Big 12 spring recap

Updated: May 8, 2006, 10:25 AM ET
By Brett Edgerton | Special to


Baylor Bears
2006 Schedule
9/2 TCU
9/9 Northwestern State
9/16 at Washington State*
9/23 Army
9/30 Kansas State
10/7 at Colorado
10/14 at Texas
10/21 Kansas
10/28 Texas A&M
11/4 at Texas Tech
11/11 at Oklahoma State
11/18 Oklahoma
*at Seattle

2005 overall record:
Conference record:

Returning starters
Offense: 8, Defense: 4, Kicker/punter: 2

2005 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Paul Mosley* (657 yds)
Passing: Shawn Bell* (1,964 yds)
Receiving: Dominique Zeigler* (563 yds)
Tackles: Maurice Lane (84)
Sacks: Colin Allred (5.5)
Interceptions: C.J. Wilson* (5)

Spring Answers: It seems like every offseason there's a distinct and successful offense that just about everyone wants to incorporate into their own scheme -- last year it was the Urban Meyer spread option and this year it appears it's the pass-heavy Texas Tech spread attack. Baylor jumped on the bandwagon with the addition of offense coordinator Lee Hays. QB Shawn Bell picked up quick on the new approach and is basically an additional coach on the field. … While it's tough to see how big, bruising TB Paul Mosley fits into the offense, it's not hard to envision the role of Brandon Whitaker, who has the perfect skills for this offense. The junior is an explosive, slasher-type who can run and catch. Whitaker is so tough to tackle that he's one of those players who can turn a 5-yard pass into a 50-yard gain. A quarterback's dream, as Bell told the press. … Terrance Parks, who once competed with Bell for the job under center, will now be catching passes from him. The transition was golden this spring, and Parks, who can do a little bit of everything, looks like a real weapon at a position that has to have them. … Like they do in several spots on the defense, the Bears have some holes to fill at linebacker. That's why it was such a relief to see the impressive strides made my redshirt freshman Antonio Jones and JC transfer Paul Tolbert throughout the spring.

Fall Questions: If everyone is so excited about the new offense, why exactly was it dominated by the defense in the scrimmages? The staff saw enough glimpses to know it'll work eventually, but it might take time to break it in. Remember, this is basically the same group that finished last in the Big 12 in total yards and 91st nationally in scoring. And the line, taken over by head coach Guy Morris, isn't yet a strength, especially depth-wise. … So will the defense be able to carry the team if the other side struggles early on? This group was decent last season, but did lost seven starters. Like on offense, the guys up front have plenty to prove and simply have to get more of a push. The Bears also need to find an end opposite Marcus Foreman. … Who will decide to take the starting spot at free safety? The secondary should be solid, but this one is still up for grabs. If neither Dwain Crawford and Jordan Lake earns the job, it's possible CB C.J. Wilson could move there. … Baylor won two Big 12 games in 2005. Not a big deal, right? Well, when it's never happened before, it is a big deal. Winning five games for the first time in a decade was also important. It was a sign things are going in the right direction under Morris, who experienced a similar renewal at Kentucky before leaving for Waco. The next step for the Bears is (gasp) a bowl game. Is it time?

Colorado Buffaloes
2006 Schedule
9/2 Montana State
9/9 Colorado State*
9/16 Arizona State
9/23 at Georgia
9/30 at Missouri
10/7 Baylor
10/14 at Texas Tech
10/21 at Oklahoma
10/28 at Kansas
11/4 Kansas State
11/11 Iowa State
11/24 at Nebraska
* at Denver

2005 overall record:
Conference record:

Returning starters
Offense: 5, Defense: 8, Kicker/punter: 1

2005 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Hugh Charles* (842 yds) Passing: Joel Klatt (2,696 yds) Receiving: Evan Judge (567 yds) Tackles: Thaddaeus Washington* (112) Sacks: Washington and Abraham Wright* (5) Interceptions: 4 players with 2

Spring Answers: Who needs 'em? New head coach Dan Hawkins isn't a big fan of depth charts. Before spring practice, he made sure the names were listed in alphabetical order and made it clear to the players that kicker Mason Crosby was just about the only sure thing. So we don't know much, and a series of injuries never allowed Hawkins' much-talked-about offense to have any kind of rhythm. However, we do know a huge cloud has been lifted around Boulder. New athletic director. New coach. No more allegations, no more distractions, no more rumors about firings or resignations. Just football this spring. And isn't that as good a news as any? … That's not to say a few players didn't raise some eyebrows. Speedy Stephone Robinson was certainly one. When WR Blake Mackey went down last year, the Buffs really lacked that big-play guy who could stretch the field  and most opposing defense realized that quite quickly. Enter Robinson, a junior who Hawkins is determined to put on the field somewhere. He can really run with the ball in his hands and he'll get the chance to, whether it be on quick screens, reverses, punt returns, etc. In the spring game, he showed his elusiveness by returning two punts for touchdowns. … Senior Walter Boye-Doe has shown some explosiveness in the past and isn't a complete unknown. But the defensive end took it to a different level this spring and thus earned himself a starting spot on the line. The Buffs hope those four sacks in the spring game are a harbinger of things to come. … Colorado obviously didn't need any answers at placekicker, where it has the best in the country in Mason Crosby. That doesn't mean there wasn't some intrigue. Hawkins said repeatedly he wants Crosby to break the NCAA record for a made field goal -- currently 65 yards without a tee -- and he's serious about it, too. In the final scrimmage, he let the senior try a 70-yarder, which didn't miss by much. Earlier in the spring, Crosby nailed one from 68 yards out. If you see the Buffs on TV this fall, we suggest you tune in. Could be history on the line. time?

