Big 12: Iowa State Cyclones

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.

Big 12 morning links

August, 20, 2014
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Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. A breakfast with morning links? One thousand percent better. In fact, 9 of 10 nutritionists recommend morning links as a healthy companion to your breakfast.
  • The future of Kansas' offense took a downward turn when the Jayhawks announced the loss of Brandon Bourbon and Taylor Cox to season-ending injuries on Tuesday, writes Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star. It's a painful loss for a KU offense that is going to need a strong running game to help take the burden off sophomore quarterback Montell Cozart. Neither Cox or Bourbon come to mind as the top playmakers in KU's offense before injuries took them out of the equation -- Tony Pierson and Nick Harwell top the list -- but it's hard to overlook the impact on KU's offense. The good news is Corey Avery stepped on campus ready to play as a freshman and De'Andre Mann is another option at running back for the Jayhawks.
  • Iowa State safety Kamara Cotton-Moya was shot, yet he insists losing last season to an Achilles injury was worse, writes Randy Peterson of the Des Moines Register. The redshirt freshman was says he learned to "try not to be in the wrong place at the wrong time" from the incident, which occurred before he headed to Ames, Iowa, last summer. Cotton-Moya's story is an interesting one but his impact on the field is just as intriguing. He would have likely joined Nigel Tribune as a true freshman to see time in ISU's secondary in 2013 if he hadn't hurt his Achilles, so it should be fun to monitor his impact on a defense that needs to replace its top two tacklers (Jacques Washington, Jeremiah George) from 2013.
  • Who is the active leader in career tackles on Kansas State's roster? Kellis Robinett of the Kansas City Star has the surprising answer: Randall Evans sits atop the list with 146 career tackles. Evans isn't a guy who comes to mind when you think of the most productive defenders on Bill Snyder's team but Robinett's story reminds us just how important the versatile Evans is to K-State's defense, particularly considering the fact he goes head to head with some of the Big 12's best receivers at his slot cornerback position.
  • The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel believes Oklahoma State is a Big 12 heavyweight. Why? The Cowboys' defensive line tells the tale as that group is the best unit on OSU's defense heading into 2014 which is sign things have changed in Stillwater, Oklahoma. It's hard to disagree as quality defensive linemen often help separate teams and are easily the hardest jewel to find on the recruiting trail. Is OSU's defensive line good enough to overcome concerns at linebacker and safety? That's the bigger, unanswered question.
  • Finally, in case you missed it, take a look at Grantland's Big 12 preview by Holly Anderson. It's a fun look at the conference including a outlandish prediction that someone in the conference will score 100 points in a game this season. Yes, you read that right, 100 points. Could it happen? I don't think so, but that's why they call it an outlandish prediction.
It's Take Two Tuesday time, when we give diverging opinions on a topic related to the Big 12.

Today's Take Two topic: What has been the biggest surprise so far this preseason?

Take 1: Brandon Chatmon – Sam Richardson

Sam Richardson’s return to the top of the Iowa State Cyclones’ depth chart as QB1 has been a surprise.

Richardson looked the part as a redshirt freshman, when he burst upon the scene with eight touchdowns and just one interceptions in four games played during his debut season in 2012. He looked like the guy who would be the Cyclones’ main man under center for the next three seasons.

Then he took a step backward in 2013.

True enough the injury bug played a role in Richardson’s regression as a sophomore but that didn’t make his performance any less disappointing. His completion percentage decreased from 58.2 percent to 55.3 percent, his sack percentage increased from 3.7 percent to 9.1 percent and interception percentage increased from 1.3 percent to 2.7 percent.

And Grant Rohach’s strong performance to end the 2013 season made it difficult to imagine Richardson returning to the top of the Cyclones’ depth chart to begin 2014. Rohach won two of the four games he started as Richardson’s replacement and appeared to be a solid bet to open 2014 under center for the season opener in Ames, Iowa.

