Big 12 Spring Football - Baylor to Oklahoma
Oklahoma QB Landry Jones
Oklahoma QB Landry Jones
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Mar 20, 2012


As spring ball kicks in, what's happening for each Big 12 team? Baylor to Oklahoma

2012 Spring Preview   

Big 12 - Baylor to OU


Baylor | Iowa State | Kansas | Kansas State | Oklahoma
Oklahoma St | Texas | TCU | Texas Tech | West Virginia

2012 Big 12 Pre-Spring Preview
- Big 12 Pre-Spring Rankings
- Why Every Big 12 Team Should Be Excited
- Why Every Big 12 Team Should Be Grouchy
- What Every Big 12 Team Needs To Work On 
- Big 12 Recruiting Rankings
- 2012 Big 12 Schedule Analysis - Baylor to OU
- 2012 Big 12 Schedule Analysis - Oklahoma St to WVU
- 2012 Big 12 Composite Schedule & Week Rankings

By Pete Fiutak
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- 2012 Big 12 Preview - Oklahoma State to West Virginia

 Baylor

The Bears have to get used to their new-found success and go forward. It wasn’t all that long ago when the program was trying to win a conference game, and now it’s red hot after all the phenomenal things that happened last year. But for all the positives and all the phenomenal moments thanks to RGIII and the high-octane offense, it still could’ve been more. Remember, it’s Baylor – who went 14 years without a winning season before breaking through in 2010 – so 10-3 with a Heisman winner put the season into an all-timer category, but now it’s time to get greedy.

The offense under Art Briles has always been terrific, and it will be again without Robert Griffin, but the defense has to take a big step forward and get into the Big 12 title hunt. Defensive coordinator Phil Bennett is in his second year at the helm, and he has to improve a defense that was among the worst in America against the pass and finished 116th in yards allowed. Teams are going to be gunning for the Bears now, and there’s no more sneaking up on anyone. Compared to where things were at not all that long ago, Briles will take it.

- RGIII was obviously a transcendent player and will forever by a Baylor legend. No, his replacement won’t be as efficient or as magical, but don’t be stunned if Nick Florence puts up mega-numbers. He knows the offense, he has a decent arm, and he’s smart. He’ll flirt with the 3,500-yard mark if he can hold off Bryce Petty for the job.

- Part of RGIII’s success came from an eerie connection with Kendall Wright; the two were always coming up with the big plays at the biggest times. However, it was Terrance Williams who came up with the game-winner against Oklahoma and he should be in the mix for All-Big 12 honors as Florence’s No. 1 target.

- Almost everyone of note is back on the Baylor D, but it has to translate into more production. The line was supposed to be a strength, but the tackles got gashed time and again – watch the Alamo Bowl again. There are newcomers to the middle who’ll be under fire early, but the back seven that returns six starters has to tackle far, far better. Again, the Alamo Bowl.

- Baylor was involved in so many shootouts that the punting game didn’t matter too much, but for a program that’s been so great at booting the ball in recent years, finishing 118th in a problem. With the nation’s No. 2 total offense, the punter doesn’t matter too much, but it would be nice to get more out of Spencer Roth and his big leg.

- Saturday, September 29th at West Virginia in the Big 12 opener. Get your popcorn ready.

Iowa State

The Cyclones need more playmakers, and they need to find more this offseason to become a bigger factor in the Big 12. They showed the ability to rise up and screw up an elite team with the historic win over Oklahoma State, and they’ve been able to catch teams napping now and again, but they haven’t been consistent enough to make a jump up. Unfortunately, this might be a bit of a rebuilding year in a conference that might be as strong as ever.

Iowa State has had come up with more than seven wins just once since 1978, and that’s because the schedule in 2000 was marshmallow-soft. This team doesn’t have the make-up or the schedule to go on a big run, or shock the world like Kansas State did last season, but a good foundation has been set by coach Paul Rhoads, and now nothing less than a bowl bid every year will be acceptable. This spring, though, every practice will be vital to find the right combination to get a 13th game.

- The quarterback job is up in the air, even after the magic Jared Barnett showed at times last year. Steele Jantz stepped in when Barnett had problems in the Pinstripe Bowl to open up the debate. Had Barnett been more consistent throughout the second half of the season, and if he was great in the bowl, he would’ve been tough to move out. Barnett and Jantz are listed as co–starters.