Fall Questions: So who gets to run the offense that Hawkins made so famous at Boise State? Your guess is as good as ours at this point. James Cox has the most experience, but suffered a hairline fracture in his hand the first week of practice and did not return. So it was left to Brian White and a scrambling Bernard Jackson to battle it out and neither created any kind of separation. White looked pretty sharp in the bowl game last season, but Jackson certainly adds an athletic variable to the mix the others can't bring. When Cox returns in August, it's back to square one. … Will the running game be any better? It was tough to tell because of the struggles of a banged-up offensive line that lost both starting tackles to graduation. Until proven otherwise, the offense still don't seem to have a breakaway threat or much of a power game inside. … Recently the CU receivers have struggled to get open and don't always catch the ball when they are. That's why having a lethal tight end duo like Joe Klopfenstein and Quinn Sypniewski provided such a security blanket. Will transfer Tyson DeVree, a Freshman All-American at Western Michigan, provide that same kind of comfort? Those are four big shoes to fill. … Most of the starters on defense are back, but replacing underappreciated OLB Brian Iwuh is crucial. That position is an important part of this unit and highly touted sophomore Brad Jones is going to need to live up to the hype. And with nearly everyone returning, can the secondary manage to hold opponents under 250 passing yards a game this year? The return of a healthy Terrence Wheatley at corner should help. … The Buffs have to find a replacement for the always-reliable John Torp at punter, but don't want to have to turn to Crosby, who thinks punting negatively affects his placekicking duties. Can either Matt DiLallo or Daniel Agostino solve this conundrum?

Iowa State Cyclones
2006 Schedule
8/31 Toledo
9/9 UNLV
9/16 at Iowa
9/23 at Texas
9/30 Northern Iowa
10/7 Nebraska
10/14 at Oklahoma
10/21 Texas Tech
10/28 at Kansas State
11/4 Kansas
11/11 at Colorado
11/18 Missouri

2005 overall record:
Conference record:

Returning starters
Offense: 10, Defense: 4, Kicker/punter: 1

2005 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Stevie Hicks* (545 yds)
Passing: Bret Meyer* (2,876 yds)
Receiving: Todd Blythe* (1,000 yds)
Tackles: Matt Robertson and Tim Dobbins (103)
Sacks: Jason Berryman (7.5)
Interceptions: DeAndre Jackson* and LaMarcus Hicks (5)

Spring Answers: How good can the passing game be? Here's a clue: the coaches were even beaming about the play of the backup quarterback. The Cyclones don't need to lose starting QB Bret Meyer and all he brings to the table, but at least the staff doesn't have to go into cardiac arrest every time he gets pressured. Kyle Van Winkle was probably the most improved player of the spring. And that bottomless group of receivers they've got in Ames? Yeah, they're still pretty good. … On a decimated defense, two bright lights from the secondary emerged. Actually, only one truly emerged. It's not like CB DeAndre Jackson had anything to prove this spring. He's not only a great kickoff returner, but coach Dan McCarney has seen enough to declare the senior one of the best corners in America. At strong safety, though, redshirt freshman James Smith turned in one heck of a performance. He's not big (5-8), but he can play. And he'll have to right away. … Out last fall after transferring from Michigan State, LB Tyrone McKenzie nevertheless made some heads turn while on the practice squad. He'll be making a few heads turn out in the flat this fall. By all accounts, McKenzie is as good as advertised. The Cyclones will need a few more just like him if they're going to hold opponents to a school-record three yards a carry again. … The team lost its top two punters and there was serious worry about that spot heading into the offseason. Then redshirt freshman Michael Brandtner started booming them down the practice field and all worries went to the wayside.

Fall Questions: What happened to the ISU running game? And is it coming back anytime soon? Yes, we know Jason Scales missed the entire season and we understand Stevie Hicks was in and out of the lineup with various injuries. But Hicks did average just 3.7 yards a carry in the nine games he did play and the team average was a measly 2.7. Of course, plenty of blame rests with the O-line, which also gave up a conference-worst 39 sacks. For the first time since 1983, Iowa St. boasts five senior starters up front. It's about time to deliver, don't you think? … While practically everyone returns on offense, the defense just keeps taking hit after hit. Not long after the season, sack leader Jason Berryman was thrown off the team after yet another run-in with the law. Then, right at the conclusion of spring practice, standout LB Matt Robertson saw his career end after testing positive for a banned nutritional supplement. For a unit that had already lost six starters to graduation, it wasn't exactly a pleasant news cycle. People forget just how good that Iowa St. defense was last year. The Cyclones forced a Big 12-best 35 takeaways and didn't allow more than 27 points all season. Now the replacements are athletic and quick, but that's not winning any games yet. The end positions are a question mark and no one is quite sure who is going to play nose guard, a spot manned by Nick Leaders since the 2002 season opener. And the gutting of the middle of the defense doesn't stop at nose. There's also battles to replace MLB Tim Dobbins and SS Nik Moser. At the corner opposite Jackson, Chris Singleton will step in with little experience. At the free safety spot vacated by Steve Paris, Jon Banks will step in with no experience. But did we mention the offense should be pretty good?