But Mark Mangino’s arrival, a return to good health and his improved performance have helped Richardson regain his starting spot and made him the Big 12’s surprise of the preseason.

Take 1: Jake Trotter – Oklahoma State QBs

This has been one newsy preseason for the Big 12. The arrest of Devonte Fields. The dismissals at Texas. The limbo players at Oklahoma. And, yes, I too was mildly surprised that Richardson ultimately beat out Rohach for the starting job at Iowa State, considering how well Rohach played at the end of last season.

But the biggest surprise at the moment is the news that hasn’t happened. More specifically, that J.W. Walsh hasn’t won the starting job yet at Oklahoma State.

Sure, coach Mike Gundy might be producing a smokescreen for Florida State by holding back on naming a starter. But his comments and other reports out of Stillwater suggest the Cowboys could be serious about playing former walk-on Daxx Garman, and, who knows, possibly even true freshman Mason Rudolph.

Coming into the preseason, Walsh was the overwhelming favorite to win the job. Even Gundy admitted after Oklahoma State’s final spring scrimmage that Walsh was way ahead of the other quarterbacks. Walsh’s teammates talked glowingly of his leadership and the way he commanded the offense behind the scenes. His passing accuracy also seemed to have improved.

But all of that hasn’t quite carried over into August.

Two years ago, Walsh shined in relief as a redshirt freshman. But last year, some of his physical limitations with arm strength caused the Oklahoma State offense to bog down. The Cowboys have recruited to feature a wide-open spread offense full of capable wide receivers and contingent on a quarterback being able to pepper the ball around downfield. That, however, isn’t Walsh’s forte. He’s a dual-threat quarterback who relies on his wheels as much as his arm to make plays. When defenses discovered that Walsh wasn’t going to beat them downfield with the pass, they crept up to the line of scrimmage to take away the run. And as result, the offense sputtered until the Cowboys reinserted Clint Chelf back into the lineup.

Will Oklahoma State also play Garman this year? Will Rudolph get a shot, too? That remains to be seen. But coming out of the spring, it looked like a lock that Walsh would start out as the guy. So far, it doesn’t look like that’s necessarily going to be the case.

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.
Iowa State on Monday named Sam Richardson its starting quarterback for the season opener.

“He’s a guy that’s in command and throwing accurate passes for us,” ISU coach Paul Rhoads said.

[+] EnlargeSam B. Richardson
Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY SportsSam Richardson threw for 1,397 yards and 11 touchdowns last season.
Richardson beat out sophomore Grant Rohach, who started the final four games in 2013, and redshirt freshman Joel Lanning to earn the start against FCS power North Dakota State on Aug. 30. The junior signal-caller has started 10 of 14 games during his Cyclones career and enters his third season with a 57.3 Adjusted QBR, 1,938 career passing yards, 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

New offensive coordinator Mark Mangino’s arrival came at a terrific time for Richardson as the slate was wiped clean and all three quarterbacks began anew. Richardson’s accuracy won him the job and his ability to run could be a key piece of the puzzle in Mangino's offense. As the most experienced quarterback on the roster, Richardson probably gives the Cyclones their best chance to win.

During his 14 games in a Cyclones uniform, Richardson has completed more than 60 percent of his passes on four different occasions. The Cyclones went 2-2 in those games with wins over Kansas in 2012 and Tulsa in 2013. Rhoads told reporters that Richardson completed 70 percent of his passes during ISU’s last two scrimmages, a sign that Mangino’s arrival has had a positive impact.

Even with his apparent improvement, Richardson may not have a stranglehold on the starting spot. He enters the season averaging 138.4 passing yards per game and converting just 30.5 percent of his third-down passes into first downs. He will need to improve in both categories to keep his starting spot. To top it off, Richardson has won just one of his 10 starts while Rohach won two of his four starts a year ago.

