarking on their third offensive overhaul in three years, though this round feels like more of a redesign than a full reboot.

In fact, the first comparison that crossed Gray’s mind after practice Wednesday was how similar Texas’ practices looked in 2013, back when Mack Brown and Major Applewhite decided to try a more up-tempo approach.

Players welcomed that blueprint two years ago. They sound happy to give it another go this spring.

“I like how it spreads out everything where you can run and pass,” Gray said. “It mixes up everything. The defense doesn't know what's going to happen. It helps out the running back, quarterback, the wide receivers and the offensive line. I love this offense.”

Center Taylor Doyle was reminded of his prep days, back when he grew up in an up-tempo spread at Lake Travis High under now-SMU coach Chad Morris.

"It's always fun to come back to the tempo offense," Doyle said.

Why make the move back to a spread scheme now? After a year on the job, Charlie Strong can admit he has a better understanding of his turf. Pro-style ball won him a lot of games at Louisville. The spread has already won the state of Texas.

“I would say probably 98 percent of this state is a spread offense,” Strong said this week. “The key players that you need to really recruit, those guys are the ones that are in the spread offense. So that's what you're looking for.”

Texas isn’t going to start throwing the ball 60 times on Saturdays. Nor does Strong plan to engage in any 60-59 shootouts. As a defense-first coach, he joked, “I don’t think I can live with that at all.” Still, the transition made too much common sense, especially when considering Texas’ peers as well as its own personnel for 2015.

“But you still have to find a way to go stay physical and go run the football,” Strong said.

The hints of power football were easy to spot Wednesday, starting with Texas utilizing its tight ends as H-backs who motioned pre-snap before locking into blocks. It’s clear the Longhorns intend to pick up their pace, too, after finishing ninth in the Big 12 at 68 plays per game in 2014.

“And we want an explosive team,” Strong said. “We didn't create the big plays.”

Only Kansas did a worse job of creating those big plays in the Big 12 last season. Texas produced explosive gains (defined as 12-plus yards on a rush and 16-plus yards for a pass) on only 10 percent of its snaps, while failing to gain yards on nearly 35 percent. Finding new ways to spark this group was an absolute must.

There’s a reason, though, why this didn’t work out in 2013: quarterback play. When David Ash went down against BYU, Applewhite had to scrap the blueprint. Texas had to find a different way to win with Case McCoy. Watson experienced similar back-to-the-drawing-board challenges last season with Swoopes after losing Ash and three of his best linemen.

What Texas will get from Swoopes and Heard in 2015, or how quickly either gets this spread offense rolling, seems impossible to predict. Then again, this was only Day 1 of spring ball. Pads don't even go on until Saturday.

The Longhorns don't need to know all the answers right now, but at least they're starting off with the right one.

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.

CommitCast: No. 54 Rahshaun Smith (6 p.m. ET)

March, 26, 2015
Mar 26
8:30
AM ET

OLB Rahshaun Smith, No. 54 in the ESPN Junior 300, is ready to make a decision. Join us at 6 p.m. ET for Smith's announcement.

Dominating Florida is always critical for Florida State, but another secret to the Seminoles' success is doing well in Virginia, and highly-coveted corner Levonta Taylor could be the Noles' next big get from the state.

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.

Q&A: Baylor QB Seth Russell

March, 25, 2015
Mar 25
2:30
PM ET

WACO, Texas -- After backing up Bryce Petty the past two seasons, Seth Russell is ready to take over as Baylor’s next starting quarterback.

After tossing four touchdowns in Baylor’s Friday Night Lights scrimmage last week, Russell spoke with ESPN.com about what he learned from Petty, his talented supporting cast, and what Baylor coach Art Briles is like behind the scenes:

[+] EnlargeSeth Russell
Tony Gutierrez/Associated PressSeth Russell on coach Art Briles: "He's a character. In the film room he gets down to business, but he'll throw a joke in there every once in awhile."

You have some big shoes to fill, not only in Petty, but everyone back to Robert Griffin III. How are you handling that?

I feel like I’m taking it a day at a time. If I look at the big picture too much it’s overwhelming, just to look at all the stats, all the accomplishments of the other quarterbacks. I feel like if I do that, I’d be down on myself if I had a bad practice. I have to take it one step at a time and learn from it.

Speaking of learning, what did you learn from Petty?

