Spring 2014 - Big 12 Analysis OSU to WVU

Posted Mar 6, 2014

Spring 2014 - Big 12 Team-By-Team Analysis & Breakdown

Big 12 Breakdowns: Baylor to Oklahoma

Oklahoma State
Start: March 10, Spring Game: April 10

To go cliche, is this going to be a rebuilding year or a reloading one? No Big 12 team is in bigger need of a good offseason. The Cowboys were great in 2011, dipped a bit in 2012 after losing a ton of talent, and came up with a terrific 2013 - at least until the final few minutes against Oklahoma. Needing to replace 12 starters in an improving league won't be easy, but Mike Gundy seems able to plug holes without much of a problem. This spring needs to see a seamless transition in a few key spots like safety and receiver.

Unsolicited advice on what to work on this spring - Make sure all the little things are done right. With so much turnover on both sides of the ball, and with so many potential question marks, the Cowboys can't afford to be so lousy when it comes to penalties and the punting game. As a team, OSU averaged just over 39 yards per kick with Kip Smith averaging under 40 yards per boot - overall, the punting game was among the worst in America. Penalties wer the bigger issue committing 87 on the year with ten in two of the three losses.

This spring will be a success if … the secondary is a rock. There's no replacing a talent like Justin Gilbert at one corner, and the safety tandem of Shamiel Gary and Daytawion Lowe will be missed from a secondary that came up with 21 picks and allowed 16 touchdown passes. There's speed and size around corner Kevin Peterson, but it might take a little time to find the right combination.

Start: March 18, Spring Game: April 19

Spring ball begins March 18th. The grace period ends the 19th. A job big enough and good enough to have had Nick Saban and Jim Harbaugh on the realistic radar only ramps up the pressure that much more for Charlie Strong, and with a strong team of veterans returning, there won't be any excuses to not come up with a ten-win season. Last year's team had the talent and the tools, but it was squishy-soft - Strong needs to spend the offseason fixing that. It's not like the program slipped into the abyss under Mack Brown, but it's Texas, and it needs to be in the national title chase. Can there be signs this spring that playing a relative home game in Dallas in January could be possible? First things first, Strong has to use the next several weeks to set a new tone.

Unsolicited advice on what to work on this spring - The passing game could use some fine-tuning, the receiving corps needs to show more pop ... run defense, run defense, run defense. The Longhorns gave up 200 rushing yards or more five times, losing four of the games with the lone exception a win over Iowa State that should've gone the other way. Injuries played a big part in the problem, but the defensive tackles have to be more stout and the back seven can't whiff on the second-level tackles. Louisville didn't give up more than 200 rushing yards all year and gave up six of the ten scores on the ground in two games against UCF and Cincinnati.

This spring will be a success if … the offensive line becomes fantastic right away. With all of the concerns about the health of QB David Ash, and with the running game needing to set a physical tone early on this year, the O line will be in the spotlight after the focus turns from the run defense. The pass protection was excellent and the ground attack was occasionally a big positive - the line can't take a step back.

Start: March 1, Spring Game: April 5

When in Rome, come up with a good offense. TCU's life in the BIg 12 hasn't worked out quite as well as planned so far, even with the defense doing a decent job. The Horned Frogs need more offense, and now the focus this spring will be on ramping up the production. To keep up with the rest of the Big 12 star offenses, TCU will speed up the attack, but it can't lose what made the program so great before joining the big league. Early on, it's already a different look and feel, and that's not a bad thing after going 4-8 with an offense that wasn't awful at times, but it didn't do enough in key moments with the last three losses coming by a grand total of eight points.

Unsolicited advice on what to work on this spring - Don't totally ignore the running game. If TCU has been one big puzzle, then one of the key pieces over the years has been a good, tough attack that controlled games at times to let defense do the rest. Now that's all being blown up for a more dangerous passing game, but will that come at the expense of the D? After averaging just 119 yards per game last season on the ground, it's not like the running game will be any worse.

This spring will be a success if … the passing game clicks right away. The Horned Frogs welcome in new offensive coordinator Doug Meacham from Texas along with co-coordinator Sonny Cumbie - the former Texas Tech passing star - to speed up the tempo in a big way. WIth Casey Pachall done veteran Trevone Boykin and Tyler Mathews will battle it out - at least until August. With the change in philosophy comes good passing quarterbacsk from teh recruiting class, so if there are any issues, the big concerns could carry on throughout the summer.

Texas Tech
Start: March 5, Spring Game: April 12

Who says bowl games don't matter? Actually, they don't, but don't tell Texas Tech that. Had the Red Raiders lost to Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl, that would've meant they closed out the season with six straight losses and all of the fun coming from the start of the Kliff Kingsbury era would've been long gone. One dominant 37-23 win later, and now there's reason to be really, really excited this spring with nine returning starters on offense and a good-looking defense that should overcome the loss of seven starters. The program has found a good one in Kingsbury, and now he's firmly established - it should show this spring.

Unsolicited advice on what to work on this spring - TIghten up on the turnovers in a big way. The Red Raiders were able to get away with the mistakes early on last year aginst a mediocre schedule, but soon the competition got better and then the problems came. The blowout win over Kansas was the only time all season long Tech was on the right side of turnover margin at a +3, and was even in wins over SMU and Texas State. In the other ten games, Tech was a total of -17 with fumbles just as big a problem as interceptions.

This spring will be a success if … Davis Webb goes from very good to fantastic. At the moment it's Webb or bust with Michael Brewer and Baker Mayfield transferring to Virginia Tech and Oklahoma, respectively. Recruit Patrick Mahomes isn't part of the fun until later this summer, so Webb will get all the reps and all of the work. It's not ideal, but he's still a young quarterback who could use the time. The backup quarterback drama could be a blessing in disguise.

West Virginia
Start: March 2, Spring Game: April 12

Is there a chance the Mountaineers could sneak up on everyone? After a disastrous second half of last year - losing six of the final seven games - no one will be predicting much out of West Virginia until it proves itself again under Dana Holgorsen. Some big parts are gone like RB Charles Sims and part of the defensive front, but finding replacements isn't as big an issue as it was last year at this time. If a quarterback can rise up and grab ahold of the job this offseason, look out.

Unsolicited advice on what to work on this spring - Start stretching the field with the passing game. Again, the quarterback situation is an issue, but the passers have to start taking more big shots even after turning the ball over way too often last year - with two interceptions in each of hte last four games and six times in all - and not doing enough to convert on third downs. The defense is always going to be a bit of an issue under Holgorsen, but the offense has to do more than just keep up.

This spring will be a success if … the backfield sets the tone for the summer. Sims might be gone, but if Pitt transfer Rushel Shell wants to be great, and if he gets into shape, the running game should be terrific as long as defenses down tee off into the backfield. The running back situaiton will turn out to be great - Dreamius Smith is also a nice option - and the starting quarterback will be ... ? With Clint Trickett out with a shoulder injury and Paul Millard off playing baseball, star JUCO transfer Skyler Howard could be one of the Big 12's most important spring practice players. There's a lot of potential and plenty to be excited about, but every practice this spring will be telling.

Big 12 Breakdowns: Baylor to Oklahoma