What you missed in Big 12 spring football
MAY 01, 2014 12:29a ET
The spring is over, and I'm sure you were paying very close attention. You were, right? Well, if not, I've got you covered. Here's a look at what you missed this spring:
There's a little bit of clarity at QB ... and a little murkiness
Iowa State: Coach Paul Rhoads wants to have a quarterback named by the middle of August, and Grant Rohach should enter fall camp with an advantage over Sam Richardson and Joel Lanning. Rohach closed the season strong in wins over West Virginia and Kansas, and I'd be very surprised if he's not the guy when ISU opens its season against three-time defending FCS national champion North Dakota State. (Kansas State told me to tell you to be careful with that one, guys.)
Kansas: Charlie Weis named sophomore Montell Cozart his starter after a strong performance in the spring game. Multiple reports on Tuesday suggested last year's starter, Jake Heaps, planned to transfer, but KU hasn't confirmed the BYU transfer's exit. UCLA transfer T.J. Millweard also competed this spring and could get time if Cozart struggles and Heaps does indeed leave.
Oklahoma State: Mike Gundy is keeping quiet about his QBs, but true freshman Mason Rudolph, a traditional drop-back passer, didn't have the impact some had hoped. Dual-threat J.W. Walsh likely has a sizeable lead in the race ahead of Rudolph and big-armed Arizona transfer Daxx Garman, an All-Name team talent. OSU doesn't plan on making an announcement, but when OSU takes on defending national champion Florida State at Cowboys Stadium, look for Walsh to be the guy. If he struggles, it could be very, very interesting.
TCU: Gary Patterson calls Trevone Boykin his starting quarterback right now, but Texas A&M's Matt Joeckel transferred in after the spring and is eligible immediately. Boykin is likely also TCU's best receiver, so I'm betting he moves there at some point in fall camp and Joeckel opens the season against Samford as TCU's starter. Don't rule out either option yet. However, a man with a degree and one year of eligibility like Joeckel is only going to transfer if he feels he has a great shot to start.
Texas: Charlie Strong's not handing David Ash the starting job, and Ash's fracture in his left foot only complicated the issue. Tyrone Swoopes didn't look strong as a passer in the spring game, and USC transfer Max Wittek made his third visit to campus that day. If his flirtations eventually land him in Austin to stay, he and Ash's preseason battle will be a good one to watch. True freshman Jerrod Heard also arrives this summer, but it's hard to see him winning the job over those three in only a few practices. Strong says Heard will get an opportunity to compete, though. He'll have to make the most of whatever first-team reps he gets.
West Virginia: Clint Trickett didn't step on the field this spring after undergoing offseason surgery, but showed up atop the post-spring depth chart. Juco transfer Skyler Howard and upperclassmen Paul Millard and Logan Moore will keep competing in fall camp. The Mountaineers have the league's toughest competition to call.
The Big 12 is the home of high-profile position moves
Kenny Williams led Texas Tech in rushing in each of the last two years.
Quarterback Daniel Sams was K-State's most electrifying player with the ball in his hands in 2013.
All three changed positions this spring. Williams approached coaches and began working at outside linebacker because Tech lacked depth at the position and had a plenty of depth at running back. By the end of the spring, he was the starter there and didn't show up on the offensive depth chart.
Bell, a senior, just wanted to get on the field and found a home at tight end. Sams will use his athleticism at receiver, but didn't make a big impact in the brief snippet we saw during the spring game.
No league's had that many big names change positions this year, but it's still too early to know just how big of an impact Sams and Bell will have next year.
New offenses are taking shape
Thirty percent of the Big 12 decided to make a change at offensive coordinator, and Texas is league's only member breaking in a whole new staff this spring. The Longhorns' exact philosophy hasn't emerged just yet, but co-OCs Shawn Watson and Joe Wickline can't stop using "multiple" as their buzzword so far. The safe bet is it'll be a run-heavy scheme with a fast tempo, considering Texas' experience and strength at running back.
Former Rice OC John Reagan took over for Tim Grunhard as OC at Kansas, and after naming Cozart the starting quarterback over more polished passers in Jake Heaps and T.J. Millweard, you can expect the quarterback run game to be a heavy influence.
