Big 12 spring recap

Originally Published: April 29, 2005
By Brett Edgerton | Special to

Is this finally the year all the title hype is fulfilled in Austin? Is there really a quarterback problem in Norman? Can K-State turn it around with lower expectations? Can Nebraska turn it around with same-as-always expectations? Will Texas Tech score a hundred? Will Kansas score? Will some team at least act as if it wants to win the North division? Those are just a few of the many questions surrounding the always-intriguing Big 12.

Baylor Bears
2005 Schedule
9/3 at SMU
9/10 Samford
9/17 at Army
10/1 at Texas A&M
10/8 at Iowa State
10/15 Nebraska
10/22 at Oklahoma
10/29 Texas Tech
11/5 Texas
11/12 at Missouri
11/19 Oklahoma State

2004 overall record:
Conference record:

Returning starters
Offense: 4, Defense: 8, Kicker/punter: 1

2004 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Paul Mosley* (582 yds)
Passing: Dane King (1,370 yds)
Receiving: Marques Roberts (570 yds)
Tackles: Maurice Lane* (104)
Sacks: Willie Andrews* (3)
Interceptions: Four players with 1

Spring Answers: In the quarterback competition, junior Shawn Bell took the lead coming out of spring – partly out of default, mostly out of performance. He played well in the team's scrimmages, showed some leadership and became the clear-cut No. 1 after Dane King transferred and sophomore Terrance Parks went down with a torn ligament in his index finger. Coach Guy Morriss is reportedly searching the junior college level, but the receivers feel comfortable with Bell and he's likely the man. ... Two transfers from Tulane – C Will Blaylock and CB Alton Widemon – showed coaches what they could do despite nagging injuries. Don't be surprised if both are starting in the season opener. ... Joining Blaylock on that O-line will be a pair of impressive tackles: Matt Lott, a juco All-American, and Nick Pace, who returns after an ailing back kept him off the field in '04. The line looks like it's headed for a major turnaround. ... Mosley is "Thunder," while Brandon Whitaker is "Lightning." That's what they're calling them in Waco after the power guy (Mosley) and the slasher (Whitaker) showed marked improvement this spring. This looks like a good 1-2 punch. ... The Bears have the luxury of replacing two key seniors at linebacker, Justin Colbert and Michael Crooks, with two of this season's seniors, Collin Allred and Jamaal Harper. Don't look for a huge dropoff.

Fall Questions: Although the potential is there, the Bears' defensive line isn't where it should be. Players like M.T. Robinson and Montez Murphy showed some progress in the spring, but it will need to carry over to the fall. ... And will there be any big plays out of the defense as a whole this year? There would just about have to be more than there were last season. BU totaled a whopping 18 sacks and nine turnovers (compared to 24 by its offense). That's just not good enough if these guys are serious about wanting to make some noise. ... The defensive cause certainly wasn't helped when sophomore Braelon Davis tore his ACL a week before the spring game. He and the coaching staff are still hopeful he can return at some point, but it would have to be a quicker-than-usual recovery. A selection to the all-Big 12 freshman team and already BU's best corner, Davis is a substantial loss. ... The Bears are a confident football team. It's real and everyone around the program can feel it. That means nothing, however, if the team doesn't start out 3-0. It's a must. So is winning a Big 12 road game for the first time in its history. Kim Mulkey-Robertson, who brought a women's basketball national title to the school in April, gave the team a pep talk just days after returning from the Final Four. Maybe some good karma can rub off.

Colorado Buffaloes
2005 Schedule
9/3 Colorado State
9/10 New Mexico State
9/24 at Miami (Fla.)
10/1 at Oklahoma State
10/8 Texas A&M
10/15 at Texas
10/22 Kansas
10/29 at Kansas State
11/5 Missouri
11/12 at Iowa State
11/25 Nebraska

2004 overall record:
Conference record:

Returning starters
Offense: 7, Defense: 9, Kicker/punter: 2

2004 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Bobby Purify (1,097 yds)
Passing: Joel Klatt* (2,398 yds)
Receiving: Blake Mackey* (449 yds)
Tackles: Thaddaeus Washington* (89)
Sacks: Matt McChesney (4.5)
Interceptions: Lorenzo Sims* (5)

