2008 Big 12 Early Lookaheads
2007 Big 12 Season
2007 SEC Lookbacks/Recaps
Why to get excited: Eight starters return on offense
and eight are back on defense, along with punter Matt
DiLallo. That doesn't even count a slew of good players
who missed last year for a variety of reasons, and are
expected to return. After two years in the Dan Hawkins
era, the program finally appears ready to turn the
corner and be back in the Big 12 title chase again now
that the pieces are in place. Hawkins is a fantastic
coach, and now he has his guys where he wants them. The
Buffs start out playing Colorado State and Eastern
Washington, and then ...
Why to be grouchy: ... the schedule gets nasty. If you consider a
home date against Kansas State a week off, than that's
the only relative oasis until mid-November. After two
weeks off following the Eastern Washington game, CU goes
to Florida State, hosts West Virginia and Texas, goes to
Kansas, faces KSU, and then goes on the road to face
Missouri and Texas A&M. Yes, the team is loaded with
experience, but losing LB Jordon Dizon and CB Terrence
Wheatley will sting.
The number one thing to work on is: Generating defensive
pressure. The secondary wasn't that bad, but it didn't
get a whole bunch of help from the pass rush that was
among the worst in the nation and a defensive front that
was dead last in Big 12 in tackles for loss. Alonzo
Barrett is gone, but everyone else returns on the
defensive line. Now it has to do more to hit passers.
Biggest offensive loss: OT Tyler Polumbus
Biggest defensive loss: LB Jordon Dizon
Best returning offensive player: QB Cody Hawkins, Soph.
Best returning defensive player: DT George Hypolite, Sr.
Why to get excited: The team took a step back to possibly take a
giant leap forward this year after playing several young prospects
before they were ready, and now they have the experience to hit the
ground running. Eight starters are back on offense, and that doesn't
include QB Austen Arnaud, who's ready to take over for Bret Meyer, and
hot young back Alexander Robinson and senior J.J. Bass. Seven starters
are back on D. The schedule gets a huge break missing Texas, Oklahoma,
Texas Tech, who's loaded this year.
Why to be grouchy: There are a few big holes to fill. Bryce
Braaksma and Athyba Rubin were strong anchors in the middle of the line,
and now they need to be replaced. Alvin Bowen and Jon Banks were
ultra-productive linebackers who'll be missed. While the offense should
be better, replacing WR Todd Blythe will be tough.
The number one thing to work on is: The return game. On
experience alone, the offense and defense should be better. They're not
going to be juggernauts quite yet, but they'll be improved. Now the
little things have to be done right, and that includes forcing more
turnovers, being stingier with the ball, and doing more to get better
field position. The Cyclones were dead last in America in punt returns,
averaging a mere 3.25 yards per try, and were last in the Big 12 in
kickoff returns averaging 18.53 yards per attempt.
Biggest offensive loss: WR Todd Blythe
Biggest defensive loss: LB Alvin Bowen
Best returning offensive player: RB Alexander Robinson, Soph.
Best returning defensive player: FS James Smith, Jr.
Why to get excited: 2007 was supposed to be a rebuilding season
with 2008 expected to be when the team was supposed to blow up. Six
starters are back on offense, not including RB Jake Sharp, and nine are
back on defense. The schedule starts out as nice as could be asked for,
outside of a mid-September road trip to South Florida. KU starts out the
year with FIU, Louisiana Tech, the USF date, Sam Houston State, at Iowa
State, and Colorado, but ...
Why to be grouchy: ... payment is due starting October 18th. KU's
last six games are at Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Kansas State, at Nebraska,
Texas, and Missouri (in Kansas City). The team succeeded last year
despite suffering major personnel losses, but it's still going to be
hard replacing NFL talents like OT Anthony Collins and CB Aqib Talib,
who left early, along with RB Brandon McAnderson and DT James McClinton.
Both kickers, P Kyle Tucker and PK Scott Webb, are gone.
The number one thing to work on is: The all-around punting game.
Tucker wasn't bad, but the coverage team was mediocre as KU netted a
mere 31.82 yards per punt. Anthony Webb and Dezmon Briscoe, if they're
the punt returners again, have to do more after combining to average
only 5.97 yards per try.
Biggest offensive loss: OT Anthony Collins
Biggest defensive loss: CB Aqib Talib
Best returning offensive player: QB Todd Reesing, Jr.