He’s a phenomenal quarterback. He studies the game, he knows the game forwards and backwards. I feel like watching him and his leadership, I can use that to my advantage on the field.

You are the heir-apparent, but there are a couple other talented quarterbacks in Chris Johnson and Jarrett Stidham pushing for the job, too. How is it different knowing the job wouldn't just be handed to you?

It pushes me, it makes me work that much harder. Because I know they’re coming. They’re on the backdoor. I love the competition. I have three brothers, we’ve competed our whole lives. It’s nothing new to me. I feel like all it can do is make me better.

What’s it like having K.D. Cannon at wideout on one side, and Corey Coleman on the other?

You can go either way. Any of the guys out there, I have two over here, two on the other side. All of them are pretty great to have.

When you look at the rest of the offense, you have an All-American in Spencer Drango protecting your blind side; Shock Linwood is a 1,000-yard rusher. How does all that help your comfort level running the offense?

They’re top-notch guys. I feel like being on the field with them, it makes me that much more confident.

What would you say is the key to you guys winning a third straight Big 12 title?

Being on the same page. If I look at a receiver and they look at me and I give them a signal, I expect them to do it, and I know they’re going to do it and I trust them to do it. I feel like that’s something that we can do. As for the defense, they’re going to going to do what they’re going to do. They’re phenomenal. Lot of returners. Lot of experience.

I hear you’re a pretty good basketball player.

Depends on what day you catch me.

How would you describe your game?

In high school, I was a post. I liked to get rough a little bit. But I can play wherever.

Best local place to eat in Waco?

I’d have to say Chuy’s, because me and my girlfriend go there every Friday night. It’s a Friday night date deal.

What’s something about Coach Briles people on the outside don’t know?

He’s a character. In the film room he gets down to business, but he’ll throw a joke in there every once in awhile. He’s serious, but he likes to make you laugh a little bit. He’s a great guy to be around.

Which would be worse, taking a sack from defensive end Shawn Oakman, or attempting to tackle 400-pound tight end LaQuan McGowan?

I guess if it’s a full-on hit from Shawn, that would be pretty tough. I feel like I could probably just chop down with Quan, but it may hurt a little bit.

During the next two weeks, we'll be featuring 10 Big 12 players who are on the spot this spring. Maybe they are coming back from injury. Maybe they have much to prove after a disappointing 2014 season. Maybe they are embroiled in a key position battle. Whatever the case, this spring is big for them.

Today's player on the spot: Baylor linebacker Aiavion Edwards

Baylor had an up-and-down 2014 season defensively. But with nine starters back, including All-Big 12 defensive linemen Shawn Oakman and Andrew Billings, the Bears have a chance to field one of the Big 12's top defenses in 2015.

[+] EnlargeAiavion Edwards
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsLinebacker Aiavion Edwards will be fighting his way back into the starting lineup in 2015 on the inside.

But before they get to that level, the Bears need someone to emerge in place of departing inside linebacker Bryce Hager, who was a three-time, second-team All-Big 12 selection.

The onus is on junior Aiavion Edwards this spring to prove he can fill that role.

Edwards exited last spring atop the depth chart at weak-side linebacker alongside Hager. But an ankle injury early on in the season prompted Edwards to lose the job to Taylor Young, who went on to earn Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year honors. With Young firmly entrenched on the weak side, Edwards is attempting to circle his way back into the starting lineup on the inside, where he began his Baylor career.

"Everything is good, and I'm back 100 percent (from the ankle injury)," Edwards told reporters earlier this spring. "I've been re-familiarizing myself at middle linebacker because I had played there before last fall."

Edwards, however, has plenty of competition for the starting job in the middle.

Senior Grant Campbell, who transferred in from Bakersfield College last year, is also vying for the role after serving as the backup to Hager in 2014. Junior Kendall Ehrlich, who finished with a game-high 12 tackles in Baylor's Friday Night Lights scrimmage last week, and sophomore Raaquan Davis are also firmly in the mix.

Still, Edwards realizes the opportunity to shine is there. And if he can the man the middle anywhere near to the level that Hager did, the Bears will have a chance to boast their best defense in years.

"Bryce Hager showed the linebacker group as a whole that it has to be elite," Edwards said. "He's a role model that we all look up to and we're going to try to keep it going."