Spring Answers: You'd have to dig deep down the original depth chart to find the star of the spring. After spending most of last year at receiver, Bernard Jackson moved back to QB and was nothing short of dazzling. He doesn't know the offense quite as well as two-year starter Klatt and backup James Cox, but he can run and he can throw and coach Gary Barnett admitted it'll be hard to keep him off the field in some capacity. ... In the meantime, QB-turned-safety Ryan Walters was impressive in the secondary and has a nose for the ball. He'll have an impact. ... So will TE Joe Klopfenstein. Mark it down: Barnett is giddy about the speedy play of TB Hugh Charles, who is competing with Byron Ellis and could form a nice combo with V-back Lawrence Vickers. ... Looks like DE Alonzo Barrett will help with much-needed depth on the line. In one scrimmage, he recorded five sacks and forced a fumble. ... One area that doesn't need depth is the linebacking crew. How ridiculously stacked is this group? Big 12 Newcomer of the Year Jordan Dizon didn't even play with the first unit this spring.

Fall Questions: Can anyone catch the ball? As the drops piled up in the spring game, Colorado fans must have had unpleasant flashbacks to a 2004 that saw Buff receivers drop 39 passes. These guys have to improve if CU wants anyone to respect its passing game. To be fair, however, it was tough to chart much progress with so many nagging injuries hounding the unit this spring. ... The development of the offensive line is also an issue. The group not only lost three starters, but has battled injury problems as well. C Mark Fenton and G Brian Daniels were leaders this spring and offer no worries. The rest of the line is another story. ... With a steel plate connected to a bone in his arm, CB Terrence Wheatley is considered questionable for the upcoming season. How his painful wrist injury heals will determine whether he needs to redshirt or not. ... His iffy status is not good news for a secondary that gave up 255 yards a game last season. Neither are the academic troubles of safety J.J. Billingsley, who returned from a knee injury only to be suspended for grades in February. His situation is also up in the air.

Iowa State Cyclones
2005 Schedule
9/3 Illinois State
9/10 Iowa
9/23 at Army
10/1 at Nebraska
10/8 Baylor
10/15 at Missouri
10/22 Oklahoma State
10/29 at Texas A&M
11/5 Kansas State
11/12 Colorado
11/19 at Kansas

2004 overall record:
Conference record:

Returning starters
Offense: 8, Defense: 8, Kicker/punter: 2

2004 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Stevie Hicks* (1,062 yds)
Passing: Bret Meyer* (1,926 yds)
Receiving: Todd Blythe* (833 yds)
Tackles: Nik Moser* (85)
Sacks: Tyson Smith (5.5)
Interceptions: Ellis Hobbs (5)

Spring Answers: Two position switches had a positive impact for the Cyclones. Austin Flynn, who couldn't beat out Meyer at QB last fall, moved to receiver and proved to be a dependable target this spring. It'll be impossible to deny him a starting spot this time. Meanwhile, Terrance Highsmith, who some say moves like Seneca Wallace, moved from wide receiver to quarterback and is waging quite a battle to win the No. 2 spot behind center. Meyer's play, however, made it clear no one would unseat the starter. ... While he needs to work on his blocking – always an emphasis of coach Dan McCarney – juco transfer Walter Nickel II looks to be a good fit as the starting H-back. ... The biggest surprise of the spring might have been redshirt LB Adam Carper. Originally placed in the secondary, he now looks like a shoo-in starter at the "Sam" linebacker spot. ... A longtime ISU observer said the program hasn't seen a pair of safeties like Moser and Steve Paris in at least two decades. No one gets past these guys.

Fall Questions: Can the Cyclones stay out of the training room? They better hope so. Although the team is fairly set as far as starters go, the situation behind them is thin at best. ... Everyone remembers the missed kick that prevented the team from winning the North division title last season. Well, the place-kickers were so horrifyingly bad in the spring game that McCarney said only half of the group of six will be invited to fall camp. This is not a pretty situation for the Cyclones. ... After a shaky start to the season, the offensive line gained some momentum late last year. With some injuries and new additions, however, the rotation is back to being a bit unsettled. Which line can we expect this time around? ... While ISU lost only three starters on defense – shutdown corner Hobbs and LBs Erik Anderson and Brandon Brown – they were arguably the three best leaders on that side of the ball. The team has some decent on-the-field replacements. The off-the-field void remains to be seen.