- A.J. Klein and Jake Knott can’t fly, and they make too many plays down the field, but it’ll be harder to find a better-tackling linebacking duo in college football.

- Why to Klein and Knott get so many chances? The D line is a problem. There’s no pass rush and there’s less experience with three starters gone. 302-pound tackle Jake McDonough has to turn into an anchor, and end Roosevelt Maggitt has to become a terror on the outside.

- There might be a slew of big replacements on both sides of the ball, but the biggest talent loss is at left tackle where Kelechi Osemele is gone. He projects to be an NFL guard, but he more than held his own in all-star practices as a tackle. Iowa State doesn’t get blockers like him every day. The position might not be filled until later this summer, but it’s Carter Bykowski’s job to lose.

- The other big talent loss is at corner where Leonard Johnson became one of the Big 12’s stickiest covermen. Jansen Watson served as the understudy last year, and while he’s not as big as Johnson, he can move.

Kansas

This should be interesting. Charlie Weis will certainly bring the attention and the spotlight to KU football, but he also needs to bring a little bit of production, too. He was able to succeed at Notre Dame right away because the cupboard wasn’t totally bare. That’s not the case with the Jayhawks, and now he has to prove he can build a program instead of just coach one. First and foremost he has to give the program that came up with some special years offensively under Mark Mangino a decided schematic advantage. The Jayhawks have to come up with something they can do well.

Turner Gill had to try to rebuild and reload, but it wasn’t happening quickly enough. KU wasn’t just bad, it was next-level awful, but Weis isn’t exactly a proven commodity when it comes to getting teams to overachieve. He’s trying to change the culture of Jayhawk football with some early personnel changes and some defections, but he needs bodies and talent. It’s probably going to take a while.

- The offense will be better – it can’t be less productive – but it’s going to have to get ready to wing it around in more shootouts. The defense didn’t generate a pass rush finishing 116th in the nation in sacks and 117th in tackles for loss, and it all trickled down from there. The secondary didn’t have a prayer against the loaded Big 12 passing attacks.

- Here’s the biggest concern early on for KU fans when it comes to Weis – Florida. The Gators were loaded with athletes and speed, and they even had a quarterback in John Brantley with an NFL arm. The offense finished 105th in the nation overall and struggled to get anything big down the field. Don’t expect the KU attack to open it up with a slew of post patterns. Get ready for lots of dinking and dunking.

- Kansas was among the worst teams in the nation in pass protection and Dayne Crist can’t move with his bad knees. This might not be pretty early on with the tackle situation a bit of a question mark.

- This isn’t a Russell Wilson situation. Crist wasn’t great at Notre Dame even when his knees weren’t a problem. He’s smart and he’ll do what Weis needs, but he needs playmakers around him and KU doesn’t have them.

- Don’t expect the booting of backup running back Darrian Miller to matter all that much. James Sims is the team’s best rushing option and Tony Pierson can move. Weis is going to pound the rock with Sims as much as possible early on.

Kansas State

Kansas State almost got into a BCS game with an offense that didn’t come up with anything through the air and generated just 337 yards per game in a league that’s used to offenses putting up 500 yards an outing. No one’s expecting Kansas State to come out and be the 1998 version this year, but another season of putting up a fight game-in-and-game out again isn’t asking for much. Everyone knows what the Wildcats do, but the question is whether or not teams can do anything about it.

This offseason the goal is to find more offensive help for QB Colin Klein and the backfield. There has to be a passing game and there has to be more to the attack than Klein left, Klein right, and Klein left again. On the plus side, the only three losses came to three of the best teams in the country – Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, and Arkansas – but those games also showed that more work is needed. There’s no teaching an old dog like Bill Snyder new tricks, and after last year there’s no need to. This spring, though, it’s time to try to perfect what already works.

- Eight of the ten wins came by a touchdown or less. If half of those games had gone the other way, and the Eastern Kentucky game in the opener is just one of several that easily could’ve been a loss, and Kansas State is 6-6. There’s absolutely no margin for error in the way Snyder is getting it done.

- Don’t sleep on Tre Walker. Arthur Brown is the team’s best linebacker and in a battle with corner Nigel Malone to be the team’s best defensive player, but Walker is a rising playmaker on the outside who scratched the surface with 52 tackles. Watch out for him to be turned loose.

