The Big XII Conference enters one final season in its current
two-division state. With fall camp behind us and the season looming
less than one week away, the Rivals.com publishers from every
site in the conference wrap up the month of August. Get the lowdown
on every team in the Big XII in this special camp review.
Biggest camp storyline: For the Tigers, it happened on the
final day of camp. Leading returning rusher Derrick
Washington was indefinitely suspended and accusations of sexual
assault have since come to light. It is unknown at this point how
long Washington will be out. Until (or if) they get him back, the
Tigers will go with Kendial Lawrence at tailback. Lawrence
is backed up by De'Vion Moore who is currently injured and
true freshmen Henry Josey and Marcus Murphy.
Biggest hole to fill: Missouri has to find someone--or more
likely, a group of someones--to step in for Danario Alexander. In
2009, Alexander led the nation in receiving yards. With Jerrell
Jackson out for the time being with a broken wrist, the Tigers do
not have a single wideoue or tight end with as many as 25 career
Breakout player: Sophomore receiver T.J. Moe was the
star of fall camp. Moe caught nearly everything thrown at him...and
it was a lot. The sure-handed former quarterback caught only two
passes last season, but emerged this fall as the favorite target of
Blaine Gabbert. On defense, the best player was a semi-known
commodity. Carl Gettis is entering his fourth season as a
starter, but he has never looked as good as he did in August.
The pressure's on: With the situation at tailback up in the
air, you have to go with Gabbert. Missouri's system relies more
heavily on the quarterback than perhaps any in the country. When the
QB has a good game, the Tigers can play with anybody. When he
doesn't, they can look really bad. Gabbert was good as a sophomore.
But he's going to have to be better as a junior.
Freshmen to watch: We mentioned Josey and Murphy and those are
certainly the obvious ones. But Darvin Ruise played
quarterback in high school and is now a linebacker at Mizzou. The
Florida native was elevated to second-string late in camp and should
see time on the field on both defense and special teams. He's wearing
#12 and the comparisons to Sean Weatherspoon are inevitable.
Camp injuries: We already mentioned Jackson, whose status is
unknown for the opener against Illinois. Reserve linebacker
Donovan Bonner blew out his knee in the first week of camp
and a knee injury will also keep safety Jarrell Harrison on
the sidelines early in the year. Other than that, the Tigers should
have everyone ready on Saturday in St. Louis.
Game of the Year: Clearly, it's the matchup at Nebraska the day
before Halloween. The winner of this game has won the North four
years in a row. That shouldn't change. In addition, Tiger fans would
like nothing better than getting the last laugh against the team that
took the spot they thought they were getting in the Big Ten.
The season's a success if...: Missouri wins the North. That's
the goal to start every season. Certainly, the Tigers would like more
(such as their first ever Big XII title). But you have to walk before
you run and the starting point for the Tigers is winning the division.
Anything short of that leaves a void in the season.
PowerMizzou.com publisher Gabe DeArmond
Biggest camp storyline: There were probably two with the
quarterback battle and injuries. At one point during the beginning of
camp three projected starters on the offensive line were out of
action. Jeff Spikes is lost for the year, but two others have
since returned. Projected starting linebacker Huldon Tharp is
out for the season and the same for running back Rell Lewis.
Other players have been on crutches during camp and expected back
during the season. Kale Pick won a heated battle against
Jordan Webb at quarterback. The competition carried over from
the spring and midway through camp Turner Gill announced Pick
as the starter.
Biggest hole to fill: Todd Reesing. He shattered the KU record
book and was a fierce competitor as well as a leader. Kansas fans were
comfortable knowing Reesing could always keep them in the game or come
from behind. It is tough to replace to replace a three-year starter
that accomplished what he did.
Breakout player:Daymond Patterson on offense. He made
the switch back from defense and has earned praise from several
teammates through camp. He's been playing at a high level since camp
started and could be a weapon in more ways than one. Justin
Springer on defense. He missed time with an injury, but has been
healthy during camp. Springer will be the leader of the linebackers
and will have to have a good season It is a position that doesn't have
much depth or experience. Springer has the potential to be a solid
player his senior season.
The pressure's on: For Kansas it is the quarterback and running
back. Pick will be starter. The quarterback will have to play sound
football and lead an offense where last year's weapons departed. They
have to find a way to create a ground game. Sixth-year player
Angus Quigley is listed atop the depth chart but there are
questions whether he can handle the load. The future is likely with
two true freshmen in James Sims and Brandon Bourbon.
But neither has played a down of Big 12 football. If Kansas is going
to be successful a running back will have to emerge and the new
quarterback will have to manage a game and play solid. The quarterback
won't need to be spectacular but just take of the ball and play within
the offensive system.
Freshmen to watch: The only defensive player listed on the two
deep is Keba Agostinho. He signed with the thought he would
move inside but has been a pleasant surprise on the edge. Defensive
line coach Buddy Wyatt said he's moving around better than
they expected. On offense it is going to be one of the running backs
in Sims or Bourbon. Likely one of them is going to get carries early
on and it depends which one wins the battle.