Kansas Jayhawks
2005 Schedule
9/3 Florida Atlantic
9/10 Appalachian State
9/17 Louisiana Tech
10/1 at Texas Tech
10/8 at Kansas State
10/15 vs. Oklahoma*
10/22 at Colorado
10/29 Missouri
11/5 Nebraska
11/12 at Texas
11/19 Iowa State
* at Kansas City

2004 overall record:
Conference record:

Returning starters
Offense: 7, Defense: 8, Kicker/punter: 2

2004 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: John Randle (540 yds)
Passing: Adam Barmann* (1,427 yds)
Receiving: Brandon Rideau (597 yds)
Tackles: Nick Reid* (109)
Sacks: David McMillan (7)
Interceptions: Charles Gordon* (7)

Spring Answers: Sensing no one could fill the large hole created by the departure of all-Big 12 center Joe Vaughn, coach Mark Mangino shifted over DT Todd Haselhorst, who made the move pay off with some solid play this spring. ... DE David McMillan's departure was also worrisome, but Charleton Keith stepped in and significantly reduced the level of concern. ... By all indications, the secondary that led the Big 12 last year with 19 interceptions has improved in the offseason. The biggest cause of that might be the emergence of redshirt freshman Aqib Talib, a projected starter at strong safety. ... The returning starters at linebacker – Reid, Kevin Kane and Banks Floodman – gave the KU offense nightmares and will carry that over to opponents this fall. They'll lead what could legitimately be one of the best defenses in the Big 12 this season. ... Although still occasionally battling inconsistency, sophomore punter Kyle Tucker has been booming kicks and should be a nice weapon for the Jayhawks.

Fall Questions: While the defense might be stout, the offense is worrisome at best. The three quarterbacks – Barmann, Jason Swanson and Brian Luke – threw six INTs in the spring game. With no one distinguishing himself from the rest, highly touted freshman Kerry Meier might even be in the mix, although a redshirt seems more likely. ... Will sure-handed juco transfer Brian Murph translate a good spring into a good fall? KU better hope so, because Mark Simmons is the only one with any experience at receiver. The 'Hawks are also counting on converted QB Marcus Herford, who at times dazzled observers with his athletic ability. ... At tailback, Randle was finally let go after his fourth arrest. Clark Green is certainly not awful, but the running game wasn't exactly a bright spot last year and another iffy line raises some more serious doubts. Can redshirt freshman Gary Green II step in and offer a change of pace? ... Kansas also needs to find a replacement for its all-time leader in kick returns, Greg Heaggans, who didn't participate this spring and apparently will not be back with the team.

Kansas State Wildcats
2005 Schedule
9/3 Fla. International
9/10 at Marshall
9/24 North Texas
10/1 at Oklahoma
10/8 Kansas
10/15 at Texas Tech
10/22 Texas A&M
10/29 Colorado
11/5 at Iowa State
11/12 at Nebraska
11/19 Missouri

2004 overall record:
Conference record:

Returning starters
Offense: 6, Defense: 6, Kicker/punter: 1

2004 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Darren Sproles (1,318 yds)
Passing: Dylan Meier* (1,436 yds)
Receiving: Yamon Figurs* (483 yds)
Tackles: Brandon Archer* (75)
Sacks: Scott Edmonds* (7)
Interceptions: Archer*, Bret Jones and Maurice Porter* (2 each)