Kansas Jayhawks
2006 Schedule
9/2 Northwestern State
9/9 Louisiana Monroe
9/15 at Toledo
9/23 South Florida
9/30 at Nebraska
10/7 Texas A&M
10/14 Oklahoma State
10/21 at Baylor
10/28 Colorado
11/4 at Iowa State
11/18 Kansas State
11/25 at Missouri

2005 overall record:
Conference record:

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

2005 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Jon Cornish* (780 yds)
Passing: Jason Swanson (1,223 yds)
Receiving: Mark Simmons (631 yds)
Tackles: Nick Reid (112)
Sacks: Brandon Perkins (10)
Interceptions: Theo Baines (4)

Spring Answers: If not for some complications with his heart last August, Kerry Meier would've probably taken over as starting quarterback at some point. So it was only a matter of time after his redshirt, and it didn't take long at all for him to move past senior Adam Barmann and into the starting position this spring. Meier just looks the part. Poised. Big arm. Can run if needed. For the first time in three years, KU has some stability and talent under center. … That's also the case on the O-line. The starters have played next to each other for quite some time now and the Jayhawks actually have some talent behind them, as well. Right tackle, the only spot of relative inexperience, will be fine in the hands of redshirt sophomore Anthony Collins, who has a mean streak and a massive 6-6 frame. … Rodney Harris would've been the starting free safety this year, but a serious neck injury required surgery and his career is unfortunately over. Darrell Stuckey's is only beginning. The redshirt freshman emerged this spring at free safety with his ever-improving coverage and physical, smart play. Coach Mark Mangino loves both Stuckey and CB Aqib Talib, a redshirt sophomore and a rare returning starter. … Yet another redshirt sophomore, LB Mike Rivera, had a heck of a spring at a position of great need. He played occasionally last year, but mainly on special teams. You'll see him all over the field this season. Rivera runs like a cheetah and then likes to flatten people when he arrives at his destination.

Fall Questions: Three of the top four pass-catchers from last year are gone and we're not exactly sure what the Jayhawks have left. Brian Murph isn't bad, but is he really a No. 1 receiver? And even if he is, when does No. 2 arrive? There are about five candidates for that second spot and no one has really come close to staking a claim to it. … Most of the questions, however, have to be directed toward the other side of the ball. A whopping nine starters were lost from a unit that finished 11th in the country in total defense (303.3 YPG) and third in rushing D (83.3 YPG). The coaching staff feels the defense will be more athletic and has the potential to be just as good, but there are still plenty of questions left to be answered. On the line, the interior should be outstanding, but Jermial Ashley and especially Charlton Keith left some gaping holes on the ends -- and the replacements haven't provided much hope the pass rush will be sustained at the same level. … Speaking of massive holes, how about the one caused by the graduation of linebackers Nick Reid, Kevin Kane and Banks Floodman? The expected replacements (Rivera, Eric Washington and Joe Mortensen) are getting props for their borderline-crazy intensity, but there's not a whole lot of experience there. And they're replacing a whole lot of it. … Talib is locked in at one corner, but the other is still a mystery. For now, Blake Bueltel has the edge over fellow JUCO transfer Michael McCoy, but incoming freshman Anthony Webb will get his chance in August.

Kansas State Wildcats
2006 Schedule
9/2 Illinois
9/9 Florida Atlantic
9/16 Marshall
9/23 Louisville
9/30 at Baylor
10/7 Oklahoma State
10/14 Nebraska
10/21 at Missouri
10/28 Iowa State
11/4 at Colorado
11/11 Texas
11/18 at Kansas

2005 overall record:
Conference record:

Returning starters
Offense: 9, Defense: 8, Kicker/punter: 2

2005 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Thomas Clayton* (637 yds)
Passing: Allan Evridge* (1,365 yds)
Receiving: Jordy Nelson* (669 yds)
Tackles: Brandon Archer* (72)
Sacks: Tearrius George (4)
Interceptions: Justin McKinney* (3)

Spring Answers: The Prince returned to the land of his birth and the purplebloods just can't seem get enough of him. In fact, the crowning of Ron Prince as K-State's new coach couldn't have gotten off to a better start. Not only did he convince Josh Freeman, an All-American quarterback from Kansas City, to decommit to Nebraska, but he also brought a new energy and openness -- inviting the public to practices, for example -- to a program that had grown a bit stale, with just four conference wins since that stunning Big 12 title in 2003. No one should ever question the greatness of the Bill Snyder turnaround, maybe the greatest in the history of college football. But some young new blood just feels right for this program. And we think the nearly 32,000 who shattered the spring-game attendance record agree. & WR Jordy Nelson was his normal terrific self, including a spectacular, had-to-see-it TD catch in that final scrimmage. While his performance came as no surprise, the emergence of TE Rashaad Norwood as a legit target was certainly a nice development for the passing game. The junior looks bigger and more focused this year. & Despite playing fewer than half the snaps of starting MLB Ted Sims, Zach Diles ended up with the exact same amount of tackles. The Cats weren't worried about that spot, but Diles went out and had a great spring anyway. He's a big hitter who runs and covers well. With the newly installed Cover 2 schemes, Diles should thrive.