Camp injuries: As already mentioned, the Jayhawks have three
starters out for the season and injuries were a major storyline in
Game of the Year: It might not be titled the game of the year,
but the most important early game could be Southern Mississippi. It is
a Friday night game on ESPN and on the road. It will be a tough
environment and the Golden Eagles almost beat Kansas at home last
year. The Jayhawks have struggled in recent Friday night games. The
second game of the year is against Georgia Tech and Kansas will be an
underdog. The next week they get Southern Miss. If they can find a way
to beat Southern Miss and enter Big 12 play with a record no worse
than 3-1 it would give them a lot of confidence.
The season's a success if...: If Kansas can go bowling in
Gill's first year it will give them momentum and something to sell the
program on. They can point to progress in year one with a new staff.
It would energize the fan base and be a focal point to recruits.
There are several games on the schedule that appear close on paper.
There are many games Kansas could be an underdog but the odds will be
close. If they can find a way pull out a close win or two, especially
early on it could go a long way in building confidence. It is tough
to predict the Kansas wins and losses. One of the things that would
also make the season a success is if the coaching staff can get the
team to play with maximum effort. If the team plays hard through four
quarters each week it will be a good sign for the future.
JayhawkSlant.com publisher Jon Kirby.
Biggest camp storyline: The biggest storyline for Nebraska
still remains around the quarterback position. It appears senior
Zac Lee and redshirt freshman Taylor Martinez are
the front runners for the job, and some will tell you Martinez may
have pulled ahead. The other obvious storyline for NU is handling the
top 10 expectations in front of them this season. They haven't been
ranked this high since 2002.
Biggest hole to fill: Nebraska still needs to prove up front on
defense they can get by with life after Ndamukong Suh. Junior
Jared Crick appears capable to get the job done in his place,
but next to him it remains to be seen what type of production the
Huskers can get out of sophomore Baker Steinkuhler, junior
Terrence Moore and redshirt freshman Thaddeus
Breakout player: On offense, both sophomore running back
Rex Burkhead and junior wide receiver Brandon Kinnie
should have breakout seasons. Both players started to come on late
last year and it's carried over into camp. Defensively, keep your
eyes on sophomore defensive end Cameron Meredith. Last
season Meredith rotated in with Barry Turner, but now he'll take a
majority of the reps and is expected to be one of NU's best pass
rushers off the edge.
The pressure's on: The pressure right now will be on the
offensive line to perform. This line should be as good as Nebraska
has had in a while, but they still need to prove it in a game
situation. They also have to figure out who their left tackle will be
between junior college transfer Jermarcus Hardrick and
redshirt freshman Jeremiah Sirles.
Freshmen to watch: Some new faces to watch for Nebraska are
Sirles and redshirt freshman Brent Qvale on the offensive
line. Both players are expected to see significant time this fall.
True freshman wide receiver Quincy Enunwa also could figure
into the mix. Defensively, junior college transfer Lavonte
David should have a good chance to start at linebacker.
Camp injuries: Senior offensive lineman Mike Smith
(broken leg), sophomore linebacker Sean Fisher (broken leg),
junior cornerback Anthony Blue (Torn ACL) and senior tight
end Dreu Young (back surgery) all suffered major camp
injuries this August. Young is the only one that has a chance to
return this season.
Game of the Year: This one is pretty easy for Nebraska, but
their match-up with Texas is considered one of the games of the year
in college football for several reasons. There hasn't been a more
anticipated game in Lincoln for quite some time.
The season's a success if...: Nebraska wins the North and
captures their first Big 12 title since 1999. NU hasn't been to a BCS
Bowl game since 2001 and that's what many Husker fans have their sites
on this fall. Anything less than a 10-2 regular season would probably
be labeled a disappointment to most NU fans. Right now Vegas odds
have Nebraska favored in all 12 of their games.
HuskersIllustrated.com publisher Sean Callahan
Biggest camp storyline: The ongoing battle for the starting
quarterback job has taken center stage since the end of last season.
Coach Bill Snyder has not yet announced the winner of the
race, but it is expected to be senior Carson Coffman. Coffman
won the job last season, but after some struggles was replaced by
Grant Gregory at the start of Big 12 play. Coffman appears to be a
much-improved quarterback than a year ago, but he is receiving
pressure from sophomore Collin Klein and junior Sammuel
Lamur. Klein a tall, pocket passer, while Lamur (twin brother of
K-State safety Emmanuel Lamur) is a strong-armed, athletic
threat who is being held back by his lack of knowledge of the
offensive system. If Coffman struggles with turnovers, Snyder may jump
down the depth chart of Lamur, the playmaker.