Rhoads told reporters ISU will be patient with Richardson and he’s “not on a short leash” but, nonetheless, the Cyclones are unlikely to go down with the ship on the shoulders of any quarterback this fall with other quality options on the roster.

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.
This week we'll be highlighting the key position battles for every program in the Big 12. We begin this series with Iowa State, which appears to be on the verge of naming a starting quarterback for the opener against North Dakota State.

Here's where the battle stands:

Contenders: junior Sam B. Richardson, sophomore Grant Rohach, redshirt freshman Joel Lanning

Non-contenders: freshman Darius Lee-Campbell

What happened last season: Richardson opened the season as the starter after a promising finish to his freshman year. But the season quickly turned into a nightmare for him, as he suffered an array of nagging injuries, including a sprained ankle that hobbled him for most of the season. Richardson wound up completing only 55.3 percent of his passes and averaged only 3.5 yards per carry, a year after he averaged 5.7. With Richardson ailing, the Cyclones turned to Rohach, who struggled through a six-game losing streak, but played well in Iowa State's final two games. In those two wins against Kansas and West Virginia, Rohach completed 68 percent of his passes for 631 yards and six touchdowns to just two interceptions.

Lanning, who signed with Iowa State over an offer from Nebraska, redshirted.

What they offer: Rohach's finish to the season made him the front-runner in the competition going into the offseason. But Richardson's ability to make plays with his feet has allowed him to separate in the battle this month. Due to the bum ankle, Richardson's effectiveness plummeted last season, as he was unable to escape the pocket or make plays on the run. Now healthy again, that mobility has returned this preseason. According to coach Paul Rhoads, Richardson also put in the work this offseason to improve his arm strength.

While Rohach's passing is his strength, he doesn't have Richardson's mobility, which limits Mark Mangino's playbook while he's on the field. Mangino had success at Kansas with Todd Reesing at quarterback, in part because of Reesing's versatility and athleticism.

Lanning has a big arm, but is clearly behind the other two while learning a second offense in as many years.

Prediction: After a banner performance in the spring game, Rohach appeared to be on track to keeping the starting job. But since Richardson has reclaimed the form that made him the apparent quarterback of the future at the end of the 2012 season, all signs out of Ames point toward Iowa State naming Richardson the starter -- possibly by the end of the day -- and banking that finally healthy again he can provide the quality stability at quarterback the Cyclones have long sought.

Big 12 morning links

August, 18, 2014
Aug 18
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Big 12 coaches over the weekend partook in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, including Kliff Kingsbury, Charlie Weis, Charlie Strong and Gary Patterson.
  • The Iowa State quarterback derby appears to be nearing a conclusion, and the Des Moines Register's Randy Peterson writes that Sam B. Richardson will be named the starter. Grant Rohach, who finished off last season as the starter, seemed to be the front-runner to hold on to the job going into the offseason. Rohach also outplayed Richardson and Joel Lanning in Iowa State's spring game. But Richardson, who opened last year as the starter, has re-emerged this preseason. He also gives coordinator Mark Mangino the threat of a running quarterback, which Mangino successfully utilized with Todd Reesing at Kansas. The Cyclones have long been searching for a long-term answer at quarterback. Perhaps Richardson will finally be that answer.
  • While Iowa State is close to settling on one quarterback, Oklahoma State seems to be heading the other direction. The Oklahoman's Kyle Fredrickson reports that the signs are pointing toward the Cowboys playing more than one quarterback this season. If that's indeed the case, it doesn't bode well for J.W. Walsh. He entered the year as the unequivocal leader of the offense and the overwhelming favorite to win the job. But Walsh's lack of arm strength led the Cowboys' wideout-heavy offense to bog down last year. If Mike Gundy is seriously considering giving Daxx Garman or even true freshman Mason Rudolph snaps, that's a signal the offense is still sputtering with Walsh behind center.
  • Oklahoma’s fight to keep starting linebacker Frank Shannon off the field this season will go before the Oklahoma Supreme Court this Wednesday, according to The Oklahoman's Jason Kersey. The Shannon saga has created the most awkward of situations for Shannon and the school. As the university seeks to suspend him after concluding he violated the university’s sexual misconduct policy, the Sooners continue to give their returning leading tackler first-team reps in practice. The situation will get even more awkward if it lingers into the season, which is why the school appealed the case to the state Supreme Court.
  • The West Virginia defense has been showing improvement, in the opinion of the Charleston Gazette's Dave Hickman. It's difficult to remember now, but the Mountaineers played good defense early last season before injuries ravaged the roster. West Virginia has quality players on that side of the ball, notably cornerback Daryl Worley and safety Karl Joseph. Under new coordinator Tony Gibson and assistant Tom Bradley, this has a chance to be one of the more improved units in the league.
  • Lastly, this piece by the San Antonio Express-News' Mike Finger on Texas coach Charlie Strong is outstanding. Read it.