Best returning defensive player:
LB Joe Mortensen, Sr.
Why to get excited: The team is built to win right now. Eight
starters are back on offense, and while only five are back on defense,
there's plenty of all-around experience coming back. Added to the mix
are a slew of JUCO transfers in this year's recruiting class. The
Wildcats are loaded with new ready-made players to challenge for
starting jobs, like
receivers Attrail Snipes and Aubrey Quarles. In all, 20 JUCO transfers
were brought in.
Why to be grouchy: Is there enough talent? Yeah, there's
experience, and the team has the players in place to make this Ron
Prince's team, but considering the collapse over the second half of the
season, there's still a major question mark about how good the team is
compared to the rest of the improved Big 12. Again, there are veterans,
but it's never good to lose an All-America receiver like Jordy Nelson,
while All-Big 12 punter Tim Reyer needs to be replaced.
The number one thing to work on is: Generating more defensive
pressure and getting more overall production. The D was changed up to a
3-4 last year with Ian Campbell playing a bit of a hybrid outside
linebacker/defensive end position. While he had an All-Big 12 season, he
wasn't the terror into the backfield he was as a sophomore. That was
just one issue with a defense that allowed 41 points to Oklahoma State,
31 to an anemic Iowa State attack, 73 to Nebraska, 49 to Missouri and 45
to Fresno State over the second half of the year.
Biggest offensive loss: WR Jordy Nelson
Biggest defensive loss: CB Justin McKinney
Best returning offensive player: QB Josh Freeman, Jr.
Best returning defensive player: LB/DE Ian Campbell, Sr.
Why to get excited: There's no Oklahoma on the schedule. The team
is loaded with experience, getting Heisman finalist Chase Daniel back
along with TE Chase Coffman and nine starters on defense. If the Tigers
can beat Illinois in a neutral site opening day game against Illinois,
then the first month will be a breeze with SE Missouri State, Nevada,
and Buffalo to follow. A road trip to Texas is tough, but the other
three away games are at Nebraska, Baylor and Iowa State. That's not that
Why to be grouchy: Now the bull's-eye is on Mizzou's back and
there are some key losses on both sides of the ball. The pressure won't
just be on to have another good season, the team will be expected to win
the Big 12 North or else the year might be considered a failure. Losing
center Adam Spieker is huge, and losing tight end Martin Rucker, left
tackle Tyler Luellen, leading rusher Tony Temple, and nose tackle
Lorenzo Williams will hurt.
The number one thing to work on is: Punting. Everything else was
fine last year, but the kicking game was a consistent struggle finishing
111th in the nation in punting, averaging 31.46 yards per kick. Punter
Adam Crossett is gone with senior Jake Harry to get the first shot at
making an improvement.
Biggest offensive loss: C Adam Spieker
Biggest defensive loss: NT Lorenzo Williams
Best returning offensive player: QB Chase Daniel, Sr.
Best returning defensive player: FS William Moore, Sr.
Why to get excited: Bo Pelini. The defense will never, ever be
anywhere near as bad as it was last year with Pelini in charge. The
entire defensive line is back, including all the key backups, while the
offense gets back seven starters with QB Joe Ganz getting key experience
down the stretch. The offense was unstoppable at times at the end of the
year, and if Pelini does what he's supposed to with the D, there's no
reason to expect anything less than a big turnaround.
Why to be grouchy: This isn't the mid-1990s Huskers Pelini is
taking over. There are big losses in the defensive back seven, including
the entire starting linebacking corps, while there still needs to be a
talent infusion at some point on the lines. Step one is to get the team
more physical and a whole bunch nastier, and while the new coaching
staff will instill the will from the start, there's still a big question
mark about the talent level from top to bottom. No, the team isn't bad,
and it'll go to a bowl, but the star players aren't there at a national
title level like the Big Red fans might want it to be.
The number one thing to work on is: Defensive aggressiveness.
This is where Pelini will come in. The Huskers were dead last in the Big
12 in sacks, didn't get in the backfield nearly enough against the run,
and didn't do anything to force turnovers. Nebraska came up with a mere
11 takeaways as the team finished 117th in the nation in turnover
Biggest offensive loss: OT Carl Nicks
Biggest defensive loss: LB Steve Octavien
Best returning offensive player: RB Marlon Lucky, Sr.