Biggest hole to fill: K-State had a nominal pass rush last
season, but almost all of that came from Jeffrey Fitzgerald. The
coaches are hoping that junior Brandon Harold is ready to
fulfill his vast promise. Harold was a standout freshman two years
ago, but then was hurt almost all of the 2009 season. Quick at
6-foot-4 and 265 pounds, Harold is difficult to block coming off the
corner, but now he must stay healthy and play with the type of
consistency K-State needs up front.
Breakout player: Many are doubting K-State's receiver depth but
that group is supplemented by two transfers who played as true
freshmen at BCS programs. Chris Harper (Oregon) and
Brodrick Smith (Minnesota) returned home to Kansas last
season to play for Snyder, but it's redshirt freshman Tramaine
Thompson who has starred in camp. The 5-foot-7, 165-pound
speedster will step right into Brandon Banks' role, while also
inheriting the punt returner duties. The deepest and most talented
position group on this team is safety, but a surprising standout from
spring football is actually pushing for playing time. Ty
Zimmerman grayshirted his first year of college and was expected
to redshirt this season, but the former high school quarterback from
Junction City, Kan., proved too good to not play. The son of a
football coach, Zimmerman has a strong understanding of the game and
is a physical hitter.
The pressure's on: This offense revolves around running back
Daniel Thomas. There seems little doubt that Thomas will be
good because the offseason program added to his speed and already
remarkable physical fitness. Thomas, though, will be the center of
attention in the Wildcats' offense and everyone, particularly
defensive coordinators, know it. Expect to see Snyder use Thomas even
more in the "Wildcat" formation and camp has featured many new
wrinkles out of the formation to confuse defenses even more.
Freshmen to watch: We've already mentioned Thompson at receiver
and Zimmerman at safety, so let's add two more freshmen who may make
their presence felt for different reasons. On offense, watch out for
redshirt freshman tight end Andre McDonald. At 6-foot-8 and
282 pounds, the original intention was to convert him to offensive
tackle, but he's shown himself to be surprisingly nimble and a solid
pass catcher. On the defensive side of the ball, true freshman Tre
Walker may find the field. At only 205 pounds, Walker is
undersized, but he's impressed the coaches with his football knowledge
and instincts. The hope would be to redshirt Walker, but the
linebacker spot is a concern for this team, which may force him into
Camp injuries: This team has stayed remarkably healthy through
fall camp, although starting right tackle Clyde Aufner is
still hampered by an injury suffered in the spring.
Game of the Year: Against Snyder's usual scheduling wishes, the
Wildcats will kick off the season at home against UCLA. The Bruins
went to a bowl last season, but have been hit with preseason injuries.
The game could be a tone-setter for the Wildcats. A win should lift
their spirits, but a home loss in the season-opening game would be
considered a setback. Other big games loom, including week three
against Iowa State in Arrowhead (if the Cats get off to a 3-0 start,
Snyder may be working his old magic) and a Thursday night ESPN game
with Nebraska, which should feature an amazing atmosphere at Bill
Snyder Family Stadium.
The season's a success if...: K-State went into the final week
of its season last year with a shot at the Big 12 North title and the
Wildcats expect to be contenders this season, too. That won't measure
this team's success, though. After 11-straight bowl seasons, K-State
has made one bowl trip in the last six campaigns and getting back into
the holiday action is certainly a priority for the program.
GoPowerCat.com publisher Tim Fitzgerald
Biggest camp storyline: Youth was often used as an excuse for
Colorado's struggles during Dan Hawkins' first four years in
Boulder. The Buffaloes finally have an experienced team. The players
on Colorado's 2009 opening roster collectively had played in 847
games. The players on the Buffs' current 2010 roster collectively have
played in 1,540 games. The increased experience and depth is
especially apparent on both lines and at receiver. Only one receiver -
Scotty McKnight - had caught a pass going into last season.
This year, they have eight receivers that have hauled in a pass at the
college level. Nine of the 20 offensive linemen on Colorado's roster
have started multiple games. And there are five upperclassmen that are
expected to be in the rotation on the defensive line. Last year, there
was only one.
Biggest hole to fill: Colorado is forced to replace Cha'pelle
Brown, who manned the nickel back position for four seasons and was
named the Buffaloes' Most Valuable Player in 2009. Redshirt freshman
Parker Orms will step into the role. He led the team in
tackles during the spring game and had a strong camp. Like Brown, Orms
has great football instincts and is a sure tackler.
Breakout player: Former high school All-American Bryce
Givensdbdb], who started seven games at right tackle last season,
missed most of spring ball in order to focus on academics. And this
month, Givens has been hindered by an ankle injury. In his absence,
redshirt freshman [db]David Bakhtiari has taken advantage of the
extra reps. He has worked primarily with the first-team offensive line
at right tackle. Bakhtiari has packed on 50 pounds since he joined the
team last summer. On defense, Josh Hartigan rose up to the
top of the depth chart at left defensive end after a strong camp. He
was moved from linebacker to defensive end midway through last season
after doing a good impression of Texas standout Sergio Kindle on scout
team. Hartigan is undersized at 6-foot-1, 225-pounds, but has good
speed and is quick off the line of scrimmage.