Spring Answers: Whoever wins the quarterback competition should have a nice target to throw to in 6-foot-3, 216-pound Jordy Nelson, a walk-on who was moved over from free safety. The former high school quarterback brings size, speed and plenty of physicality to the table. The redshirt sophomore is yet to take a snap in a college game, but that'll change soon – especially if the Wildcats continue to run the four-receiver sets they tried out this spring. ... Senior right tackle Jeromey Clary has stepped up and is the unquestioned leader of the team. The real story, though, is the progress made by his younger linemates. Anyone who saw poor Sproles earn every yard he got knows how atrocious the O-line was last season. Sounds harsh, but losing four starters might have been the ultimate addition-by-subtraction. The group is still a little green, but it is much more cohesive and coach Bill Snyder has made a point of singling out guys like LT Gerard Spexarth as reasons for optimism. ... Safety Kyle Williams is another player he's liked. After transferring from junior college and then sitting out a year, Williams has been a bright spot in a muddled secondary. ... There's been some separation in the kicking game. After averaging just under 43 yards a punt when given a job late last fall, walk-on Tom Ware was given a scholarship and did nothing this spring to make the coaching staff regret it. Sophomore place-kicker Jeff Snodgrass also has a booming leg and it looks like he's got a starting spot wrapped up as well.

Fall Questions: With Meier extremely limited from shoulder surgery, the dual-threat Allen Webb showed enough with his legs and an improving arm and has the No. 1 spot heading into the summer. Snyder has made it clear, however, that the competition with Meier will re-open in August and that redshirt freshman Allen Evridge is certainly not out of the mix. ... Who gets to fill the unenviable role of replacement for a K-State legend like Sproles? Naturally, there's not a lot of in-game experience in the race and no one has really stood out. The leading returning rusher, Thomas Clayton, rushed for all of 71 yards last season. No back other than Sproles received more than 15 carries. Parrish Fisher is a slasher, while Clayton and Carlos Alsup are more of the bruising type. Snyder said he doesn't want a committee, but he might not have a choice. No one jumped out in the spring. ... What about the enigma that is TE Rashaad Norwood, a huge recruit who had no impact last season and has been in the doghouse this spring? He's being pushed by Sean Lowe and especially Brett Alstatt, who both made progress this spring. ... The linebackers should be a little more settled this year, but the D-line simply has to get more push and all four spots in the secondary are completely up for grabs.

Missouri Tigers
2005 Schedule
9/3 Arkansas State*
9/10 New Mexico
9/17 Troy
10/1 Texas
10/8 at Oklahoma State
10/15 Iowa State
10/22 Nebraska
10/29 at Kansas
11/5 at Colorado
11/12 Baylor
11/19 at Kansas State
* at Kansas City

2004 overall record:
Conference record:

Returning starters
Offense: 7, Defense: 3, Kicker/punter: 1

2004 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Damien Nash (792 yds)
Passing: Brad Smith* (2,185 yds)
Receiving: Sean Coffey* (648 yds)
Tackles: James Kinney (112)
Sacks: Brian Smith* (7)
Interceptions: Shird Mitchell (4)

Spring Answers: With Nash off to the NFL, Tony Temple came in this spring and assured Tiger fans there wouldn't be much – if any – drop-off at tailback. The sophomore is small and quick and seems to have great vision. ... Walk-on Tommy Saunders, a redshirt freshman who might just have the best hands on the team, moved up the depth chart and should be a nice option in the spread offense. ... Another nice option might just be junior TE DeQuincy Howard. A poor work ethic held him back in the past, but the light switch was flipped on during the offseason. At times, he was even playing with the first-teamers over freshman All-American Martin Rucker. ... On a depleted defense that needs a leader, talkative strong safety Jason Simpson, who at one time ruffled a few feathers around Tiger camp, is stepping into the new role quite nicely. He's even one of coach Gary Pinkel's favorites. ... And speaking of fitting in nicely, Derrick Ming – long stuck on special teams and buried on the depth chart – has taken command of the starting position at weakside linebacker. The fifth-year senior improved his attitude and improved his play and should be a plus in what is a rebuilding group.

Fall Questions: How will the Tigers handle their new offense? Better yet, is there a new offense? The MU coaches have been incredibly secretive about it, but it would certainly appear to be more of a spread, no-huddle approach with Smith getting more opportunities in the option. They've run the spread occasionally in the past, but the idea is to be more like a Utah or Bowling Green. Interceptions were a problem this spring, though, and Mizzou hasn't exactly been a threat to go deep in awhile. And the O-line isn't exactly clicking on all cylinders. We'll see how this turns out. ... It's imperative the offense scores more, because the D took some major hits. The unit was surprisingly effective last season, but showed its youthfulness up until a fairly impressive spring game. The Tigers have a multi-player battle at one corner and have some serious concerns with the interior of the D-line, with the exception of Lorenzo Williams. ... Special teams took a step back last fall and didn't exactly vault forward this spring. The return game is in constant search of a spark and kicker/punter Adam Crossett is in constant search of consistency. All jobs are there for the taking this August.