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WACO, Texas -- Shortly after Baylor's "Friday Night Lights" scrimmage last week, LaQuan McGowan took in the photo capturing the second-biggest moment of his college football career.

The Bears' mammoth tight end had broken free down the seam of the field, snagged a pass and smashed through intrepid free safety Mallory Franklin, who dared to duck in his path.

"I'm 400 pounds," McGowan said. "Just doesn't seem fair or even."

Baylor inside linebacker Grant Campbell would agree.

During the first week of practice this spring, McGowan exploded off the line and met Campbell, who had sprinted right for him. Campbell later would explain that he wanted to see what would happen if he just hit McGowan as hard as he could.

"That wasn't the smartest idea," McGowan said.

The encounter left the 230-pound Campbell staring up at the sky, prompting coach Art Briles to summarily bar McGowan from anymore contact in practice.

[+] EnlargeLaQuan McGowan
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesLaQuan McGowan's big moment in the spotlight included this TD catch in last season's Cotton Bowl.

"It could have been really bad," McGowan said. "I have to watch how I hit people because it doesn't take much effort for me to knock someone over.

"But once the season starts, they're going to turn me loose again."

That's a frightening proposition for Baylor's 2015 opponents, who will have to deal with the unprecedented issue of matching up against a 6-foot-7, 410-pound tight end, who not only can decapitate defenders, but possesses the agility to run routes and has enormous, yet soft, hands.

"You can throw a ball as hard as you can at Quan, and he's going to catch it like this," said Baylor offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, picking up an iPhone case off his desk. "It's incredible."

Long before he hauled in a touchdown pass in the Cotton Bowl, McGowan had dazzled teammates in practice with a knack for snatching any ball tossed in his direction.

"He can catch passes one-handed, behind his back," said receiver KD Cannon. "He can do it all. His hands are so big. It's really fun to watch."

After watching McGowan warm up with the quarterbacks and receivers before every practice last season, Art Briles decided he wanted to install a play for the backup guard.

"That was Coach Briles' baby," Kendal Briles said of his father.

The Bears had planned to unleash McGowan in the regular-season finale against Kansas State, but never found the right moment.

But in their bowl game against Michigan State, McGowan's moment finally came.

Lining up to the left on the weak side of an unbalanced formation, McGowan looked up to see if any of the Spartans' defenders had noticed him. They hadn't.

"That's when I knew I had it," he said.

McGowan easily hauled in a 21-yard touchdown reception to deliver the most memorable highlight in a wild 42-41 loss chock-full of them.

If Baylor's spring scrimmage was any indication, many more pass-catching highlights could be on the way. But McGowan confessed he still watches the Cotton Bowl catch daily on YouTube, noting how it was a "proud moment" for him.

[+] EnlargeLaQuan McGowan
Courtesy of Cal Farley's Boys RanchWhile a student at Cal Farley's Boys Ranch, McGowan gave back one Spring Break by volunteering to deliver food to need-based areas.

"It opened doors for me," McGowan said of the play, which inspired his audition for tight end this spring.

That wasn't the first time, though, he has seen doors opened for him.

McGowan grew up in a rough Dallas neighborhood. So rough that his mother feared he might not ever make it out. When he was 11 years old, she enrolled him at the Cal Farley's Boys Ranch, a nonprofit school with about 250 students outside Amarillo, Texas, that takes in at-risk boys and girls.

"I remember first bumping into him in the dining hall line," said Mike Wilhelm, the school's chaplain. "I thought he was a junior in high school."

Being that big that young wasn't easy. McGowan kept mostly to himself at first. But sports eventually gave him an outlet.

Ironically, McGowan didn't enjoy contact initially, so he tried out for the cross country team his sophomore year.

"I did it for like two days," McGowan said. "Then I realized that was too much running."

Eventually, McGowan grew to love football. He starred for the basketball team, too.

The school, however, had difficulty finding basketball shoes for McGowan, who wore a Size 22 by the time he reached high school. Dan Adams, Cal Farley's president, tried everywhere, including the Dallas Mavericks, to find shoes that would fit. The Mavs couldn't help, either. But they put Adams in touch with the Phoenix Suns, who had the solution: Shaquille O'Neal wore the same size.

"This big box shows up in my office and it's two pair of Size 22 shoes from Shaq," Adams said. "LaQuan was just beaming."

McGowan doesn't know where he'd be now had he not gone to Cal Farley.