The pressure's on: After making just 15 of his 32 field-goal
attempts in 2008 and 2009, senior Aric Goodman has one last
chance at redemption. Goodman has always been a consistent kicker in
practice but it hasn't translated to game day. During camp, the
coaches decided to narrow the practice goal posts to nine feet (normal
width is 18-feet, six-inches), hoping that it will help correct their
Freshmen to watch:Paul Richardson and Justin
Torres are the two true freshmen expected to play on the
offensive side of the ball. Richardson, a four-star recruit from the
Class of 2010, originally signed with UCLA. But the Bruins released
him this summer after his involvement in an off-the-field incident.
Richardson is a fluid athlete that makes it look easy. He is listed at
the top of the depth chart along with USC transfer Travon
Patterson at Z-receiver. Torres adds a much needed big back to
the mix. He is good at gaining yards after first contact.
Defensively, true freshman Chidera Uzo-Diribe is expected to
be in the rotation at defensive end. He appears to have great upside.
Uzo-Diribe was focused on basketball until late during his junior year
of high school. Coach Hawkins compared Uzo-Diribe's skills to former
Colorado pass rush specialist Abraham Wright, who finished second in
the NCAA in sacks in 2006.
Camp injuries: Bryce Givens, who was projected to start at
right tackle, has been out with an ankle injury. His status for the
opener is unknown at this point. Backup left tackle Jack
Harris is out with a sprained shoulder and backup safety
Vince Ewing suffered a torn ACL during the Buffs' first
Game of the Year: The Buffaloes are focused solely on their
first opponent Colorado State. And it is not just lip service. They
watched the Rams celebrate on their home field last season, and they
were embarrassed again at Toledo the following week. The slow start
appeared to shatter the team's confidence. It will be imperative for
Colorado to get off to a faster start this season.
The season's a success if...: After four straight losing
seasons, a successful season for Colorado would be seven wins.
Anything less and chances are the Buffaloes will be looking for a new
head coach. Despite the fact that Colorado finally has experience and
depth, it won't be easy. As usual, the Buffs have a touch
non-conference schedule. They will travel to Cal and face
BuffStampede.com publisher Adam Munsterteiger
IOWA STATE CYCLONES
Biggest camp storyline: Iowa State's offense is expected to
much improved and for the most part, it showed in pre-season camp.
Perhaps the biggest component to that was improved play by the wide
receiver corps. Several of ISU's top athletes at receiver were hurt
to varying degrees in 2009 but with everyone back and healthy this
fall, the receiver group performed very well in pre-season camp. And
they worked primarily against the strength of the Cyclone defense in
terms of experience and talent - the secondary. Offensive coordinator
Tom Herman has a track record of seeing his offense's
breakout in year two of his system. That could be the case for the
Iowa State offense this season.
Biggest hole to fill: Replacing Jesse Smith at middle
linebacker is Iowa State's biggest hole to fill in 2010. In fact, the
Cyclones must replace all three starting linebackers. The silver
lining is that ISU will use its nickel personnel group a lot with an
extra, experienced defensive back on the field (junior Ter'ran
Benton) in place of a linebacker. As far as replacing Smith, the
task falls on junior Matt Tau'fo'ou, a former JUCO transfer
who redshirted due to injury last season in Ames. But Iowa State will
miss not only Smith's tackling machine performances on the field, but
also his intelligence and leadership both on and off the field.
Breakout player: On defense, it's no surprise that junior nose
guard Stephen Ruempolhamer is no. 1 since he entered camp
that way. But Ruempolhamer, a native of the Netherlands who is still
relatively new to American football, was dramatically better than
expected on the ISU practice fields in August, according to coaches.
His execution and performance are catching up his athleticism.
Offensively, true freshman running back Shontrelle Johnson
exceeded expectations in every area except actually running the
football. There was never any doubt what he could do there. But the
Iowa State coaches were surprised by how well he blocked in pass
protection and overall how physically he plays the game. He's a rare
speed back who also seems to relish and enjoy contact.
The pressure's on: As with most teams, it's the quarterback.
Senior Austen Arnaud has to be good as the trigger man in
Iowa State's spread offense. He was an inconsistent passer as a
junior, some of which was on the receivers, in his first season
operating the spread. ISU doesn't want to be pass happy, but it needs
to be more efficient in the passing game. Arnaud's completion
percentage must go up and he must have a better
touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio if the Cyclones are going to have a
Freshmen to watch: Chances are it will be Johnson on offense.
For starters, Iowa State has a veteran offense and Johnson would
appear to be the one freshman most likely to really play at all in
2010, redshirts included. And he's just super talented. ISU would
like to reduce the wear and tear a bit on senior standout back
Alexander Robinson and Johnson could end up being the
Cyclones' No. 2 back before September is over.