Nebraska Cornhuskers
2005 Schedule
9/3 Maine
9/10 Wake Forest
9/17 Pittsburgh
10/1 Iowa State
10/8 Texas Tech
10/15 at Baylor
10/22 at Missouri
10/29 Oklahoma
11/5 at Kansas
11/12 Kansas State
11/19 at Colorado

2004 overall record:
Conference record:

Returning starters
Offense: 7, Defense: 5, Kicker/punter: 1

2004 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Cory Ross* (1,102 yds)
Passing: Joe Dailey (2,025 yds)
Receiving: Ross Pilkington (337 yds)
Tackles: Barrett Ruud (143)
Sacks: Benard Thomas (4)
Interceptions: Daniel Bullocks* (5)

Spring Answers: If Zac Taylor isn't the QB on Sept. 3, there might be a full-scale revolt in Huskerland. Taylor, who ended up in Lincoln via Wake Forest and a community college, still has the 63,000 who came out to the Red and White game buzzing. That's what happens when you complete 20 of 27 passes for 357 yards before halftime. While it is just spring, his strong and accurate arm looks like the perfect fit for a West Coast scheme that so famously failed last year. ... It helps that receivers like Terrence Nunn and especially Isaiah Fluellen have finally grasped the offense and look like legitimate deep threats. ... That didn't take long. Tierre Green came over from I-back and has already all but wrapped up a starting spot at cornerback, where the Huskers lost both starters. Ahman's cousin has the perfect build for that position. ... Coach Bill Callahan entered spring practice questioning his team's toughness – somewhat physical, mostly mental. After finally seeing significant progress made in picking up the system, he said he left with no worries on the toughness front. That can't be anything but a good sign.

Fall Questions: Can the Big Red regain the swagger? The intimidation factor? With five home games to start the season, they've got a golden opportunity for a quick start. ... Everyone who remembers last year's 70-7 nightmare in Lubbock – and that would pretty much include every breathing human in the Husker state – knows Nebraska has to improve an atrocious pass rush and even worse pass defense. As far as the latter is concerned, the secondary returns only one starter. We'll see soon whether that's a good thing or a bad thing. ... Losing Barrett Ruud, basically an institution at middle linebacker, is most definitely a bad thing. He was the unquestioned leader of the team and was the quarterback of the defense for so long. Not only will a true freshman or juco transfer have to fill his spot on the field, but someone will have to fill it off the gridiron as well. ... And someone might need to fill in for TE Matt Herian, who is the team's leading returner in receiving yards. He's still recovering from a broken leg and might need to redshirt. ... With Santino Panico's status also up in the air, the team is still auditioning a host of candidates at both kick and punt returner. The Cornhuskers were 107th in the country in punt return yardage last season. ... After their team bucked years of NU history and hauled in one of the best recruiting classes in the country, everyone in the state wants to know how fast this crop of fresh faces can contribute. It could be argued – and many around Lincoln have – that there is a newcomer at each and every position that could have an immediate impact. We shall see.

Oklahoma Sooners
2005 Schedule
9/3 TCU
9/10 Tulsa
9/17 at UCLA
10/1 Kansas State
10/8 vs. Texas*
10/15 at Kansas
10/22 Baylor
10/29 at Nebraska
11/5 Oklahoma State
11/12 Texas A&M
11/19 at Texas Tech
* at Dallas

2004 overall record:
Conference record:

Returning starters
Offense: 6, Defense: 4, Kicker/punter: 0

2004 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Adrian Peterson* (1,925 yds)
Passing: Jason White (3,205 yds)
Receiving: Mark Clayton (876 yds)
Tackles: Brodney Pool (92)
Sacks: Dan Cody (10)
Interceptions: Pool (2)