"I think one thing I always needed that I never had was a dad," McGowan said. "Every kid needs a father figure and the Boys Ranch kind of did that for me even though there were a bunch of different people there that filled that role."

Wilhelm and Adams were two of those men.

"LaQuan is a special person and it has nothing to do with his size," said Wilhelm, who recalled the time McGowan spent a spring break delivering food to kids who lived in a tough neighborhood in Amarillo. "He's a big man, but he has a big heart, too."

Through football, McGowan has given the Cal Farley kids another person to look up to.

"Even the younger kids who've never met him, they know LaQuan, they know about the Cotton Bowl catch," said Wilhelm, who's noticed a wave of green and gold attire surfacing on campus. "He's become a hero to a bunch of kids who have come here from all kinds of unfortunate backgrounds and needed a hero."

Another door is open for McGowan. Best of luck to anyone who tries to stop him.

video On Monday, we ranked the best bang-for-the-buck coaching values in college football. Today we look at the opposite end of the spectrum and discuss coaches who are overpaid, based on bloated salaries and a lack of results. Note that some of the coaches below are still relatively new, but the money they’re making will rapidly increase expectations, which will lead to angst if those expectations aren’t met. The estimated salary figures come from a combination of documents obtained by ESPN.com and the USA Today coaches’ salary database. 1. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa Estimated 2015 salary: $4 million Iowa fans are already rolling their eyes. They’ve heard all this before because they’ve seen their school handcuffed for years by the worst contract in college football. If not for a buyout that at one point would have pushed $20 million, Ferentz likely would have been out. No, he definitely would have been out. Instead, because of an unheard of 10-year deal he signed after the 2009 season, Iowa continues to pay top-10 money for a program that isn’t sniffing the top 10 in the polls. Coaches agree that Iowa isn’t the easiest place to win, but the resources and facilities are well above average and the division is the most winnable in the country. For $4 million per season, the Hawkeyes should get something more -- far more -- than Ferentz’s 6.8 victories a year since he signed the extension. As the buyout becomes more reasonable as the contract nears its 2020 completion, it’ll be interesting to see at what point the administration is willing to pull the trigger.

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Big 12 morning links

March, 25, 2015
Mar 25
9:00
AM ET

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.

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NORMAN, Okla. -- Oklahoma Sooners coach Bob Stoops says he still has a difficult time comprehending the level of racism in an OU fraternity video but now believes his program and his players might be the best option to help frame a national discussion of the issue.

"This was caught here," Stoops said Tuesday in an interview with ESPN. "I think [OU's players] realize it's everywhere. It's around the country. We happen to have it; let's try to do something with it and try to effect change. And I'm proud of the way they've done it.

"It doesn't matter if it's fair or unfair," he said. "Maybe it was brought to us -- I'm a really faithful person -- maybe we're the ones that could handle it the right way. We have a great president who acted very swiftly and strongly, that he's not going to stand for it on our campus. Our players, us as coaches and our community here, our student body got behind our players that we're not going to stand for it here.

To read the rest of Gene Wojciechowski's story, click here.

Seth Russell's stellar spring scrimmage, Texas Tech's Davis Webb, and West Virginia's chances lead the mailbag. As always, thanks for your questions. To submit questions for next week's mailbag, click here.

[+] EnlargeRussell
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsSeth Russell's spring has given Baylor fans every reason to believe a third consecutive title is a real possibility.

Robert in Tulsa writes: How far away was Seth Russell last Friday from Baylor three-peating?

Brandon Chatmon: Russell had a terrific scrimmage for the Bears, no question about it. He left no doubt he won’t give up his starting spot without a fight with 345 passing yards and four touchdowns. I think we saw the reason Baylor should be considered right alongside TCU as the favorites in the Big 12 despite losing Bryce Petty. A three-peat is a definite possibility.

Lillian in Austin, Texas, writes: If the Longhorns are able to figure out the quarterback problem, will they have a shot at the Big 12 Title?

BC: Absolutely. The Longhorns went 5-2 when ending a game with a Total QBR above 50 (which is considered average) in 2014. A good quarterback can cure a lot of ills, and the Longhorns have enough talent in their locker room to join the fight for a Big 12 title if they are getting consistent quarterback play from Tyrone Swoopes, Jerrod Heard or whoever wants to step up.