Game of the Year: A neutral site game against Kansas State in
Kansas City is one of several games that have pivotal potential. If
Iowa State's first two games follow the form chart, the Cyclones will
be 1-1 heading into the Big 12 opener on September 18. A win puts ISU
at 2-1 and 1-0 while a loss, obviously, makes the Cyclones 1-2 and
0-1. That's a huge difference when presented with a very winnable game
on a neutral field. Iowa State has to have that one.
The season's a success if...: Iowa State makes it to a bowl
game. The Cyclones face a schedule that is very difficult at the top
end--road trips to Oklahoma, Texas and Iowa--but there are also seven
home games and just four true road games. No team in the Big 12 North
will strike fear into the Cyclones as it remains a balanced, lukewarm
division with only Nebraska and perhaps Missouri having any potential
to really separate from the pack. In short: there are most definitely
6+ winnable games on ISU's 2010 schedule.
CycloneReport.com publisher Paul Clark
Biggest camp storyline: The continuing installation of Dana
Holgorsen's version of the Mike Leach "Air Raid" offensive system
at Oklahoma State. The Cowboys had a long way to go following spring
football, particularly in terms of tempo and chemistry in the offense,
and appear to have progressed considerably this fall. How Holgorsen
will tweak his system to take advantage of All-American (2008) running
back Kendall Hunter has been a related storyline this fall
for the Cowboys.
Biggest hole to fill: The obvious answer is at quarterback,
where the Cowboys' all-time leading passer has moved on to an NFL
career. Zac Robinson would not have been an ideal fit in the
new offensive system in Stillwater though, so the impact is lessened
somewhat. Regardless of the scheme, Robinson's leadership is a major
hole that has to be filled by 26 year-old junior Brandon
Breakout player: Sophomore wideout Justin Blackmon has
been virtually unguardable at times in fall camp. There's never been a
doubt that Blackmon has talent, but has lacked consistency. He seems
to be picking up steam in that area. On defense, junior "STAR"
linebacker James Thomas has withstood charges by freshmen
Shaun Lewis and Joe Mitchell to hang on to the
starting job, and has made big plays in virtually every scrimmage
The pressure's on: Weeden. OSU's defense should make another
positive step after overachieving in 2009, but the Cowboys will have
to score in bunches in order to pull an upset or two. That falls on
the trigger man in the new offense. Though Weeden is relatively
unknown outside of Oklahoma, he has a world-class arm. What he does
not have is much game experience.
Freshmen to watch: Cornerback Justin Gilbert will have
an impact on defense and particularly in the return game. Running back
Joseph Randle gives the Cowboys another home run threat
behind Hunter, and could also have an impact in the return
Game of the Year: Sept. 30 versus Texas A&M. A Thursday night
game with a national audience on ESPN and the Aggies are a trendy
darkhorse pick in the Big 12 South. OSU has won two in a row against
A&M and another win here could jump start OSU's season. A home loss to
A&M could throw the Cowboys off track.
The season's a success if...: OSU hits or exceeds the
eight-win mark in 2010. That would exceed the expectations placed on
the Cowboys nationally by a considerable margin.
OStateIllustrated.com publisher Jeff Johnson
TEXAS TECH RED
Biggest camp storyline: The biggest storyline of Texas Tech's
fall camp has been the battle between Taylor Potts and
Steven Sheffield for the team's starting quarterback
position. Sheffield was regarded as the favorite to win the job at the
end of spring, but Potts clearly had the better camp, outperforming
Sheffield in both preseason scrimmages, and was named the starter on
Monday. The news caused a bit of a stir among the Red Raider fanbase,
but it's Potts' job and Tommy Tuberville has said that he
will have a long leash heading into the season.
Biggest hole to fill: The defensive line. Tech returns just one
player, nose tackle Colby Whitlock, who was in the team's
primary defensive line rotation last season. As a result, defensive
coordinator James Willis will be relying on an unproven
collection of second-year players (Kerry Hyder, Myles
Wade) junior college transfers (Donald Langley,
Lawrence Rumph, Scott Smith) and converted
linebacker Brian Duncan to fill out the rest of Red Raiders'
Breakout player: Receiver Jacoby Franks was almost an
afterthought as Tech entered the month of August, overshadowed by
players like Detron Lewis, Lyle Leong and Alex
Torres, but was arguably the offense's most consistent performer
during camp. Scott Smith, the No. 4-ranked junior college prospect in
the country last year, has surprised with how quickly he's picked up
the defense and worked his way into the mix up front; at 6-foot-6,
coaches have also been impressed with how well he plays with leverage
despite his height.