Spring Answers: Even though Adrian Peterson was sidelined after shoulder surgery, there's little doubt Peterson and Kejuan Jones form one of the best tailback duos around. ... At a position that was decimated by graduation, 6-foot-6 Quentin Chaney turned some heads at receiver this spring. The redshirt freshman has the chance to make an immediate splash in the fall. ... LB Clint Ingram improved his all-around game enough in the offseason that coach Bob Stoops said he'll rarely leave the field in the fall, even in passing situations. He's matured, looks much more comfortable in the system and probably had the best spring of any player on the team. Look for big things. ... To the surprise of many, the secondary doesn't look like the disaster area some predicted. It's still a concern until the actual games start, but onetime CB starters Eric Bassey and Chijioke Onyenegecha sure played like they wanted their jobs back, while sophomore Darrien Williams made a good impression at safety.

Fall Questions: Although nothing was settled in the derby to replace Jason White under center, it's hardly time to panic. Those close to the program say the coaching staff never intended to find a starter this spring. That's good, because neither Paul Thompson, Rhett Bomar nor Tommy Grady wowed the Sooner faithful, especially at the spring game. Most feel it's between Thompson and Bomar, who are more of a threat on the ground, but the more conventional Grady isn't out of it. By September, though, one of the three needs to play like he wants the job. ... The O-line in front of the trio that lost three longtime starters has yet to gel properly. The right side is especially green, with Akim Millington at tackle and former TE Chris Chester at guard. As a whole, this line needs to become more physical. ... How long will it take for DT Dusty Dvoracek to recover? After surgery on his bicep, doctors say the projected starter might be ready for the opener or might miss up to three games. ... Bothered by a pesky back injury, punter Cody Freeby struggled mightily this spring. Not a good sign, considering he is the entire depth chart.

Oklahoma State Cowboys
2005 Schedule
9/3 Montana State
9/10 at Florida Atlantic
9/17 Arkansas State
10/1 Colorado
10/8 Missouri
10/15 at Texas A&M
10/22 at Iowa State
10/29 Texas
11/5 at Oklahoma
11/12 Texas Tech
11/19 at Baylor

2004 overall record:
Conference record:

Returning starters
Offense: 7, Defense: 7, Kicker/punter: 1

2004 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Vernand Morency (1,474 yds)
Passing: Donovan Woods* (1,628 yds)
Receiving: D'Juan Woods* (690 yds)
Tackles: Jamie Thompson* (85)
Sacks: Nathan Peterson* (4)
Interceptions: Thompson*, Vernon Grant* and Paul Duren* (2 each)

Spring Answers: Some wondered whether the Pokes would lose some of that Les Miles-brand toughness as they moved to new offensive coordinator Larry Fedora's spread offense (see: Florida). That loss apparently never materialized this spring. ... With cornerback taking a major hit, Grant was moved back to his old position from safety and he looks like he hasn't skipped a beat. The 5-foot-9 big talker backed it up with big plays against D'Juan Woods and others this spring. ... Maybe the Cowboys' nonexistent pass rush is there after all. Tackles Ryan McBean, via JC from Jamaica, and Xavier Lawson-Kennedy, sans 25 pounds or so, more than held their own against the offensive linemen this spring. ... Led by longtime contributors Paul Duren, Lawrence Pinson and Pagitte McGee, the Cowboy linebackers were racking up more than a few big plays themselves. Don't be surprised if this group is a strength of the team this fall.

Fall Questions: Coming into the spring, a whole lot of questions were being asked about the skill positions. Coming out of spring, many of them still remain. Why didn't Robert Reid, with those legs and strong arm that have Cowboy fans drooling, take the expected step over Donovan Woods at quarterback? Woods isn't giving away his job easily. ... In the running game, halfback Seymour Shaw missed most of practice nursing leg injuries and has had a history of injury problems. Mike Hamilton and Julius Crosslin looked for real in the spring, but who knows what will happen when it counts. ... At wideout, Woods is back, but a legit second receiver is still being sought after. ... The punting job is completely wide open. In fact, it might be incoming freshman Matt Fodge's to lose. And he hasn't even made it to Stillwater yet. ... While Grant's move back to corner appears to be a positive, OSU still has major questions in the secondary. It's not so much a matter of who will play, but rather if they will play well.