TCU's new offensive coordinators Doug Meacham (from Houston, Oklahoma State) and Sonny Cumbie (from Texas Tech) are bringing a true spread to what's been a traditional offense with a few spread concepts for awhile under Gary Patterson. Meacham and Cumbie are taking a page from Baylor and teaching players the offense without a playbook. Players instead draw and take notes off video.
Iowa State made the league's most high-profile hire when it welcomed former Kansas coach Mark Mangino to the staff. The balanced scheme likely won't look a whole lot different than it did under Courtney Messingham, but Mangino has stressed spreading the ball around and being more consistent than Iowa State has been in the past. Six players caught at least four passes in ISU's spring game.
Baylor may be coming down with a case of vertigo
Which end is up? Why is everything spinning? So, if you've been asleep for the past 12 months, Texas is taking shots at Baylor and has beaten the Bears just once in four tries. Everyone in the league is trying to take down historical doormat and coach Art Briles doesn't sound interested in allowing that to happen now that Baylor's the Big 12 King of the Mountain.
"We want to run the show," he told me this spring. "That's the plan."
Returning quarterback Bryce Petty gives Baylor a great shot to repeat as Big 12 champion, and the Bears will probably open the season in the top 15. It's a whole new world.
Ryan Mueller has competition as the Big 12's best pass rusher
Kansas State's defensive end was in the mix for last year's Defensive Player of the Year trophy, and should begin 2014 as the preseason award winner. Taking that title at the end of the year will be difficult with a pair of spring breakout stars. TCU defensive end Devonte Fields won the award as a freshman in 2012, but off-field issues, suspensions and a foot injury made 2013 a year to forget. This spring, he's earned nothing but rave reviews from coach Gary Patterson. Patterson didn't like how he responded to success as a freshman, and last year's struggles left him with a lot to prove in 2014.
Shawn Oakman was stuck behind Chris McAllister at Baylor last year, but still managed 12.5 tackles for loss. This year, he'll be a starter and will challenge as one of the league's best at his position.
"We can't block him," Briles said. "And I don't think anybody else will, either. It's what I've been saying all along: Our defensive line is as good as anyone's in America. He's just one of them out of six or seven that is going to be a dynamic player for us in the fall."
You should get to know these guys
Every spring has breakout stars. Some of these guys just showed up on campus. Some have been there but are about to force you to know their names.
Tyreek Hill, RB/WR, Oklahoma State: The juco transfer earned more hype than any newcomer in recent history. The 5-10, 185-pound track star who won Indoor Freshman of the Year has drawn comparisons to Tavon Austin after a strong spring. Mike Gundy says he's "on another level" than any player he's ever coached in terms of speed. OSU will find ways to get him the ball, in the passing game or out of the backfield.
Dimitri Flowers, RB/FB, Oklahoma: Who says you can't replace Trey Millard? The 6-foot-1, 241-pound freshman from San Antonio enrolled early and earned a reputation as a solid lead blocker and could start in Millard's place for a relatively inexperienced Sooners' backfield.
Nick Harwell, WR, Kansas: Harwell transferred in from Miami (OH) last season but lost an appeal to play immediately and sat out 2013. This spring, he showed what KU was missing last season. He had 68 catches for 870 yards and eight scores in 2012, and though KU has questions at QB, Charlie Weis said he has a chance to be a "legitimate Big 12 receiver." KU hasn't had one of those since Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe all the way back in 2009.
Skyler Howard, QB, West Virginia: The juco transfer didn't win a job this spring, but we saw the revolving door at the position for the Mountaineers last season. At some point, Howard will probably get a shot. The 6-foot, 200-pound dual-threat QB completed 67 percent of his passes last season for 33 touchdowns. Clint Trickett is the starter for now, but there will be a lot of excitement when Howard gets a shot in the fall.
Reginald Davis, WR, Texas Tech: There wasn't much room in the rotation for Davis last season, who caught just 15 balls for 200 yards. Everybody knows about Jakeem Grant, but keep an eye on this 6-foot, 190-pound sophomore to make an impact this year. He's got great speed and with no Eric Ward or Jace Amaro for Davis Webb to throw to, there will be a lot of passes that somebody's got to catch. Davis has great ability to make plays with the ball in his hands and stretch the field. That means touches in Texas Tech's offense.