Fall Questions: QB Kevin Lopina decided to transfer after spring practice, so that leaves a mere four quarterbacks to battle it out for the starting spot. Think this might get a little interesting in August? While it's probably between Allan Evridge, Dylan Meier (brother of the Kansas QB) and the aforementioned Freeman, there's not a lot of separation there, and the veteran Allen Webb isn't out of it, either. Prince said he wants to pick one guy and stick with him. Good luck with that, coach. & And good luck with that offensive line. Let's face it -- the group has been a little soft lately. Granted, several injuries led to a very young look last year, but it doesn't appear the situation is any more stable this time around. At this point, the starting jobs at center, left guard and the all-important right tackle spot, which was vacated by the great Jeromey Clary, are all up for grabs. & The biggest concern for the defense might be its own offense. In 2005, K-State turned it over way too many times inside its own 40, which obviously put the D in a precarious position. No matter where they are on the field, the Wildcats cannot afford another 28 turnovers if they're serious about returning to a bowl for the first time in three years.

Missouri Tigers
2006 Schedule
9/2 Murray Statebr> 9/9 Mississippi
9/16 at New Mexico
9/23 Ohio
9/30 Colorado
10/7 at Texas Tech
10/14 at Texas A&M
10/21 Kansas State
10/28 Oklahoma
11/4 at Nebraska
11/18 at Iowa State
11/25 Kansas

2005 overall record:
Conference record:

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

2005 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Brad Smith (1,301 yds)
Passing: Brad Smith (2,304 yds)
Receiving: Martin Rucker* (567 yds)
Tackles: David Overstreet* (100)
Sacks: Brian Smith* (9)
Interceptions: Marcus King (3)

Spring Answers: Chase Daniel hasn't officially been named the winner of the quarterback competition with Brandon Coleman and Chase Patton, but he's in the poll position, and it would take a pretty awful August for him to lose the lead. In the spring game, he directed a pair of 75-yard drives by going 11-of-12 and throwing two TD passes. The sophomore just has a presence about him that was first seen when he filled in for an injured Brad Smith and rallied the Tigers from 10 down late in an OT win against Iowa State. He's also got an efficient arm and will connect with receivers Smith too often had trouble finding. & One of those targets will be WR Will Franklin. The junior seemed to get lost in the shuffle the first two years, but he and Daniel were already on the same wavelength this spring and it sure looks like he's headed for a breakout season in the fall&.Then there's the Chase-Chase connection. Get used to it. The third Chase on the team, the 6-foot-6 tight end with the last name Coffman, was tremendous as a freshman and is only getting better. A true quarterback's dream, Coffman can save a bad pass with an acrobatic catch and then he can just run forever after that. He'll team with the equally dangerous Martin Rucker to form one of the nation's top tight end duos. & Overall, the defense could use a little more consistency this year (New Mexico scored how many?!). If there are any problems in the fall, though, it's doubtful they'll originate on the line, specifically not on the edges. The staff will have to decide between Xzavie Jackson and Stryker Sulak, but both can and will play. Those two teamed up with a better-than-ever Brian Smith? Mighty dangerous. Think they might like to break in a few of those new Big 12 quarterbacks? .

Fall Questions: The loss of Smith and his dazzling running ability means two things: The quarterback will throw more and the running backs will run more. Those two things mean one thing: The offensive line needs to get better. And sooner rather than later. Four of five starters return, but the loss was All-Big 12 LG Tony Palmer and the group as a whole isn't always as good as it should be. As far as the running game is concerned, can the tailbacks stay healthy for the long haul? Led by Tony Temple and Marcus Woods, the Tigers have four pretty good options, but all four have had injury problems in the past year alone. And it's not like they were doing a lot of the running in the past. & Six starters on the defensive front seven return, but what about the back four? Three starters were lost in the secondary, and although head coach Gary Pinkel calls it the most athletic bunch he's had at Mizzou, Darnell Terrell and Domonique Johnson still have to prove themselves at corner and the freakishly athletic William Moore still has to prove himself at strong safety. With depth a major issue, that much is certain. &The accuracy of placekicker Adam Crossett, however, is not. The junior is fine when it comes to the longer kicks, but it's the short ones -- even PAT-short -- that have Tiger fans holding their breath. & And while we're on the subject of special teams, can anyone in this program return a kickoff? Missouri was just 81st nationally in KO return average last year, but that's not the embarrassing part. Do you realize the last time the Tigers returned a kickoff for a touchdown was 1983? That's somewhere in the range of 1,000 tries. How is that even possible?