Texas Longhorns
2005 Schedule
9/3 Louisiana-Lafayette
9/10 at Ohio State
9/17 Rice
10/1 at Missouri
10/8 vs. Oklahoma*
10/15 Colorado
10/22 Texas Tech
10/29 at Oklahoma State
11/5 at Baylor
11/12 Kansas
11/25 at Texas A&M
* at Dallas

2004 overall record: 11-1
Conference record:

Returning starters
Offense: 7, Defense: 9, Kicker/punter: 1

2004 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Cedric Benson (1,834 yds)
Passing: Vince Young* (1,849 yds)
Receiving: Tony Jeffery (437 yds)
Tackles: Derrick Johnson (130)
Sacks: Tim Crowder* (4.5)
Interceptions: Michael Huff*, Cedric Griffin* and Tarell Brown* (2 each)

Spring Answers: Reconstructive knee surgery knocked freshman WR Jordan Shipley out last season just as he was starting to put on a show in preseason camp. Well, he resumed that show this spring. Coach Mack Brown insists the 'Horns are going to open it up and chuck it down the field on a more frequent basis. The speedy Shipley is certainly one to keep an eye on. ... Last fall, redshirted Eric Foreman was quarterback of the scout team. This fall, he'll be strongside linebacker of the real team. Don't laugh. He's got the perfect build for the position and the coaches love him. ... Speaking of quarterbacks and defense, Brown has told the masses his team's pass rush is as good as it's been during his Austin tenure. Scan down any NFL rosters lately? That statement is not to be taken lightly. With Mike Williams back in the fold at end and Crowder continuing to improve, the 'Horns could once again be terrifying to Big 12 quarterbacks after a one-year hiatus. ... It appears senior David Pino will fill in nicely after the departure of longtime kicker Dusty Mangum. He was hitting everything in sight this spring

Fall Questions: With Selvin Young's academic status still up in the air, so is his supposed lock on the starting tailback spot. Although injury-prone in the past, sophomore Ramonce Taylor might be the fastest player on the team and he looked tremendous during the spring. In fact, he's even drawn comparisons to Reggie Bush from some Texas coaches. Just to make the staff look good, Taylor started the spring game by returning the opening kick 89 yards for a touchdown. If Young returns in August, he'll have a battle on his hands. ... If you saw the Rose Bowl, you know Vince Young is as exciting as it gets. But he's still not exactly Mr. Accurate. Can a receiving corps that's not known for its physical play and champions a sophomore (Limas Sweed) as its most experienced contributor be expected to bail Young out at all times?. ... And if the scrambling Young ever goes down with an injury, all bets are off. It's not a pretty situation behind him. ... October 8. Red River Shootout. Is it finally the Longhorns' time? It's the one question on the minds of all Texas fans … once again.

Texas A&M Aggies
2005 Schedule
9/3 at Clemson
9/17 SMU
9/24 Texas State
10/1 Baylor
10/8 at Colorado
10/15 Oklahoma State
10/22 at Kansas State
10/29 Iowa State
11/5 at Texas Tech
11/19 at Oklahoma
11/25 Texas

2004 overall record:
Conference record:

Returning starters
Offense: 9, Defense: 8, Kicker/punter: 1

2004 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Courtney Lewis* (742 yds)
Passing: Reggie McNeal* (2,791 yds)
Receiving: Terrence Murphy (721 yds)
Tackles: Jaxson Appel* (84)
Sacks: Mike Montgomery (6)
Interceptions: Japhus Brown* (3)

Spring Answers: Position experiments that could pay off for the Aggies: Stephen Hodge from corner to linebacker, Cody Wallace from guard to center, Chris Yoder from center to guard and especially Brandon Leone from safety to running back. Leone, one of the biggest surprises of the spring, is a straight-ahead bruiser who will provide a nice change of pace from Lewis. ... With Murphy gone and Jason Carter's academic status up in the air, it was imperative that someone step up this spring at wide receiver. The strong, sure-handed L'Tydrick Riley – all 230 pounds – did just that. He's the kind of guy offensive coordinators love to have around on third-and-long. No matter what happens with Carter, Riley and the speedy Chad Schroeder are nice options for McNeal. ... Although the loss of Montgomery hurts, the D-line is, and will continue to be, the strength of the Aggies' Wrecking Crew defense. ... While there's still two big question marks at cornerback, no one is having doubts about Appel, who continually impressed at free safety this spring.