The pressure's on: Quarterback Taylor Potts. Neal
Brown's offense won't be 75 percent pass like Mike Leach's, but
the success of Tech's 2010 season will still largely rest on the
shoulder of its quarterback. His biggest challenge will be
consistency, something he struggled with last year. Potts will have
plenty of talent around him -- few Big 12 programs have a better or
deeper collection of proven skill players -- but the key will be
limiting his mistakes and not trying to win the game with every
Freshmen to watch: Running back Ben McRoy probably
won't get many reps on offense this season, but he is expected to make
an impact on special teams. Florida's reigning 200-meter champion
(20.93 seconds) is expected to be one of the Red Raiders' top options
at kick returner. Cornerback Tre Porter will factor in
heavily in Tech's rotation in the defensive backfield, especially
early in the season as incumbent starter LaRon Moore recovers
from a leg injury.
Camp Injuries: Cornerback LaRon Moore is still recovering from
a broken leg he sustained at the end of the spring and is expected to
miss at least the first game of the season. Reserves Britton
Barbee (defensive lineman) and Jared Flannel (defensive
back) each tore their Achilles during camp and will miss the season.
Offensive lineman Beau Carpenter and receiver Austin
Zouzalik both underwent appendectomies early on in the preseason
but are expected to return some time in September.
Game of the Year: Texas, September 18 - Because of how
memorable Texas' last trip to Lubbock was, their matchup with Tech
this season would have been the game of the year regardless of who is
coaching on the sidelines for the Red Raiders. With Tech's football
program under new leadership, though, this early season conference
matchup will serve as a litmus test of sorts for the first year of the
The season's a success if...: Tech wins nine games. The Red
Raiders should keep their Big 12-leading bowl eligibility streak alive
thanks to its favorable schedule, but the team's unproven defensive
line and thin secondary will make it difficult for them to challenge
for a division title.
RedRaiderSports.com contributor Aaron Dickens
TEXAS A&M AGGIES
Biggest camp storyline: Who's where on the lines? Losing three
starters on the offensive line and switching to a 3-4 scheme had the
Aggies looking for combinations late into camp and will rely on
several freshmen, especially true freshman Luke Joeckel at
left tackle, to play major roles.
Biggest hole to fill: Though he was unsung, Michael Shumard was
the glue to the Aggie offensive line last year. He started at left
guard and took one for the team midway through the season, moving to
left tackle. That move stabilized the line and improved what had been
to that point a porous O-line. Luke Joeckel will replace him. A close
second Is at right tackle, which was manned by Lee Grimes. Either
Brian Thomas or freshman Jake Matthews will have to
step in there.
Breakout player:Christine Michael was a revelation as
a true freshman last year, but the running back has brought a new
level of intensity and competitiveness to the practice field this
fall. Look for him to have a huge year, offensive line woes or not.
Defensively, Stephen Terrell has gone from struggling backup
corner as a freshman to starting safety as a sophomore. He's much more
in his element and a lot bigger, showing no fear of putting a hit on a
back in run support or dropping into coverage.
The pressure's on:Jerrod Johnson. The Aggies will
only go as far as the best quarterback in the conference can take
Freshmen to watch: Does the name Luke Joeckel sound familiar? A
darkhorse is tight end Nehemiah Hicks, whose size and speed
could cause matchup problems. On defense, LB Demontre Moore
has shown himself to be a highly effective speed rusher from the Joker
Game of the Year: The conference opener at Oklahoma State. If
A&M wins, they will be, at worst, 4-1 and a young team with a lot of
momentum. If they lose, the torches and pitchforks will be out for
Mike Sherman all around the state of Texas.
The season's a success if...: The Aggies win 10 games. Nine
wins, certainly, would be nice, but a fan base weary of mediocrity and
aware that other teams in the conference are a little down this year
aren't going to accept much less.
AggieYell.com contributor Mark Passwaters
Biggest camp storyline: The biggest storyline coming out of
Oklahoma's fall camp is the presence of freshmen up and down the
two-deep depth chart. That was expected on the offensive side of the
ball where an infusion of talent was needed at wide receiver. It was
also thought freshmen Roy Finch and Brennan Clay
would be factors at the running back position. But Tony
Jefferson is on the verge of locking down a starting nickel back
spot on the defense and Corey Nelson, a late switch from A&M
on signing day, is slated to back up Travis Lewis at weakside
linebacker. The biggest newcomer impact will be felt at the receiver
position where Kenny Stills takes over as the best receiver
not named Ryan Broyles and there could be major contributions
from Joe Powell and Trey Franks.
Biggest hole to fill: It's tough to pick a biggest hole when
Oklahoma turned the NFL Draft into the Oklahoma Draft with Sam
Bradford, Gerald McCoy and Trent Williams taking three of the top four
picks. Bradford missed most of the 2009 season, giving Landry Jones
time to develop heading into the 2010 season. The Sooners have a deep
stable of offensive linemen to replace Williams at left tackle. But
the loss of McCoy is the biggest hole to fill. The difficulty of
replacing McCoy is complicated by the fact returning starter
Adrian Taylor still hasn't recovered from a horrific broken
leg in the Sooners' bowl game. Jamarkus McFarland is coming
on strong, but the Sooners will have to make due with inexperienced,
but talented, players such as Stacy McGee and Casey
Walker. Taylor will return shortly after the start of the season,
but the position definitely takes a hit with the loss of McCoy.