Nebraska Cornhuskers
2006 Schedule
9/2 Louisiana Tech
9/9 Nicholls State
9/16 USC
9/23 Troy
9/30 Kansas
10/7 at Iowa State
10/14 at Kansas State
10/21 Texas
10/28 at Oklahoma State
11/4 Missouri
11/11 at Texas A&M
11/24 Colorado

2005 overall record:
Conference record:

Returning starters
Offense: 8, Defense: 7, Kicker/punter: 1

2005 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Cory Ross (882 yds) br> Passing: Zac Taylor* (2,653 yds)
Receiving: Nate Swift* (641 yds)
Tackles: Corey McKeon* (98)
Sacks: Adam Carriker* (9.5)
Interceptions: Corey McKeon* (3)

Spring Answers: A kid from Norman, Okla., becoming conquering hero of Big Red Nation? Before this year, that sounded about as likely as Nebraska finishing last in the conference in rushing, and we all know how that one turned out. So yes, believe it. Sooner-bred QB Zac Taylor is smart, avoids mistakes, controls the offense and just keeps getting better and better. The senior was sharp this spring and didn't look like he was worrying about much. The game is clearly slowing down for him, which is good news for Nebraska. & Those oncoming defenders will be slowing down as well. That's because the offensive line is certain to be better. OL coach Dennis Wagner recently admitted he only felt confident with six linemen last season -- and those worries came to fruition when Taylor kept getting pummeled and the running game never got out of neutral. So how did Wagner feel at the end of this spring practice? He now feels comfortable with at least 10 of his guys. It's a been few years since the Huskers have been able to say that. & When Steve Octavien got hurt in the first game last year, Bo Ruud stepped in and played well the rest of the regular season. When Ruud broke his arm before the Alamo Bowl, Lance Brandenburgh stepped in and played well against Michigan. When Stewart Bradley got hurt early in the season & well you get the point. The Huskers have some serious depth at linebacker -- and it's experienced depth. They have so many players like Corey McKeon, who don't necessarily look intimidating but always seem to be around the ball and making the big play. This is quite a group.

Fall Questions: A year ago, a big crowd came out to the spring game to see how much the Huskers would fling it around. This year, a big crowd came out to see whether their beloved team still knew how to carry the ball in a forward motion. Who could blame them? NU finished a mind-boggling 107th in the country on the ground and averaged just 2.7 yards a carry. During a three-game losing streak to Missouri, Oklahoma and (gasp) Kansas, Nebraska gained a total  a total  of 34 yards rushing. So are things any better this year? The spring offered a promising start. Sophomores Cody Glenn (the punisher) and Marlon Lucky (the gazelle), neither one used extensively last season, looked excellent. The talent, which includes the versatile Leon Jackson, is clearly there. Will we see the net product in the fall? & As pleased as the staff is with Taylor, it isn't comforting that he's not even getting a hint of competition from the reserves. The much-acclaimed Harrison Beck has yet to turn a head. And Joe Ganz and Beau Davis were a combined 5-for-25 in the spring game. & Will we ever see the old Matt Herian? When the tight end would glide down the middle of the field a couple years ago, he often looked like the best player on the field. But Herian suffered a devastating injury to his leg in October 2005, and hasn't played a game since. Then he had to deal with a nagging hamstring this spring. If he can come at least close to his old level, last year's 96th ranked offense will have a dangerous -- and perhaps forgotten  weapon. & On the defensive side, how will the new starters fare at the only two places hit hard by graduation, defensive tackle and safety? The inside push of Le Kevin Smithand Titus Adams played a big part in the recent pass-rushing accomplishments of the Husker ends. Are Barry Cryer and Ola Dagunduro up to the task? Back at safety, how will converted CB Tierre Green and career reserve Andrew Shanle hold up? If those four play well, this could be a dynamite defense. & How many times did punter Sam Koch rescue the team in crucial situations over the past few years? Too many to count. Whoever finally emerges between Dan Titchener, Tyler Kester and Jake Wesch has some rather large shoes to fill. In case they need any more pressure, it's only been about two decades since Nebraska had a bad punter.

Oklahoma Sooners
2006 Schedule
9/2 UAB
9/9 Washington
9/16 at Oregon
9/23 Middle Tennessee
10/7 at Texas
10/14 Iowa State
10/21 Colorado
10/28 at Missouri
11/4 at Texas A&M
11/11 Texas A&M
11/18 at Baylor
11/25 at Oklahoma State

2005 overall record:
Conference record:

Returning starters
Offense: 5, Defense: 8, Kicker/punter: 2

2005 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Adrian Peterson* (1,104 yds)
Passing: Rhett Bomar* (2,018 yds)
Receiving: Malcolm Kelly* (471 yds)
Tackles: Rufus Alexander* (102)
Sacks: Calvin Thibodeaux* (10)
Interceptions: Clint Ingram (5)

Spring Answers: So it turns out this Adrian Peterson is a pretty good little back. You might have heard of him. The kid from the Lone Star State who piles up yards by the hash mark when healthy. Well, Big 12 fans, here's a scary thought: That Peterson guy is once again at 100 percent -- and looking better than ever. He's lighter on his feet and was even more evasive than usual this spring. Avoid injury and he can go ahead and book a trip to the Big Apple. & Based on proven talent, one could make a strong case the Sooners' defensive ends are the best in the country. In fact, let's just go ahead and say it. Larry Birdine and John Williamswere in line for huge seasons in 2005 before devastating injuries kicked in. Their absence only cleared the way for C.J. Ah You, who was named Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year, and Calvin Thibodeaux, who led OU with 10 sacks. Now all four are in the rotation, along with Alonzo Dotson, who sat out last year due to academics. & The emergence of rising sophomore Reggie Smith had to be the story of the spring for the Sooners. A converted safety, Smith already looks like a shutdown corner opposite D.J. Wolfe. At least one source inside the program is already predicting a Thorpe Award awaits Smith later in his career. Keep an eye, too, on converted WR Lendy Holmes, who looks like a solid nickel back.

