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Big 12 Spring College Football Practice Update

College football players started reporting for spring practices over the past few weeks, meaning it’s time to take a look at the programs and see what we can expect in the fall. Let’s start by taking a look at the teams in the Big 12 and then be sure to take a look at our 2010 NCAA football preview. See something you like or dislike in the Big 12 spring update? Be sure to discuss it on one of the many great Big 12 forums listed in our NCAA message board directory.

 

Baylor

  • The #1 question on Baylor fans’ minds this Spring is the health of redshirt sophomore quarterback Robert Griffin, who earned his redshirt the hard way last fall after tearing his ACL in the Bears’ 3rd game. Griffin isn’t 100% yet after October surgery (and it might not be until 2011 that his exceptional athleticism completely returns) but there is no doubt that he’ll be back under center in 2010.

  • Baylor’s secondary appears set and will feature two seniors starting at safety. Furthermore, this is considered head coach Art Briles’ deepest secondary and should get even better when a strong DB recruiting class, headlined by Consensus Top 150 safety Ahmad Dixon, arrives in the summer.

  • One major concern to the casual observer would be at linebacker, which must replace four time All-Big XII performer Joe Pawelek. However, there is still a ton of talent on hand and senior Antonio Johnson is expected to be an impact player. Also keep an eye on redshirt freshman Chris McAllister, who will battle with senior Chris Francis to replace the indomitable Pawelek.

Colorado

  • Michigan transfer Toney Clemons made a strong bid to fill the second starting wide receiver spot opposite Scotty McKnight, who missed much of the spring with a leg injury. Clemons’ athleticism could bear fruit on the field this fall for the much-beleaguered Hawkins family.

  • Speaking of the likeable McKnight, he suffered a major scare when he went down with a leg injury halfway through camp. Initially, the fear was that he had broken his leg but thankfully he didn’t suffer any long-term injury and was held out of the rest of practices as a precautionary measure to ensure that he’s ready in the fall.

  • The interminable battle at quarterback between Cody Hawkins and Tyler Hansen continues to stretch on after head coach Dan Hawkins (Cody’s dad) was non-committal in naming a starter after the Spring Game. Both acquitted themselves well in the contest as each completed over 75% of their pass attempts.

Iowa State

  • Star tailback Alex Robinson is expected to play a much bigger role in the passing game in 2010 after ISU spent a lot of time working on creating big plays out of the backfield. Robinson appears primed for a great 2010 campaign.

  • Robinson won’t be the only tailback that sees the field in mass quantities this year for head coach Paul Rhodes. Freshmen Jeff Woody and James White both impressed throughout Spring and capped off their showing with solid Spring performances. Rhodes said that Woody had a slight edge for the #2 spot heading into the fall but the job is still up in the air.

  • ISU appears to have great depth at cornerback, as four different players were declared by Rhodes as capable of starting. Leonard Johnson, Ter’ran Benton and Jeremy Reevers were consistently strong through practice and incoming JUCO DB Anthony Young is expected to contribute immediately as well. That’s good news in a pass-happy league.

 

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Kansas

  • New coach Turner Gill had no less than eight players switch positions to start spring practice, including former cornerbacks D.J. Beshears and Daymond Patterson, both of whom started games in 2009 but will focus on earning time at receiver in 2010.

  • MLB Justin Springer was singled out by new DC Carl Torbush as a major impact player and potential captain. Springer struggled with injuries in the past two seasons but his play in the Spring has earned rave reviews and by all indications, Springer should be in for a monster senior season.

  • Sophomore Kale Pick appears to be in the lead heading into fall camp at the quarterback position. While freshman Jordan Webb pushing him all Spring, Pick’s improved passing skills combined with his well-known ability to run makes him an enticing player for Gill.

Kansas State

  • Senior quarterback Carson Coffman grabbed the starting position in a headline-grabbing manner as he threw for 440 yards and seven touchdowns in the Spring Game, leading the first string to a ridiculous 79-0 victory over the backups.

  • On the flip side of things, what does it say about KSU’s depth when a quarterback who threw for two measly TDs last season put up such huge numbers? The Wildcats aren’t expected to be very deep anywhere but a second string that allows 79 points and doesn’t score once is just brutal.

  • One reason for Coffman’s huge day might be the improved play of his starting wideouts. Transfers Brodrick Smith and Chris Harper both exceeded 100 receiving yards while scoring a TD apiece and top receiver Brandon Banks appears ready to return to his 2008 form, which saw him record a 1,000 yard season.

Missouri

  • Missouri’s biggest concern in the Spring was to improve a defense that was porous, at best, during the 2009 season. That appears to have been accomplished as they didn’t allow a passing touchdown in the Spring Game and also scored a defensive touchdown. The strength of the defense could be senior corners Kevin Rutland and Carl Gettis.

  • Another boost to the Tiger defense will be sophomore defensive end Aldon Smith, who appears intent on taking the next step after notching 11.5 sacks as a freshman in 2009. Expect the Tigers to be better defensively in the pass-happy Big XII thanks to an improved pass rush and a stronger secondary.

  • Replacing WR Danario Alexander, who accounted for over 1,700 receiving yards and 14 TDs last year, was also a major priority. Expect juniors Wes Kemp and Jerrell Jackson to pick up a lot of the slack but can Missouri sustain their strong offensive showing after losing Alexander and Jeremy Maclin in consecutive seasons?

