2014 Big 12 Preview: Big 12 Breakdown
Preview 2014 - CFN Big 12 Team By Team Quick Looks and Predicted Finish
Big 12 Team By Team
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Note: This is based on how good each team is going
into the season and NOT necessarily the predicted finish.
What You Need To Know About The Offense: This might not be the most consistent of Sooner attacks, but it’ll be solid. There’s plenty of excitement and hope for an offense that has a slew of massive holes to fill at running back and receiver along with the line. The quarterback situation is set with Trevor Knight being handed the keys after his brilliant Sugar Bowl performance, but the backup situation is a big, big problem with Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield not eligible until next season. The Sooners will end up being fine if one-time super-recruit running back Keith Ford can breakout and if a No. 2 receiver can rise up on the other side of Sterling Shepard. Daryl Williams is one of the Big 12’s best tackles, but center Gabe Ikard is gone and Tyrus Thompson has to be ready to shine on the other side of Williams.
What You Need To Know About The Defense: After a great season against just about everyone but Baylor, the defense should be dominant if the secondary can come together in a hurry. The Sooners are fine at safety with Quentin Hayes returning, but corner is a question mark early on. Fortunately, the front seven might be among the best in America with a prototype defensive line with Charles Tapper, Chuka Ndulue and Geneo Grissom leading a fantastic and deep group of talents. The linebacking corps is loaded, too, even with the school's suspension of star tackler Frank Shannon. Pass rusher Eric Striker is a devastating force, and there's depth to work into the rotation. Expect the Sooners to camp out in opposing backfields. There's so much talent and so many great options, the coaching staff will find a variety of ways to load up and throw a variety of options at opposing offenses. The results should be tremendous.
What You Need To Know About The Offense: After averaging a pedestrian 409 yards and 29 points per game, the offense has to be more dangerous, especially after scoring a total of 17 points in the final two games of the year against Baylor and Oregon. It’s going to be an interesting situation with assistant head coach Shawn Watson and offensive coordinator Joe Wickline both involved in the playcalling process, and they have some work to do. The line should be fine in time – Wickline is a terrific O line coach – but it might take the entire fall camp to come up with the right starting five. The running back situation is a strength with Malcolm Brown back and Johnathan Gray returning to form a fantastic rotation – but they need the line to do its job. The receiving corps has potential, but gamebreakers have to emerge and the passing game has to work more down the field. Can David Ash get and stay healthy enough to hold down the starting quarterback job? Will super-recruit Jerrod Heard get a chance right away, or will Tyrone Swoopes improve his passing enough to be in the mix if Ash can’t go after suffering a broken foot?
What You Need To Know About The Defense: Getting into the backfield and to the quarterback won’t be a problem, but now the defense needs to tackle better and has to come up with more big plays. Can new defensive coordinator Vance Bedford make the Texas defense Louisville-tough? His Cardinal run defense allowed just 1,049 yards and ten touchdowns with no 200-yard rushing days – Texas gave up 1,041 yards and ten touchdowns in the first four games of last season. The pieces are there to improve right away as long as everyone in the linebacking corps is healthy. Jordan Hicks and Steve Edmond are coming off of Achilles heel injuries, and if they’re right, the front seven could be terrific. DE Cedric Reed and DT Malcom Brown will soon be playing in the NFL, and Quandre Diggs is one of the nation’s best defensive backs. There’s talent, speed and athleticism across the board – as always – but it’s all about toughness. Bedford is setting the tone early.
What You Need To Know About The Offense: The offense reloaded in a hurry and was even better, and now it could be positively unstoppable with most of the key parts back. After crushing and killing everything in its path over the first half of the season, the offense slowed down a wee bit, but it ended up No. 1 in the nation by a wide margin – 618.8 yards per game to Oregon’s 565. With Bryce Petty returning along with his top receivers, Antwan Goodley and Levi Norwood, the passing attack should be deadly again, while the ground game should hit home runs on a regular basis with a good rotation of backs. Pass protection could be a wee bit of an issue if injuries strike early on, but there was a bigger concern going into last year, and everything turned out fine.
What You Need To Know About The Defense: How quickly did things improve? Defensive coordinator Phil Bennett’s group turned into the one of the best in the Big 12 after finishing 2012 as the second-worse defense in America. The Bears allowed 142 fewer yards per game and used its speed and athleticism to be disruptive all year long. The secondary has to undergo an overhaul in the 4-2-5 alignment, but the front six should be outstanding with a potentially dominant line and linebacker Bryce Hager to anchor the middle. Overall, expect a step back, but all this D has to do is come close, and the offense to do the rest.