 

Big 12 mailbag: Uniforms, DGB

August, 15, 2014
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In today’s mailbag, we discuss uniforms, Dorial Green-Beckham and Baylor's home schedule.

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:

@Jake_Trotter: If Heard is clearly the No. 3 quarterback, then they should try to redshirt him. But remember, he's playing behind a quarterback in David Ash with a severe injury history. And another in Tyrone Swoopes, who has yet to prove he can be a viable Big 12 quarterback. So while I think it would be beneficial to redshirt Heard for his future development, they need to keep him ready to play just in case.

@Jake_Trotter: I don't know who has the "worst" uniform, but there are some pieces in this league I don't like. I love Oklahoma State's alternates, but I'm not a fan of their shiny orange helmet with the interlocking "OSU" logo. Texas Tech's all black is one of the cleanest looks in the league, but their Lone Star Pride uniform is not my favorite. I'm not big on Oklahoma's alternates, but we'll see what they look like in person. The beak on Kansas' Crimson Chrome helmets is way too big, though I did enjoy the alternates the Jayhawks introduced last year.

@Jake_Trotter: I had Iowa State's receiving corps ranked sixth in the spring. With Kendall Sanders gone, Daje Johnson suspended and Jaxon Shipley nursing a hamstring injury, I could see myself slotting the Cyclones ahead of Texas. But if Dorial Green-Beckham were cleared, they would fall back behind Oklahoma. Either way, somewhere around sixth feels about right for Iowa State going into the season.

@Jake_Trotter: Not anytime soon, because there's no one feasible to add at the moment that makes sense for everyone financially, geographically, competitively.

@Jake_Trotter: There are really only three possibilities for a home loss. TCU on Oct. 11; Oklahoma State on Nov. 22; and Kansas State on Dec. 6. The Horned Frogs still have much to prove offensively before I'd pick them to win in Waco. Oklahoma State has traditionally played Baylor well, but the Cowboys are going to be very young this year. That leaves Kansas State as the most likely to pull the upset. That could be a dangerous game for the Bears. But if you're asking me today if Baylor loses at home this year, I say no.

@Jake_Trotter: Depends on who it is. And who that team beat during the nonconference relative to the other 11-1/12-1 teams that would theoretically be in the mix. This is where the Bears could fall into trouble. Baylor's best win would be SMU, which isn't going to stack up well. An 11-1 Big 12 champ would have a great chance. But it wouldn't be a lock, either.

@Jake_Trotter: Well, Shannon isn't technically off the team yet. He's still practicing while waiting to learn the outcome of his appeal. But anytime you lose your leading tackler, it hurts. Shannon has been a good player for the Sooners the past two years. That said, I think it's a defection the Oklahoma defense would be able to overcome. Jordan Evans was solid as a true freshman last year. He should be able to step in and fill Shannon's role. Evans would also be flanked by some very good players, which would help ease the transition.  