 



Nebraska

  • Quarterback Zac Lee did not participate in spring practice due to arm surgery but he was praised by offensive coordinator Shawn Watson for staying extremely involved in the team’s preparation and practices. Lee is expected to play in the fall after starting 12 games in 2009.

  • Lee will not be given the same leeway that he enjoyed last season if he struggles this fall. Redshirt freshman Taylor Martinez was the star of the Spring Game thanks to his running ability. Furthermore, Cody Green impressed as well, leaving head coach Bo Pelini with a very interesting race on his hands this fall.

  • Despite losing superstar DT Ndamukong Suh to graduation, Pelini has been vocal in his belief that his veteran defense might be even better in 2010 after finishing 2009 as the #1 ranked unit in America. A large portion of that burden will lie on senior DT Jared Crick’s shoulders. Crick, who was a terror in his own right next to Suh last season, will be asked to consistently beat double teams to continue the Huskers’ dominance along the line of scrimmage. If he’s up to the challenge (and most observers say he is), then the Huskers could be scary good on defense.

Oklahoma

  • Tailback DeMarco Murray did not participate in any contact drills this spring to attempt to keep the injury-prone senior healthy for the upcoming season. He’s also practicing yoga as another avenue towards staying healthy for a full season for the first time in his Oklahoma career.

  • Early enrollee Kenny Stills was awarded Spring Game MVP honors after catching six passes for 84 yards and a touchdown. This came as no surprise as he was the talk of the camp and he is widely expected to begin the season as one of Oklahoma’s starting wideouts.

  • Junior linebacker Travis Lewis has taken over as the leader of the defense. Lewis made headlines when he promised that his team would earn a shutout in the Spring Game and backed up his big talk as the Crimson won 23-0. Expect Lewis to set the tone for an improved Sooner defense in 2010.

Oklahoma State

  • Despite replacing 7 defensive starters, April was all about Okie State’s offense. Junior Brandon Weeden earned rave reviews throughout practice and capped off a stellar Spring with a four touchdown performance in the Spring Game. Expect Weeden to have a big season throwing the ball.

  • However, the top weapon for the Cowboys will be senior tailback Kendall Hunter, who missed most of last season due to injury. Hunter will be relied upon for solid rushing numbers but head coach Mike Gundy has plans to make him into a major player in the passing game. Hunter could be on the verge of a huge season.

  • After losing both starting cornerbacks from 2009, finding replacements was a primary objective this Spring. The good news is that sophomores Brodrick Brown and Andrae May appear to have stepped into the role, with true frosh Devin Hedgepeth right on their heels. The bad news is that they’re all underclassmen and the only start among the three was Brown’s nod in last year’s Cotton Bowl. Still, there is a lot of raw talent in the secondary.


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Texas

  • The Garrett Gilbert hype continues to grow, thanks to a Spring Game performance that saw him complete 12 of 15 passes for 3 touchdowns. While Gilbert is undoubtedly going to be a star after nearly leading Texas to the National Title in spot duty, Longhorn fans need to remember that Gilbert is only a sophomore and won’t turn into Colt McCoy overnight.

  • What will help Gilbert is if some of his receivers can step up and account for some of Jordan Shipley’s lost production. While Malcolm Williams, John Chiles and James Kirkendoll got a lot of press heading into the Spring, it was sophomore DeSean Hales that stole the show in the Spring Game with 77 yards and touchdown reception. Either way, there is going to be a lot of talent on hand but will there be a Shipley-esque star that steps up for a 1,000 yard season? That remains to be seen.

  • While Texas is reloading this fall, don’t expect their secondary to take a step backwards. The Horns have three excellent cornerbacks in Aaron Williams and Curtis and Chykie Brown and junior safety Blake Gideon returns as well. While Earl Thomas will be missed after leaving to be a 1st round pick in the NFL, the Texas secondary should still be one of the best in the country.

 

Texas A&M

  • The Aggies are one of a number of teams switching to a 3-4 defense this season under new defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter, with the intention of bringing back memories of the famed ‘Wrecking Crew’. This change is no surprise after A&M fielded the worst defense in the Big XII in 2009.

  • Senior Lucas Patterson emerged in the Spring as the much-needed nose tackle in the 3-4 scheme. After a year of constant position changes, Patterson took advantage of junior Eddie Brown’s injured-related absence to make a huge impact in the middle of the defensive line. Expect the Aggies to have a solid combination inside this fall.

  • Starting Quarterback Jerrod Johnson allayed fears that his offseason shoulder surgery was more severe than initially reported as he played well in the Aggies’ Spring Game. While he admitted that he has some more strengthening to do in his shoulder, Johnson said that he is 100% healthy everywhere else, a welcome sign for the Aggie faithful.

Texas Tech

  • The much-ballyhooed quarterback battle between seniors Taylor Potts and Steve Sheffield was derailed after Sheffield broke his foot in the team’s first intersquad practice and Potts subsequently missed the next week with a hurt hand. Sheffield broke the same foot that cost him the 2nd half of 2009 but was given a slight edge in the early going by new coach Tommy Tuberville.

  • Tech’s base defense will be a 3-4 defense after exclusively running the 4-3 set under former defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeil. The learning curve for the linebackers has been pretty steep but Tuberville expects the Red Raiders to have a much stronger grasp of the scheme when the games begin in the fall.

  • Expect a much more aggressive defense this fall in Lubbock. Tuberville has brought an exotic blitz scheme with him from Auburn and Tech’s defensive backs are now expected to rush the passer for the first time in their college careers.

 

By Matt Baxendell
CollegeSports-fans.com Staff Writer

 

 


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