Fall Questions: With the rash of injuries that took over the O-line last fall, several young linemen gained some valuable experience. Still, it's never easy losing three starters up front, along with an underappreciated fullback (J.D. Runnels) who could block the Red River. A couple of the potential starters on the line weren't able to participate in the spring, so it was tough to gauge (seven players took all of the snaps). The talent is there. At what point does the unit gel, though? & Instead of a fullback, might the Sooners consistently utilize a two-tight end set? We'll see. Between Joe Jon Finley, converted end Auston English and 6-7 uberprospect Jermaine Gresham, the options are aplenty. & Can Rhett Bomar crank it up a notch in the leadership department? It's hard to demand of a second-year player, but it's a must if OU wants to get back into national title contention, which it clearly has a chance to do. Peterson isn't really a vocal guy and there's only one senior starter on offense. Some have argued Bomar gets a little too emotional at times, but he's smart enough to find a happy medium (and maybe improve that 1-1 TD-INT ratio while he's at it). & Late in the spring, Bob Stoops threw starting punter Cody Freeby off the team for various off-field reasons. What does this mean? It's anyone's guess. Junior Mike Knall is in the mix, but Stoops hasn't ruled out seeking some help this summer. So if you're a soccer player with a good leg in the greater Norman area, you might consider giving Bob a call.

Oklahoma State Cowboys
2006 Schedule
9/2 Missouri State
9/9 at Arkansas State*
9/16 Florida Atlantic
9/23 at Houston
10/7 at Kansas State
10/14 at Kansas
10/21 Texas A&M
10/28 Nebraska
11/4 at Texas
11/11 Baylor
11/18 at Texas Tech
11/25 Oklahoma
* at Little Rock

2005 overall record:
Conference record:

Returning starters
Offense: 8, Defense: 5, Kicker/punter: 2

2005 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Mike Hamilton* (961 yds)
Passing: Al Pena* (1,102 yds)
Receiving: D'Juan Woods* (879 yds)
Tackles: Jamar Ransom (99)
Sacks: Victor DeGrate* (5)
Interceptions: Donovan Woods* and Calvin Mickens* (2)

Spring Answers: After WR Adarius Bowman was dismissed from North Carolina, some wondered if he would take advantage of Oklahoma State giving him a second chance. Wonder no more. Bowman is keeping his head on straight and is destined to be a star in this league. The physical, 6-4, 220-pounder can run you over, but he can also run past you and outjump you. Considering no receiver other than D'Juan Woods caught more than 16 passes last fall, finding that second option was crucial. And when the Cowboys go three-wide, they can add impressive JC transfer Anthony Parks to the mix at the slot position. Just like that, one of OSU's biggest weaknesses is now one of its biggest strengths. … Oklahoma St. also found a nice change-of-pace at tailback with the addition of JC All-American Dantrell Savage. Mike Hamilton is durable, had a nice freshman season and didn't put the ball on the ground once this spring. But on a team that generally has to rely on gaining large chunks of offense instead of pounding away at opponents, Hamilton is not exactly a home-run threat. Savage has a chance to hit one out of the park every time he touches the ball. Unlike Hamilton and more like Vernand Morency, Savage will make people miss. … Many inside the program are whispering that freshman Chris Collins is already one of the most talented linebackers to come through Stillwater in years. He looked that good this spring. Once a top Texas recruit, Collins hasn't played a game in two years and is still has some legal issues to deal with back in his hometown. But if he's on the field, oncoming skill-position players can forget about it. … Forced to redshirt last year after breaking his wrist, freshman Andre Sexton made such an impression at strong safety this year that incumbent starter Donovan Woods packed up and took his services to free safety. The Cowboys couldn't afford to have Sexton out of the lineup.

Fall Questions: If OSU doesn't want to repeat as the lowest-scoring team in the Big 12, holding on to the ball would be a good start. In 2005, the offense turned it over a mind-numbing 35 times. Think it's any better now? During a 103-play scrimmage this spring, the Cowboys turned it over 11 times. They followed that up with seven more in the spring game. Nice to see lessons were learned. … We can play this tune again and just change the lyrics: If OSU doesn't want to give up the most points in the Big 12, forcing a few turnovers through the air would be a good start. The team's crummy turnover margin wasn't all on the offense. The Cowboys managed to snare just five interceptions all year. Jacob Lacey and Martel Van Zant both returned picks for touchdowns in the spring game. Is that a good sign? And is there any way Van Zant holds on to that corner spot once JC transfer Scott Broughton and highly touted freshman Perrish Cox arrive this summer? … This team better hope it doesn't have to rely on its secondary to stop running backs again. Will the front seven decide to hit a few of those guys this year -- or at least wrap them up? OSU ranked 107th nationally last year by surrendering 205.5 yardsper game on the ground. … QB Bobby Reid was all the rage when he first arrived on campus a couple years ago. He's firing up considerably fewer people these days. True, he had to split time last year, but there's a reason for that. Reid completed fewer than half his passes and never seemed quite up to speed with the offense, despite it being his second year in the system. Well, it's his show to run this year and he said this spring the offense is now second nature to him. But what about making big plays downfield? With the targets he now has, there's no excuse this fall.