Fall Questions: If the Aggies want to play with the big boys, it has to start up front. The O-line was manhandled up front in the final two games against Texas and Tennessee. Four of five starters return, but there's been some moving around on the line and it remains to be seen how effective these guys can be. ... Same goes for the team's fragile junior running back. Will we see the dazzling Lewis of '03 or the up-and-down Lewis of '04? After injuring himself in two-a-days last year, he just never seemed to be the same. ... Will the oft-maligned secondary be any better? Senior Ray Ray Jones and redshirt frosh Danny Gorrer looked primed to help out at cornerback, but that doesn't exactly have Big 12 quarterbacks fretting. Erik Mayes and Brock Newton are also in the mix at a position that might not be decided until the final week of August. ... It's still not known if anyone can improve A&M's paltry 116th national ranking in kickoff returns. Being able to hold onto the ball is a prerequisite.

Texas Tech Red Raiders
2005 Schedule
9/10 Fla. International
9/17 Sam Houston State
9/24 Indiana State
10/1 Kansas
10/8 at Nebraska
10/15 Kansas State
10/22 at Texas
10/29 at Baylor
11/5 Texas A&M
11/12 at Oklahoma State
11/19 Oklahoma

2004 overall record:
Conference record:

Returning starters
Offense: 6, Defense: 8, Kicker/punter: 2

2004 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Taurean Henderson* (840 yds)
Passing: Sonny Cumbie (4,742 yds)
Receiving: Jarrett Hicks* (1,177 yds)
Tackles: Mike Smith and Khalid Naziruddin* (83 each)
Sacks: Keyunta Dawson* (6.5)
Interceptions: Antonio Huffman*, Addell Duckett and Dwayne Slay* (2 each)

Spring Answers: Some in Lubbock worried about replacing Trey Haverty at the all-important "Y" receiver spot. Some knew better. There are those who saw the ridiculously athletic L.A. Reed at practice last year and swore he was the team's best wide receiver. Now that the redshirt is off, the secret is out. Reed and former quarterback Robert Johnson, who can flat out fly, will join Hicks and several others in what might become the finest WR group in Tech history. ... Another redshirt freshman, Shannon Woods, is making enough of an impression as a confident and ultra-physical running back that coaches say he'll be on the field somewhere. If nothing else, he's a great insurance policy in case Henderson doesn't take care of business in the classroom. ... On the contrary, the rap on LB Fletcher Session was always his lack of physicality. After a solid spring, that's no longer a concern and coaches have awarded him with the task of replacing four-year starter Mike Smith on the weakside.

Fall Questions: Another season and another fifth-year QB starting in his first season under center. For Mike Leach and his absurdly effective offense, it looks like it will happen for the fourth straight year. Or will it? Cody Hodges certainly played like he was the natural successor to B.J. Symons and Sonny Cumbie, but insiders insist that a healthy Graham Harrell will put up a good fight in August. The redshirt freshman is deadly accurate, which is such a key to success in Leach's offense. ... Can Henderson, a multi-dimensional back integral to Tech's attack, make the grade? He needs to pass 27 hours in the spring and summer to gain his final year of eligibility. ... What about a center replacement and the left side of the O-line? All three spots need to be filled and all three are question marks heading into the summer. Might this be a cog in the TTU offensive machine? ... Will the Raiders be any better at stopping the run? It's the eternal question in Lubbock and one that needs a good answer for the program to have any chance of winning a Big 12 title. The Raiders showed some signs of life in this area at the end of 2004, but consistency has never been a strong suit. ... Florida International? Sam Houston State? Indiana State? Gee, was DeVry University not available?

Brett Edgerton is a researcher for ESPN. He can be reached at