What You Need To Know About The Offense: It's the Big 12, and the Horned Frogs ahve to be able to keep up the pace once in a while. That's where offensive coordinators Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham come in. After a rough year, the offense should show more pop and be more explosive. Matt Joeckel comes in from Texas A&M to push for the quarterback job right away, and he might add more consistency and more efficiency to a passing game that struggled way too often. If Joeckel isn't getting the job done. Versatile Trevone Boykin can add more as a runner, or he'll get on the field as a dangerous all-purpose receiver. The receiving corps was mediocre, but it returns loaded with veterans with five of the top six pass catchers back. Three starters return up front, but there has to be more push for the ground game after averaging just 119 yards per game. Four of the top five runners are back, but they need room to move.
What You Need To Know About The Defense: The D did its job to keep the team in games, but it struggled late allowing 30 points or more in four of the final five games. Even so, the Horned Frogs finished 24th in the nation in total defense and did a great job of limiting the deep ball, finishing 11th in pass efficiency defense. Superstar pass rusher Devonte Fields transferred to Stephen F. Austin, but seven starters return including tackles Chucky Hunter and Davion Pierson will be anchors inside. Paul Dawson leads a good, deep linebacking corps, but the real strength is in the secondary - despite the loss of Jason Verrett - with safeties Sam Carter and Chris Hackett among the Big 12's best, and Kevin White a good senior corner.
5. Kansas State
What You Need To Know About The Offense: You know what you’re going to get from co-offensive coordinators Dana Dimel and Del Miller, but can you stop it? As always, the attack is going to work around controlling the ball and the clock, and it’s going to take shots down the field when the opportunity is there. QB Jake Waters isn’t the normal Kansas State quarterback in terms of running the ball, but he’s a good, accurate passer who came on as last season closed out. His receiving corps needs some reworking, but Tyler Lockett is one of the most dangerous playmakers in the country and a great No. 1 to start with. The front five should be devastating in the interior with all-stars B.J. Finney at center and Cody Whitehair at one guard making up for the potential concerns at tackle. The biggest hole to fill is at running back with John Hubert gone, but there are a variety of good options to work with – there could be more of a rotation than normal.
What You Need To Know About The Defense: The defense could be among the best since Bill Snyder returned in 2009. Depending on the alignment, and with the help of a few select JUCO transfers, this will be a swarming, attacking group starting with All-America pass rusher Ryan Mueller up front and with a good-looking rotation in the interior. The secondary keeps the big plays to a minimum and has plenty of good hitters to rely on with Randall Evans and Dante Barnett two tough defensive backs to work around. Leading tackler Blake Slaughter is gone, and the linebacking corps is undersized, but it’s active and tough against the run – the athleticism will shine through against the high-powered Big 12 attacks.
6. Oklahoma State
What You Need To Know About The Offense: The offense wasn’t quite as explosive as Cowboy fans might be used to, and now it could take a step back with seven starters gone and some question marks on the line and at quarterback. Can J.W. Walsh become the type of passer who can keep up in Big 12 shootouts week in and week out? Will superstar recruit Tyreek Hill use his blinding speed to become the game-breaking receiver the passing game needs after losing top two targets Josh Stewart and Tracy Moore? Is Desmond Roland ready to be a 13-game back, and will the revamped line be able to pave the way? It’s Oklahoma State, so there will be 30+ points on a regular basis and times when the attack is unstoppable, but it might be a year away before it comes together and is better than 65th in the nation like it was last season.
What You Need To Know About The Defense: There might be some rocky moments, but defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer’s group can really, really move. Everyone seems to look the part with the right athleticism and the right speed, but there isn’t a ton of size and experience is a concern with seven starters gone. However, the line has the talent to be fantastic with a little bit of tweaking. The upside on the outside it limitless, and while there isn’t a lot of bulk inside, getting into the backfield shouldn’t be an issue. Only two starters return in the back seven, but again, speed should hide some of the problems. Can the run defense be stronger after getting run over for 180 yards per game? Considering the goal is the Big 12 championship, all it’ll take is one or two bad days to screw up the season. The D has to be ready to rock by mid-October.
7. Texas Tech
What You Need To Know About The Offense: As always, the Red Raider offense is going to bomb away and get the passing game moving, and even without top TE Jace Amaro and leading WR Eric Ward, there are more than enough weapons for QB Davis Webb to work with. The backfield is sound with options to balance things out a bit from time to time behind a veteran line that welcomes back four starters, but it’s all about Webb – and he has to stay healthy. There isn’t anyone ready to go behind him, but as last year showed, the coaching staff is able to plug in options and make the passing game go. Cutting down on turnovers is a must, and hitting 400 yards passing is vital considering the defense should be a work in progress.