Breakout player: On offense, look for Donald
Stephenson to become a name to know at left tackle. Stephenson
was ineligible last season but has as much athletic ability as any
offensive linemen in the Stoops era. Stephenson takes over for Trent
Williams and the Sooners aren't likely to see much of a drop off.
Considering Williams had an up and down season a year ago, Stephenson
could actually improve the Sooners at that position in 2010. The easy
answer on defense is Ronnell Lewis, who will play a hybrid
strongside linebacker/defensive end position for the Sooners in 2010.
But since this is Rivals.com, we're going even deeper and
naming Tom Wort at middle linebacker as the player to watch.
Wort redshirted last season after tearing his ACL during preseason
practices. This year he'll take over the middle linebacker position.
He's an intense and fierce hitter who defines the mentality coaches
look for at the position.
The pressure's on:Landry Jones is the easy answer.
Jones did a nice job in a tough situation during the 2009 season. But
he's going to be judged on a completely different scale in 2010. Jones
should have a better running game surrounding him after injuries
decimated the offensive line a year ago. Jones is bigger, faster and
stronger after a strong offseason, but the only measurable Sooner fans
care about from their quarterback are touchdowns and interceptions.
Jones has to make better decisions, he has to be more accurate and he
has to have better presence in the pocket. He will make some
improvements, but will he improve enough to be the quarterback
Oklahoma fans have come to expect?
Freshmen to watch: Kenny Stills will be the new face to watch
on the offensive side of the ball. The wide receiver enrolled early
and went through spring football and ended up being the star of the
spring game. He has battled a groin injury through camp and has missed
significant practice time, but he'll be ready to go in the season
opener. Tony Jefferson is likely to start at the nickel back slot.
With so much experience returning, it's amazing he's even scratching
the surface of playing time as a true freshmen. Jefferson is a safety
with a linebacker mentality, but he also excels at covering receivers
in the secondary.
Game of the Year: It's always the big game in Dallas for
Oklahoma. OU/Texas or Texas/OU, depending on where you reside relative
to the Red River, that's the name of the big one. There is an ominous
looking matchup with Texas A&M in College Station, but Texas has to
travel to a very irritated Lincoln, Neb. If both schools trip up on
those road trips, then this game is even bigger. This game isn't just
for a leg up in the South Division race, it's not just bragging
rights, it's also Landry Jones vs. Garrett Gilbert to determine which
school has the true quarterback of the future.
The season's a success if...: If Oklahoma wins the Big 12
Championship and plays in a BCS bowl game. I know there is national
championship talk out there for the Sooners, but realistically, this
is a team coming off a disappointing 8-5 season. They have a
quarterback who has much left to prove. It doesn't appear they have a
great wide receiving corps. If the Sooners are going to compete and
win a national championship, they'll have to have one of Stoops'
better running attacks and their defense will have to be one of the
nation's best. The defense could be one of the nation's best, but
with so many questions on offense, with so many freshmen contributing,
I'm capping off this team's potential at a Big 12 title.
SoonerScoop.com publisher Carey Murdock
Biggest camp storyline: After losing a four-year starter at
quarterback, the most productive receiver in the history of the
program and a couple starters off the offensive line, the Longhorn
offense is still a bit unsettled as the season approaches. There's
plenty of talent that's expected to step in, but there are still a lot
of unknowns. On the flipside, the defense is expected to be maybe the
best that Texas has fielded under Mack Brown. The D is loaded
with NFL talent at every position.
Biggest hole to fill: You have to go with Colt McCoy on this
one. When McCoy departed the 40 Acres, he left as the winningest
quarterback in NCAA Division I history. In steps Garrett
Gilbert, a highly-touted player out of Lake Travis. Fans got a
glimpse of Gilbert's talents last year when he was thrown to the
wolves in the BCS Championship after McCoy got injured. Gilbert's got
a strong arm and he's extremely sharp with his preparation and grasp
of the offense. The coaches are asking him to work from under center
more than McCoy ever did, so that will be an adjustment (Gilbert ran a
spread offense in high school as well).
Breakout player: On offense, look out for running back Cody
Johnson. Johnson has struggled with his weight in his first few
years in the Longhorn program, but he worked hard this off-season to
get himself in shape and drop some unneeded pounds. He's now making a
strong challenge to be the team's top tailback. On defense, safety
Christian Scott steps in for Earl Thomas and both players and
coaches are excited about what he brings to the table. Scott's a
physical hitter at the position and he's a guy that people have been
waiting to see for the past couple years. This year could be his time
The pressure's on: Gilbert's an easy choice here, but we'll
look at the defensive side of the ball and go with defensive tackle
Kheeston Randall. There's a good chance the defense will have
to carry this year's Texas team if the Longhorns are going to
challenge for a conference or national championship, and Randall may
be the most important player on that side of the ball. DT is the one
spot where the Horns don't have a lot of depth so Randall has to be
good, and he has to stay healthy.