Texas Longhorns
2006 Schedule
9/2 North Texas
9/9 Ohio State
9/16 at Rice
9/23 Iowa State
9/30 Sam Houston State
10/7 vs. Oklahoma*
10/14 Baylor
10/21 at Nebraska
10/28 at Texas Tech
11/4 Oklahoma State
11/11 at Kansas State
11/24 Texas A&M
* at Dallas

2005 overall record: 13-0
Conference record:

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

2005 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Vince Young (1,050 yds)
Passing: Young (3,036 yds)
Receiving: Billy Pittman* (750 yds)
Tackles: Michael Griffin* (124)
Sacks: Brian Robison* (7)
Interceptions: Aaron Ross* and Griffin* (3)

Spring Answers: For the second straight year in this space, we're going to rave about WR Jordan Shipley. One of these days the nation is going to get to see what we're talking about. After reconstructive knee surgery knocked him out of 2004, Shipley tried to come back too soon and ended up pulling his hamstring three times, missing that magical 2005 season. Back mentally and physically, the lightning-quick Shipley put up another productive spring. If he's healthy, that adds a whole new dimension to a receiver corps that already goes five- or six-deep. … Impress your friends and tell them early on about TE Jermichael Finley. You'll look smart this fall. During his redshirt season, Finley mentored under the great David Thomas and then switched his number to Thomas' 16. Three inches taller, Finley has the hands and can stretch the field just like Thomas. And don't forget about senior Neale Tweedie, who played plenty last season in two-tight end sets. … Last spring, it appeared the secondary would at least start out anchoring the defense. This spring, it appeared the front seven was taking over that role. Tackles Roy Miller and Derek Lokey look like they can block two or three guys at a time and end Brian Orakpo is quickly turning into a star. At linebacker, Rashad Bobino has moved back to his natural spot in the middle, leaving Drew Kelson and Robert Killebrew flanking the outside of what could the best linebacker corps in Austin in years. Usually the group has been dominated by one superstar, but these guys are all good.

Fall Questions: Well, duh. With that dazzling Rose Bowl performance, Vince Young created a legend larger than the state itself. The shoes he leaves to be filled are just as large. Especially large considering neither candidate, redshirt freshman Colt McCoy nor true freshman Jevan Snead, has ever taken a snap in a college game. Now no one questions the talent of these two. The misconception is that they're strictly traditional drop-back passers, but they both ran for over 1,000 yards in the final year of high school and know all about the zone-read scheme that Young perfected last season. The kids can play. However, neither has a significant edge going into August and Brown has hinted that both will compete for at least the first few games. How many title teams rotate quarterbacks, though? And do the Horns really want a repeat of the whole Simms-Applewhite drama? It's imperative one guy steps to the forefront. … How much can "Hammering" Henry Melton contribute at defensive end? With the Horns so loaded in the backfield, Brown and Melton decided to give it a shot. The 270-pound Mack truck played both ways in the spring and might find himself in some situation roles at an equally stacked end position. … Will the Griffin twins own the safety position at Texas? Obviously Michael is an established star at free safety, but less-heralded brother Marcus enters the summer as the favorite at the strong safety spot. However, developing depth in a secondary that lost Michael Huff and Cedric Griffin is a concern. Players like Brandon Foster and Ryan Palmer need to continue the improvement they displayed this spring.

Texas A&M Aggies
2006 Schedule
9/2 The Citadel
9/9 Louisiana Lafayette
9/16 vs. Army*
9/23 Louisiana Tech
9/39 Texas Tech
10/7 at Kansas
10/14 Missouri
10/21 at Oklahoma State
10/28 at Baylor
11/4 Oklahoma
11/11 Nebraska
11/24 at Texas
*at San Antonio

2005 overall record:
Conference record:

Returning starters
Offense: 7, Defense: 6, Kicker/punter: 1

2005 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Courtney Lewis* (723 yds)
Passing: Reggie McNeal* (1,963 yds)
Receiving: Jason Carter (827 yds)
Tackles: Justin Warren* (95)
Sacks: Johnny Jolly (5)
Interceptions: Marcus Carpenter* (4)