- And it’s not even close, Colin Klein was the most valuable player in college football last season. He might not have been the best player, and he might not have done what Robert Griffin was able to do for Baylor, but Kansas State doesn’t have a winning record without No. 7. Don’t forget, he ran for 113 yards and a score and threw for two touchdowns in the win over the Bears.

- Klein will never be Tom Brady, but it’s not like he had a slew of big-time talents to throw to. Kansas State always gets speedy targets, and it’s not that fair to dog the corps too much considering the offense didn’t throw the ball, but there has to be more downfield plays to open things up a little bit. Even Georgia Tech’s running offense can hit the home run.

- Turnover margin, turnover margin, turnover margin. Of all the things Kansas State has to excel at, it’s holding on to the ball and capitalizing on every mistake. Ninth in the nation last year in turnover margin with 27 takeaways and just 15 mistakes, the team has to be that good again, or better. Any move back to around a 50/50 turnover split and the season goes in the opposite direction.

Oklahoma

While the Sooners got blasted by Oklahoma State, they were two late stops against Baylor and Texas Tech away from being in the BCS. While the program is at a national title-or-bust level, something is missing even with all the consistent success in conference play. Oklahoma – and not Texas – is the Big 12’s premier program, but after more than a decade without a national title it’s time to go from being elite to being BCS championship-good again.

Getting QB Landry Jones back is a huge help, and there’s the usual array of top-shelf talent across the board, but the running back situation is sketchy, some key replacements are needed on the offensive line, and the defense still has to prove it can come through in the clutch – something it couldn’t do against the Bears and Red Raiders. Getting back Mike Stoops to handle the defense should be a huge plus, and the team is good enough to roll out of bed and win ten games, but OU under Bob Stoops is remembered more for the losses – because there are so few of them - than all the great wins. The margin for error for a program this good is razor-thin.

- Much is being made and will be made about Mike Stoops returning as defensive coordinator, and it’s all worthy of the hype. No, Arizona didn’t play any defense, but some guys are born to be coordinators and excel when they can focus on what they do best. However, even with a dip last year and some major collapses, the defense was just fine under Brent Venables. Under Stoops, it could be a brick wall.

- Tony Jefferson might turn out to be the Big 12’s most valuable defensive player. Tom Wort is the leader of a great group of linebackers, but it’s Jefferson who should shine as the star playmaker in a sort of hybrid role. He’s a safety who’ll be used as a linebacker, nickel defender, pass rusher, and everything else in between.

- Last year Oklahoma was 10-0 when allowing fewer than 41 points, not allowing more than 28 points in any of the victories. The D gave up 41 to Texas Tech, 45 to Baylor, and 44 to Oklahoma State in the three losses.

- Has any quarterback in the history of mankind had a quieter 4,463-yard passing season than Landry Jones came up with last year? In a league with RGIII and the Oklahoma State fun show, throwing 29 touchdown passes seems a bit pedestrian. However, after Ryan Broyles went down, Jones threw one touchdown pass, six interceptions in the final four games with OU losing two of them.

- Alright, alright, yes, the program of Sims, Washington, Pruitt, Owens, and Peterson has a problem at running back. Blake “Belldozer” Bell will run for 20 touchdowns – that’s not an exaggeration – when he’s in as a goal line quarterback, but the Sooners need someone who can get the job done in between the 20s. With Dominique Whaley a question mark after suffering a broken ankle, it’ll be an open casting call. It wouldn’t be as glaring of a concern if the inconsistent receiving corps could be counted on to play up to its talent level.

Baylor | Iowa State | Kansas | Kansas State | Oklahoma
Oklahoma St | Texas | TCU | Texas Tech | West Virginia

2012 Big 12 Pre-Spring Preview
- Big 12 Pre-Spring Rankings
- Why Every Big 12 Team Should Be Excited
- Why Every Big 12 Team Should Be Grouchy
- What Every Big 12 Team Needs To Work On 
- Big 12 Recruiting Rankings
- 2012 Big 12 Schedule Analysis - Baylor to OU
- 2012 Big 12 Schedule Analysis - Oklahoma St to WVU
- 2012 Big 12 Composite Schedule & Week Rankings