Ben R. in San Jose, California writes: How bad is ESPN going to look for ignoring KSU in the initial power rankings? They missed out of the Top 25 and Travis Haney's next four.

Trotter: I didn’t have a vote in the ESPN Top 25, but I would have advocated having the Wildcats ranked ahead of Texas and TCU. K-State is third in my Big 12 power rankings for a reason. So you and I are in agreement, even if others are not.

Kale in Dallas writes: Hey Jake, assuming DGB remains ineligible, there is a ton of talent but little experience at receiver for OU this year. I know Sterling Shepard and Durron Neal are locks to start, and Jordan Smallwood, K.J. Young and Michiah Quick are getting hype, but what about Austin Bennett? He looked really sharp in the spring game, and he could really make an impact.

Trotter: It’s going to come down to who makes plays in practice the next two weeks and the early portion of the schedule. Shepard is the only receiver right now guaranteed to be part of the rotation. Bennett is in that mix. But the competition for inclusion in that rotation will be fierce.

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
Aug 14
8:00
AM ET
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.

Big 12 morning links

August, 13, 2014
Aug 13
8:00
AM ET
Kick off your morning with some beef and a laugh. No, not that kind of beef.
  • It's odd to see Collin Klein and Kansas State assistant coach in the same sentence. We're just a couple years removed from watching Klein destroy Big 12 defenses while leading K-State to a Big 12 title. Yet Klein has joined the Wildcats' coaching staff and, while it's not his dream job, Klein is already starting to make an impact as a part of Bill Snyder's staff, writes Kellis Robinett of the Kansas City Star. Leave it to Bill Snyder to recognize Klein's potential as a coach and give him an opportunity to return to Manhattan, Kansas, this fall. Even though Klein doesn't like the thought of his playing days being over, something tells me he could experience a meteoric rise up the coaching ranks if he decides coaching is his future.
  • Running backs DeVondrick Nealy and Aaron Wimberly are poised to share carries in Iowa State's backfield this season. ISU coach Paul Rhoads believes both guys are "good enough for us to win in the Big 12" reports Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register. Wimberly averaged 4.02 yards per carry in 2013, while Nealy averaged 3.85 yards per carry. Neither running back averaged more than five yards per touch from scrimmage last season, so Wimberly or Nealy would need to separate themselves from the competition if making big plays is going to be a consistent part of their resume this fall.
  • As good as true freshman Dravon Henry has looked during his first few weeks at West Virginia, sophomore Jeremy Tyler won't be giving up his spot in the Mountaineers' secondary without a fight, writes Mike Casazza of the Charleston Daily Mail. It looks like WVU will be using both players in the secondary, and they hope for minimal dropoff from last season. Henry has been one of the stars of WVU's preseason camp but don't overlook Tyler, who was overshadowed by fellow freshman Daryl Worley in 2013 and now seems to be overshadowed by Henry. Yet Tyler was really starting to come on late in his freshman campaign, recording 13 of his 17 tackles in the final two games of the season.
  • Offensive success at Oklahoma State could be defined by the Cowboys' offensive line. And center Paul Lewis finds himself in the spotlight after a couple of early departures from the program. New offensive line coach Bob Connelly wants Lewis to be "a direct reflection of me" reports Kyle Fredrickson of The Oklahoman. A strong season from the offensive line will be critical for a Cowboys' squad overflowing with skill position talent on offense. If Lewis can become an anchor of the offensive front, the Cowboys have the skill talent to surprise.
  • Oklahoma has high expectations for linebacker Jordan Evans, particularly if Frank Shannon cannot play this season, writes The Oklahoman's Ryan Aber. Evans was late addition to the Sooners' Class of 2013 and played several different positions at Norman (Oklahoma) North High School, including kick returner. Shannon led OU in tackles last season, but Evans is an upgrade athletically. He was one of OU's standouts during the offseason, which should give Sooners fans peace of mind if Shannon is unable to play.
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.

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