Best returning defensive player: DE Zach Potter, Sr.
Why to get excited: Art Briles can coach. It's not like Guy
Morriss couldn't, but with the way Baylor is looking to move forward
with a higher octane offense, Briles and his staff have a great track
record of being able to crank out attacks with big numbers. No, this
isn't going to be a Big 12 title winning season, but if Kansas can turn
into a power, than so can BU ... eventually. However, with nine starters
returning on offense, there's hope for Briles to hit the ground running.
Why to be grouchy: Baylor is still in the Big 12 South. Oklahoma
and Texas are still Oklahoma and Texas, Oklahoma State should be better,
Texas A&M will be strong, and this could be the best Texas Tech team yet
under Mike Leach. Baylor might be night and day better, and it still
might not matter all that much.
The number one thing to work on is: Finding one thing the team
can do really, really well. That was supposed to be throwing the ball
last year, but the offense was way too inconsistent and struggled way
too often in Big 12 play scoring a mere 108 total points. That's just
the start. The defense has to come up with something it can hang its hat
on, and even the punting game, with averaged a mere 30.96 yards per
kick, has to improve.
Biggest offensive loss: RB Brandon Whitaker
Biggest defensive loss: LB Nick Moore
Best returning offensive player: OT Dan Gay, Sr.
Best returning defensive player: FS Jordan Lake, Jr.
Why to get excited: Yet again, Oklahoma is loaded with a national
title-caliber team. QB Sam Bradford has a year of experience under his
belt, most of the key players are back, and everything is in place to
win another Big 12 championship. The return of massive tackle Phil
Loadholt means the entire offensive line is intact, RB DeMarco Murray is
back after knee surgery, and the recruiting class was top-notch with
enough talent to provide some good competition early on.
Why to be grouchy: The defense takes a hit. The offense might be
unstoppable, but there's no way the D will be as strong as it was last
year after losing seven starters including LB Curtis Lofton and CB
Reggie Smith early to the NFL. Garrett Hartley was one of the nation's
best kickers and will be sorely missed.
The number one thing to work on is: Playing better away outside
of Oklahoma. Considering the game at Tulsa was essentially a home day,
the Sooners went 3-3 outside of the state and struggled to beat Iowa
State and battled to beat Texas. The program has to overcome a PR hit
after getting pantsed in the last two Fiesta Bowls, and even if it rocks
and rolls all season long and blows everyone away, everyone's going to
be waiting for the shoe to drop.
Biggest offensive loss: WR Malcolm Kelly
Biggest defensive loss: LB Curtis Lofton
Best returning offensive player: QB Sam Bradford, Soph.
Best returning defensive player: FS Nic Harris, Sr.
Why to get excited: The program appears to be ready to explode.
Mike Gundy has come up with a few big recruiting classes in a row, and
while there might not be a slew of All-Americans ready to roll, this
should be a scary-good team. Eight starters are back on offense and
seven return on defense, while punter Matt Fodge and PK Dan Bailey is
also back. The non-conference schedule, assuming there aren't any gags
like last year, is relatively light going to Seattle to play Washington
State and hosting Houston, Missouri State and Troy.
Why to be grouchy: The defensive line needs some work after
losing Marque Fountain and Nathan Peterson on the outside, and Maurice
Cummings inside. These three might not have been consistent, but they
were strong blocks to work around. Offensively, you don't get better by
losing Dantrell Savage.
The number one thing to work on is: Pass defense. Part of the
problem was a lack of a consistent pass rush, and part of the issue was
poor play from the secondary. The losses up front won't necessarily help
the cause early on, so the veteran secondary that gave up passes short,
long, and everywhere in between will have to be better right away.
Considering Washington State and Houston like to throw the ball, that
could be a problem.
Biggest offensive loss: RB Dantrell Savage
Biggest defensive loss: DE Nathan Peterson
Best returning offensive player: TE Brandon Pettigrew, Sr.
Best returning defensive player:
CB Jacob Lacey, Sr.
Why to get excited: The offensive line might have been mediocre
last year, but at least it'll be experienced coming into this season
with all the starters returning. The passing game got used to not having
Limas Sweed, and it should be ready to shine with QB Colt McCoy back for
his third year as a starter with Quan Cosby and Jordan Shipley to throw
to. Arkansas is the only non-conference game worth worrying about, and
that's in Austin.