What You Need To Know About The Defense: It’s going to take some work. Great against the pass and rough against the run, the defense was fine early in the year, but struggled mightily when it came time to deal with the better offenses. For a team used to coaching turnover on a consistent basis, getting defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt back is a big plus – now he needs players. The linebacking corps should be solid with enough veterans and options to get by, but the interior of the line has to hold up better against the power teams and the secondary has to come up with three new starters. Finding a pass rusher to replace the production of Kerry Hyder, Will Smith and Dartwan Bush shouldn’t be that hard, but no matter who’s getting into the backfield, the D needs to generate more than the 21 sacks it came up with last season.
8. West Virginia
What You Need To Know About The Offense: The Geno Smith era is long gone - the Mountaineers have to find their pop and explosion again after an inconsistent and frustrating year. The attack almost never game up with a big play at the right time, not able to make up for a bad defense that gave up with points and yards to keep up the pace. Can the offense settle on a quarterback for the entire season? That's not a sure thing, even if one does rise up and becomes the main man at the start of the year. Fortunately, the running back situation is fantastic with Pitt transfer Rushel Shell joining a crowded backfield full of talented options. The big key will be a passing game that wasn't nearly as dangerous as it should've been far, far more efficient and effective. The receivers need to be more explosive and the quarterbacks have to be better at moving the chains.
What You Need To Know About The Defense: The defense hasn't shown up since joining the Big 12, and now it'll be up to new defensive coordinator Tony Gibson is trying to make the D more physical and tougher after getting beaten up and blown away time and again by anyone who tried to bring a punch. The pass rush was non-existent at times, finishing with just 17 sacks, but that's about to change with a more aggressive attitude and a focus on getting behind the line. The back seven should be better with a nice-looking linebacking corps, more overall depth, and a safety in Karl Joseph with potential and ability to be among the Big 12's best. If the pass rush is better, the secondary will be, too.
9. Iowa State
What You Need To Know About The Offense: Former Kansas head man Mark Mangino will try to change around an inconsistent attack that had little pop or explosion and almost no luck with injuries. The O line that went through several bumps and bruises last season should be stronger and deeper after so many key players got into the mix, and now, led by C Tom Farniok and OT Jacob Gannon, it could be one of the Big 12’s better all-around front fives. The receiving corps has to be better, especially the inconsistent but dangerous Quenton Bundrage at one receiver spot, but E.J. Bibbs could blossom into one of the league’s top tight ends. The backfield is full of veterans, but the quarterback situation has to be settled and needs to find a more accurate playmaker, but having the ultra-quick Aaron Wimberly to hand off to will help.
What You Need To Know About The Defense: It’s all about the defensive tackles. The end tandem of Cory Morrissey and Mitchell Meyers aren’t going to be Clowney & Watt any time soon when it comes to getting to the quarterback, but they’re strong, veteran defenders with good size and a decent enough burst to be disruptive. The linebackers are deep with several options – it should be a better situation even after losing leading tackler Jeremiah George – and the secondary that did a decent job last year should be even better with three good corners back led by sophomore Nigel Tribune. But the key to the D will be the tackles after David Irving and Rodney Coe were suspended from the team. A good rotation has to be found in a hurry.
What You Need To Know About The Offense: After a disastrous season finishing 118th in the nation in scoring – coming up with over 19 points just twice, the two wins – Charlie Weis made a change. In comes John Reagan, who spent the last few years as the offensive coordinator at Rice. He has some work to do on the line that loses two starters and needs to be a bit more consistent, but even with the concerns at quarterback and the departure of top running back James Sims, the skill players should be stronger. Jimmay Mundine is one of the league’s better tight ends, and Miami University transfer Nick Harwell was a major coup for an attack that needs a deep threat. It’ll be running back by committee for a while until a leader emerges from the pack, but there aren’t any questions under center where Montell Cozart has the job all to himself with Jake Heaps leaving for Miami.
What You Need To Know About The Defense: The defense wasn’t all that bad considering the offense didn’t provide any help, but it’s not like it was a consistent brick wall. That might change this year with a veteran group returning and more depth than the Jayhawks have had in a few seasons. There needs to be more of a pass rush and the run defense has to be stronger, but the secondary in the 4-2-5 alignment should be terrific at times with a big group of sound hitters. Ben Heeney is a solid linebacker who should lead the way in tackles, but the line has to do its job and start holding up better after allowing 200 rushing yards or more in seven games. Overall, though, this should quietly be a very good, very sound defense under coordinator Clint Bowen.