Freshmen to watch: On offense, wide receiver [DB]Mike
Davis[/DB] has really made waves in the preseason. He'll play in week
one, he'll be a starter when Texas goes to it five-wide package and
Gilbert has already developed a terrific relationship with the slipper
slot receiver. On defense, keep an eye on defensive end [DB]Jackson
Jeffcoat[/DB]. He's played so well in fall camp that he's considered a
starter. Jeffcoat has a terrific natural skill set and he's very well
polished with his pass rush moves.
Camp Injuries: Senior guard Tray Allen was expected
to start on the right side of the line, but he reaggravated a foot
injury that he suffered in the spring before camp ever started. Allen
has been unable to work his way back and the team's not sure when
he'll be ready. Mason Walters, a star in the making, is
expected to move into the starting line-up but Allen's absence really
hurts UT's offensive line depth.
Game of the Year: The Longhorns' game in Lincoln looms large
because of the way Texas and Nebraska played so closely (and some
would say, controversially) in last year's Big 12 Championship game.
But the most important game on the schedule is still going to be
against Oklahoma in Dallas. The winner of that contest will be the
runaway leader to play for the Big 12 title and whoever comes out
victorious in that contest will be front and center in the national
championship talk as well.
The season's a success if...: Mack Brown openly admits that
the bar at Texas is now at a place where the team isn't happy unless
it wins all its games. A Big 12 title would probably keep the fan base
happy, but anything shy of playing for the national title will be a
bit of a letdown for those within the program.
Orangebloods.com contributor Jason Suchomel
Biggest camp storyline: Quarterback Robert Griffin,
who missed most of last season after tearing the ACL in his right
knee, is healthy and in pre-injury form. In fact, he appears to have
come back with a stronger throwing arm - he's up to 217 pounds - and
he's showing even more leadership in the huddle after deferring to
seniors his first two seasons. The only question now is how will his
surgically-repaired right knee hold up when he gets for the first time
in Saturday's season opener against Sam Houston State.
Biggest hole to fill: The Bears have replaced leading tackler
and all-Big 12 linebacker Joe Pawelek with speed and more speed.
Senior Antonio Johnson is the new leader of the linebacking
corps, and he brings a lively leadership style and speed and a
hard-hitting style. Middle linebacker Chris Francis and
strong-side linebacker Elliot Coffey can also run, and
backups Chris McAllister and LaQuince McCall are
considered two of the team's fastest LBs along with Johnson.
Breakout player: Redshirt guard Cyril Richardson[db] (6-4,
315) has starred in camp. He is one of the team's biggest and most
physical linemen. He started camp as the backup at left guard and now
it's likely he'll be the starter at right guard if he can hold off
junior-college transfer [db]Robert T. Griffin.
The pressure's on: Nose guard Phil Taylor was simply a
bust in 2009, considering that Bears coach Art Briles billed
Taylor as the likely Big 12 Newcomer of the Year. Instead, Taylor was
a non-factor except for the season opener at Wake Forest and the last
game against Texas Tech, ending the season with 25 tackles (13 in the
first three games). He looks like a new man this fall, shedding close
to 25 pounds. He's down to 340 pounds and he's been much more of an
impact player so far this fall.
Freshmen to watch: On the offensive side of the ball, it's
receiver Tevin Reese[db], who has great speed and runs good
routes. On defense, the tie goes to three safety candidates, all
slated to start the season as backups. [db]Ahmad Dixon, a
four-star recruit, gets the most publicity, and he's delivered some
big hits. But Prince Kent and Sam Holl have been the
more consistent players this fall and are slightly ahead of Dixon with
a week to go before the season opener.
Game of the Year: The Bears' Sept. 18 game at No. 7 TCU will
provide a glance at just how close to being a bowl team Baylor is in
Briles' third year as head coach. But the Oct. 9 game against Texas
Tech and first-year coach Tommy Tuberville at the Cotton Bowl will be
the pivotal game for the Bears. If Baylor and Tech hadn't have moved
this year's game to Dallas, they'd be playing a road game in Lubbock.
And the Bears have come close against the Red Raiders in recent
seasons, including a 20-13 loss to end last season at Cowboys
The season's a success if...: The Bears end their 17-year bowl
drought. This is the most talented roster Briles and his staff have
put together, and with Griffin back healthy, Baylor is capable of
running off a seven-win season. A four-game stretch against Kansas,
Texas Tech, Colorado and Kansas State will likely determine if Briles
can end the suffering in Waco.
SicEmSports.com contributor Todd Wills