Those stragglers in Manhattan delayed the end of spring ball in the Big 12 by a week, but Saturday’s spring game at K-State officially brought the most valuable weeks of the offseason to a close.
We’ll take a closer look at the spring in the Big 12 this week, but let’s start by updating the power rankings. Here’s how it stands heading into the worst three-month stretch of the college football year.
Media days can’t get here soon enough.
Let’s get to the power rankings:
1. Oklahoma: The Sooners remind me a little bit of last year’s preseason favorite: Oklahoma State. They may not be truly excellent at anything, but they’re solid at everything and have a ton of experience on both sides of the ball. The Sooners’ questionable depth at receiver and Trevor Knight’s inconsistency are serious concerns, but Oklahoma’s a narrow favorite in the Big 12 for now.
2. Baylor: There’s a great case for Baylor as the preseason Big 12 favorite, but the turnover on defense is a major concern. Defensive backs like Xavien Howard and Orion Stewart may be more athletically gifted than their predecessors, but any DC will tell you how valuable experience is in the secondary. The good news for Baylor is there’s no reason it can’t lead the nation in scoring again. I don’t know if I’d predict it since BU lost three offensive linemen and a pair of great backs in Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it happen with Bryce Petty returning.
3. Kansas State: K-State only returns 10 starters from last year’s team, but they’re building around huge pieces in WR Tyler Lockett and DE Ryan Mueller, who will both earn a chunk of votes in the Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year races. Bill Snyder does his best work with a returning QB, but they’ll try to protect Jake Waters with just two returning offensive linemen. Losing John Hubert will be bigger than most outside The Little Apple realize.
4. Oklahoma State: This is one of Mike Gundy’s least experienced teams ever, but we’ve seen OSU do this before. He’s recruited well and the talent is there on both sides of the ball. Gundy’s had his program in place a decade now, and that pays off in years when it faces a ton of turnover. J.W. Walsh is an above average quarterback when you factor in his running ability and Tyreek Hill may run away with the Preseason Newcomer of the Year race after making headlines with his speed all spring. He already won a Big 12 title in the 200 meters and was the runner-up in the 60 meters on the way to a team indoor title and Big 12 Indoor Freshman of the Year.
5. Texas Tech: They call Davis Webb "The Lone Survivor" around Lubbock these days, and they better hope he continues surviving next season or the Red Raiders are in trouble. He was the only scholarship quarterback in practice this spring, and two walk-ons left the team this month. Incoming freshman Patrick Mahomes is already No. 2 on the depth chart, and the possibility looms that he may elect to play baseball when he’s drafted this summer. Tech will be fine in finding targets to fill in for Jace Amaro and Eric Ward. D.J. Polite-Bray and Reginald Davis may be due for breakout seasons alongside established speedster Jakeem Grant. Replacing Kerry Hyder and Dartwan Bush are bigger issues, but Tech brought in a handful of juco linemen to provide quality depth, highlighted by likely starter Rika Levi, a 355-pounder who will arrive this summer.
6. Texas: The Longhorns are solid everywhere but quarterback. That’s a gigantic but, my friends. We don’t know what to expect from David Ash, whose pair of concussions last year were sandwiched between a Jones fracture in his foot this spring and a rib injury late in the 2012 season. Unfortunately for Texas, defensive tackles don’t win you Big 12 titles. That said, the Longhorns’ best chance to slide up these rankings next year lies in its play along the line of scrimmage. Texas could realistically field the best offensive and defensive lines in the league.
7. TCU: I’d bet about anything that Matt Joeckel ends up starting at TCU and Trevone Boykin makes a move to receiver in fall camp. It needs to happen and it’s a net gain for TCU. Boykin’s the team’s best receiver right now, but it didn’t have any other option at QB. Now it does. Devonte Fields, who won Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2012 before a disastrous 2013 shortened by injury and suspension, earned rave reviews this spring. That’s a sweet sound for TCU faithful.
8. Iowa State: ISU brings back 16 starters, as many as any team in the Big 12. Ten of those are on offense, giving new OC Mark Mangino a lot to work with. I don’t quite understand the QB debate in Ames, though. I’ll be shocked if anybody but Grant Rohach opens the year as starter. He may be due for a breakout season. Brandon Jensen’s recent return gives ISU’s D-line a nice post-spring boost, but replacing LB Jeremiah George’s instinct in the middle of the D is a tough task.
9. West Virginia: WVU closed the spring without much clarity at the QB spot. Clint Trickett is atop the list for now, but we’ll see what juco transfer Skyler Howard does in fall camp. Paul Millard and Logan Moore are still in the mix, too. The Mountaineers have promising talent all over the field. The WRs were all inexperienced last year and should make strides this season. Karl Joseph, Dontrill Hyman, Isaiah Bruce, Ishmael Banks and Brandon Golson are all better on the defensive end than most in Big 12 country realize. The Mountaineers just haven’t been able to put it together. If they do, it’s easy to see this team finishing in the top half of the league. For now, though, you can’t reason putting them higher than eighth or ninth.
10. Kansas: Montell Cozart was the right call at QB, but not for encouraging reasons. KU’s weakness along the offensive line can’t support a drop-back passer. Cozart’s elusiveness can prevent a few sacks that T.J. Millweard and Jake Heaps can’t. He also makes defenses respect the QB run game and KU’s option game. The Jayhawks will be OK without James Sims–Darrian Miller and Brandon Bourbon are capable–and it should be exciting to see how Tony Pierson has developed with more work at receiver. If Dave Campo can continue to improve a defense still a little short on talent, KU will be within reach of a whole lot more Big 12 games.