Why to be grouchy: Normally, South teams wouldn't be upset with
playing Missouri and Kansas from the North, but things have changed over
the last 12 months. The defense has to undergo some massive changes with
tackles Derek Lokey and Frank Okam gone, while five of the defensive
back seven starters need to be replaced. Losing Jamaal Charles and TE
Jermichael Finley early to the NFL might be the difference between a Big
12 title and an also-ran South finish.
The number one thing to work on is: Pass defense. The NFL-caliber
secondary of two years ago gave up yards in bunches, but that was
explained away by the Gene Chizik scheme that left the defensive backs
in a horrible position. Chizik went to Iowa State and the secondary was
supposed to improve, and it was still among the worst in the nation
allowing 278 yards per game. Considering the four non-home games are
against UTEP, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Kansas, five teams
that'll be able to throw the ball, tightening up is a must.
Biggest offensive loss: RB Jamaal Charles
Biggest defensive loss: FS Marcus Griffin
Best returning offensive player: QB Colt McCoy, Jr.
Best returning defensive player:
DE Brian Orakpo, Sr.
Why to get excited: New head coach Mike Sherman is stepping into
a good situation with most of the top skill players returning including
one of the nation's best backfields (QB Stephen McGee and RBs Jorvorskie
Lane and Mike Goodson). The defense gets three starters back in the
secondary along with top sackman Cyril Obiozor up front. Unlike last
year, the schedule is terrific with a non-conference schedule against
Arkansas State, at New Mexico, Miami (this still might not be Miami
yet), and Army, while the Big 12 road games are against Oklahoma
State, Iowa State and Baylor before ending the year at Texas.
Why to be grouchy: The lines take a monster hit losing four good
starters off the offensive front and three off the defense. The biggest
issue, at least early on, could be at tackle with Red Bryant and Henry
Smith needing to be replaced out of the middle, while Kirk Elder, Cody
Wallace, Chris Yoder and Corey Clark are off the offensive side. The top
three receivers, led by TE Martellus Bennett, who left early for the
NFL, are gone.
The number one thing to work on is: Getting into the backfield. A
more efficient, effective passing game would be nice, and it might not
happen right away with the losses from the receiving corps, but the more
glaring issue is a lack of a pass rush after finishing with a mere 18 on
the year while also having problems making tackles behind the line
against the run. Replacing five starters off the defensive front seven
won't help the cause, so the new coaching staff will have to figure out
how to manufacture pressure.
Biggest offensive loss: C Cody Wallace
Biggest defensive loss: DE Chris Harrington
Best returning offensive player: QB Stephen McGee, Sr.
Best returning defensive player: DE Michael Bennett, Sr.
Why to get excited: This should be the best Texas Tech team Mike
Leach has ever put together. Ten starters return to the nation's No. 2
offense, losing only WR Danny Amendola, while eight starters are back on
the Big 12's No. 3 defense. Yup, the team with the best passing game in
college football gets QB Graham Harrell, Biletnikoff Award winner
Michael Crabtree, and eight of the top ten receivers. This is Texas
Tech, so the non-conference schedule, as always, isn't exactly
challenging facing Tulsa, at Nevada, SMU and UMass.
Why to be grouchy: The four Big 12 road games are all losable.
Going to Kansas State for the conference opener is the easiest one of
the group. Back-to-back dates at Texas A&M and Kansas in late October
will be critical with a home date against Texas to start November. The
fourth road game is at Oklahoma. While almost all the talent is back,
losing ultra-clutch PK Alex Trlica, who earned First Team All-Big 12
The number one thing to work on is: Stopping the run. The Red
Raiders finished dead last in America in rushing, but it should be able
to run if it wants to. Coming up with more defensive stops against power
running teams will be a must after allowing 177 yards per game. Five Big
12 teams gained over 200 yards, with Oklahoma State tearing off 366, and
Virginia ran for 249. Texas Tech was 6-0 when holding teams to under
Biggest offensive loss: WR Danny Amendola
Biggest defensive loss: SS Joe Garcia
Best returning offensive player: QB Graham Harrell, Sr. & WR
Michael Crabtree, Soph.
Best returning defensive player: DE Brandon Williams, Jr.