Spring Answers: We're not sure if it was the on-field verbal war QB Stephen McGee waged with senior LB Justin Warren this spring. Or the way he invigorates his teammates with his fiery, hard-nosed attitude, an element that was lacking under the laid-back Reggie McNeal. Or maybe it was just when he changed his jersey to No. 7. Whatever it is, the comparisons to Aggie folk hero Bucky Richardson have already begun. A&M fans need no better answer than that. … The return of four starters on the line and a fully healthy receiving corps can only help McGee fulfill expectations. The sight of WRs Chad Schroeder, L'Tydrick Riley and Earvin Taylor out on the practice field was especially encouraging. The passing game was severely hampered by their absence last season. … America, get ready to hear the story of Mark Dodge. A military man who was actually in the Pentagon when it was attacked on 9/11, the 25-year-old Dodge transferred in from junior college and has already captivated the entire team with his natural leadership abilities. Some close to the program said they haven't seen those kind of qualities at that position since Dat Nguyen and his crew left in 1998. And oh yeah, the guy can play, too. He's already earned a starting spot next to Warren. … Those will be the only spots available in new defensive coordinator Gary Darnell's 4-2-5 scheme. The staff is hoping an extra defensive back will better defend against four- and five-receiver sets, as well as make it easier to draw up run blitzes.

Fall Questions: As long as TB Courtney Lewis gets his academics in order -- and it's expected he will -- the Aggies don't foresee many problems on offense. For this team to get out of its current rut, though, the defense is going to have to show a pulse. Last year's high expectations weren't met because opponents were allowed to pile up 443.8 yards per game, including a national-worst 304.6 yards through the air. In a four-game losing streak to end the season, A&M gave up 43.5 points per game. So in short, the Wrecking Crew was an all-out wreck. Will Darnell and two new defensive backs coaches make a difference? The 4-2-5 defense is essentially what the team has been using in recent years anyway. The real key is to find some big, physical safeties to set the tempo. That search is still ongoing. Last year, the Aggies were inexperienced and inconsistent in the secondary. Don't look now, but it's an area that's still populated by a host of sophomores and redshirt freshmen. So can Jordan Peterson live up to his press clippings? Can Japhus Brown get healthy? Can big and quick Jarius Neal arrive from JC and contribute immediately? … And what about that end spot vacated by sacks leader Johnny Jolly? The August competition is between inexperienced sophomores Cyril Obiozor and Michael Bennett. … Unlike A&M's defensive coaches in the past few years, Darnell has fully embraced the moniker "Wrecking Crew" for his defense. Having T-shirts made and firing up the troops can only do so much, though. Offense-happy Texas Tech comes to town for the Big 12 opener. That's when we'll really know if all this offseason activity paid dividends. … Is someone from the 12th Man eligible to return a kickoff? Heaven knows the football players haven't been able to do it for years. Once again, the Aggies ranked among the nation's worst -- and it's not like they were streaking down the field on punt returns, either. Someone? Anyone? … Coach Fran Franchione is 16-19 in three seasons. The hated Longhorns are basking in the national spotlight. The schedule is favorable. It's time for the Aggies to make a move. If not, the administration might have to arrange one for Coach Fran.

Texas Tech Red Raiders
2006 Schedule
9/2 SMU
9/9 at UTEP
9/16 at TCU
9/23 SE Louisiana
9/30 at Texas A&M
10/7 Missouri
10/14 at Colorado
10/21 at Iowa State
10/28 Texas
11/4 Baylor
11/11 at Oklahoma
11/18 Oklahoma State

2005 overall record:
Conference record:

Returning starters
Offense: 8, Defense: 5, Kicker/punter: 2

2005 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Taurean Henderson (872 yds)
Passing: Cody Hodges (4,238 yds)
Receiving: Joel Filani* (1,007 yds)
Tackles: Dwayne Slay (114)
Sacks: John Saldi (3)
Interceptions: Vincent Meeks (3)

Spring Answers: xx

Fall Questions: It's Lubbock, it's spring, it's must be time for another unresolved quarterback situation. Keeping with tradition, Leach didn't name a starter after spring practice. Only this time, it actually seems like he's legitimately torn. Sophomore Graham Harrell entered as the slight favorite and probably still is, but redshirt freshman Chris Todd was tremendous. He's accurate, has a powerful arm and is a permanent resident of the film and training rooms. We all know whoever wins this thing will throw for a gazillion yards anyway. Only this season  for the first time since Kliff Kingsbury's junior year in 2001 -- the director of the offense won't be a senior. … Can anyone match the versatility of the graduated Taurean Henderson at tailback? Shannon Woods is the favorite, but he wasn't really wowing anyone this spring. Woods doesn't look like the receiving threat Henderson was and he simply must get better with his blocking, which his predecessor had a natural instinct for. Tech doesn't need a 1,000-yard back, but it does need an all-around contributor. … The Raiders don't want to move Dawson back to the line unless absolutely necessary. So can sophomore McKinner Dixon get his academics in order and prepare himself for a starting role at end? And can senior Seth Nitschmann, who's had serious injuries to both knees in the last two years, stay healthy enough to shake off the rust on the other side? … Defensive coordinator Lyle Setencich called the safety spots "wait-and-see" positions. For those not familiar with coach speak, that basically means "uh-oh." Dwayne Slay was a vicious hitter and Vincent Meeks was an excellent anticipator -- those two changed how opponents gameplanned against Texas Tech. Now it's up to a group of only four scholarship players, none of which have much experience. At this point, Darcel McBath has a slight edge over fellow sophomore Lance Fuller at free safety and junior Joe Garcia has a similar narrow margin against sophomore Anthony Hines at strong.

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