Michael in Dallas writes: True or false: Kliff Kingsbury continues to favor Davis Webb in order to try and prove that letting Baker Mayfield slip away was the right call?

BC: False. That sounds like a good way to end up searching for a new job. You can’t favor anyone after a 4-8 season. To be clear, I think Patrick Mahomes should be the guy, and ultimately will be the guy, but I don’t think Kingsbury should be handing out jobs to anyone, particularly a young quarterback with four starts under his belt during a bowl-less season.

Omar C. in Flower Mound, Texas, writes: Do you think it would be justifiable if NCAA mandated all Power 5 conferences to play one Power 5 and one Group 5 in their schedules to level the playing a field a little bit?

BC: First off, you’re giving the NCAA more credit and power than it has. If the Power 5 conferences decided to move forward with this idea, I think it would be a good one for fans and observers alike. I’m all for anything that helps to put schedules closer to an even playing field. I don’t see it happening unfortunately because it would require all of those schools to give up their power over their own schedules while risking losing money and/or games. I don’t see that happening.

Lonely in Lubbock, Texas, writes: When the old Big 12 changed everyone was making a big fuss about Texas losing its second-best rival Texas A&M, but in Lubbock we lost our main and only rival. After three years of this new version, do we have any hope of finding a new rival as good as the Aggies?

BC: I’m not a big fan of creating rivalries. I like when they organically emerge. I could Oklahoma State, TCU or even West Virginia as good potential candidates. But it requires something special to happen and leave a lasting memory for a rivalry to be born. And we haven’t seen that yet. I don't think you can force rivalries to happen so we might have to be patient until one develops on its own.

John Newcomb in Rochester, Pennsylvania, writes: I have to ask you, if William Crest and Dontae Thomas-Williams come out and become the starters with all the new wideouts including Ka'Raun White what levels could this team rise on defense and offense? Shot at the title in the near future?

BC: I don’t see it happening. Crest may win the starting quarterback job but DTW has Rushel Shell and Wendell Smallwood ahead of him at runing back. Nonetheless, I could see the Mountaineers getting a shot at a Big 12 title as early as this fall. An efficient quarterback could make WVU the surprise of the Big 12 this fall.

Jacob Worcester in Manhattan, Kansas writes: Kyle Klein should be back from an injury, and he even started two games in 2013. What type of impact will he have when he comes back for the Snydercats?

BC: He can be an asset for the Wildcats' offense. I don’t see him replacing Tyler Lockett (who can?) nor do I see him reaching the heights of older brother Collin. But he would bring experience to a relatively inexperienced receiver group.

Chris in Arden, West Virginia writes: What is your take on Joe DeForest at West Virginia?

BC: DeForest is a solid coach who seems to take a lot of undue heat from Mountaineers fans for some reason. His safeties should be among the Big 12’s best with Karl Joseph and Dravon Henry leading the way and his special teams helped win games in 2014 with Josh Lambert coming up clutch several times while punter Nick O’Toole was solid. Granted the WVU punt return unit was laughable at times so his units and players aren’t perfect, but whose are?

Cole in Oklahoma City writes: Will DeDe Westbrook and Joe Mixon share punt return snaps this spring ... leading in to the summer to see who is going to be returning punts for Oklahoma? Would you consider Heard to be the starting QB for Texas? Who is more of a dark horse Big 12 team?

BC: Three for one huh? Punt return duties are at the bottom of OU’s priority list but Westbrook or Michiah Quick would be good candidates. I think Heard should get every opportunity to win the job, and personally think he will. West Virginia is a good dark horse team to keep an eye on, particularly if the quarterback position becomes a strength.

TCU and Colorado have agreed to a home-and-home series, sources told ESPN’s Brett McMurphy.

The Horned Frogs and Buffaloes will play in Boulder, Colorado, in 2022 and in Fort Worth, Texas, in 2023. It will be the first meeting between the schools.

Even though the Big 12 and Pac-12 -- which both play nine league games -- do not require their league members to play at least one nonconference Power 5 opponent, both schools have lined up several future home-and-home series against nonconference Power 5 teams.

TCU has series scheduled with Minnesota (2014-15), Arkansas (2016-17), Ohio State (2018-19) and California (2020-21).

Colorado has a four-game series with Nebraska (2018-19 and 2023-24), two games with Minnesota (2021-22) and also will visit Michigan in 2016.

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