Big 12 Spring Football - What's Happening?
Oklahoma State Spring Football
Oklahoma State Spring Football
Posted Apr 14, 2008

What's happening in spring practices? What's the Texas running back situation? What's the Missouri linebacking problem? Who's Lucien Antoine and why should you care? Here are three key spring tidbits you need to know about for each Big 12 team.

Big 12 Spring Football 2008

What You Need To Know For Each Team



The Off-The-Field Scuffles ... Junior LB Jake Duren was booted from the team after getting arrested on suspicion of first-degree criminal trespassing. He was expected to grow into a big role on the inside, and looked great at times in practice and was a rising star, but head coach Dan Hawkins is working to make sure that there's little tolerance for off-the-field mistakes. Tight end Riar Geer is also in trouble after getting arrested for allegedly getting into a fight; his status is still up in the air. The defense can go on without Duren, there's young linebacker talent ready to shine, but losing Geer, even after a down year, would hurt. Even so, Patrick Devenny appears to be the team's new tight end star.

Staying In The Family ... Cody Hawkins is the starting quarterback. While Nick Nelson and Matt Ballenger have shown flashes, and each has done enough to make the passing game go if needed, Hawkins appears to have ended any questions about the job being open by getting better and better.

The Running Back Situation ...
Buff fans are hoping super-frosh Darrell Scott, snagged away from Texas in the recruiting process, is as good as advertised, but he isn't a lock to take over Hugh Charles' old starting job. Sophomore Demetrius Sumler has been terrific so far. The team's second leading rusher last year has made a huge impression and is the No. 1 back at the moment and it's not even close. The key being at the moment. Scott will have his say later this summer.

Iowa State    

The Quarterback Situation ... It seemed a lock that Austen Arnaud would be the starting quarterback in place of Bret Meyer after stepping in and
producing late in his redshirt freshman season, but he's in a battle with sophomore Phillip Bates, who saw time as a receiver last year catching five passes for 73 yards. Arnaud can move, but not like Bates. The possibility exists of a two-quarterback system come fall.

Who'll Be Catching Those Passes? ... With Todd Blythe gone, Marquis Hamilton is the likely No. 1 receiver, but the passing game will likely spend its time spreading the ball around more. R.J. Sumrall was the team's leading receiver last season, but he's hardly a gamebreaker and will continue his role as a possession target. Freshman Sedrick Johnson might be the team's most talented receiver, but he's not ready to be the main man.

More On The Ground ... Sophomore Alexander Robinson was one of the pleasant surprises as last season went on, but he'll have to battle to for time with the healthy return of J.J. Bass from a shoulder injury. Bass, a top JUCO transfer, ran for over 100 yards in two of ISU's first four games, but couldn't do much with his injury. Now he's fine and looking as good as new. It'll be a loaded backfield with Jason Scales also in the mix and likely on top of the depth chart this fall, but he's the least talented of the three.


And The Starting Running Back Will Be ...
Junior Jake Sharp is supposed to take over for Brandon McAnderson, who ran for 1,126 yards and 16 touchdowns, but junior Angus Quigley, sophomore Carmon Boyd-Anderson, and JUCO transfer Jocques Crawford will be involved. The KU ground game might spread it around a bit more than in the past few years. It won't necessarily be running-back-by-committee, but there will be more of a rotation. In the end, Crawford, the most special of the bunch, could see the most work. He has the biggest upside.

Who'll Replace Anthony Collins? ... Collins was one of the nation's top offensive tackles last season and one of the main reasons the offense went ballistic. Cesar Rodriguez wasn't Collins, but he was dependable on the right side. It's a battle for the starting jobs, especially to replace Rodriguez, with 25-year-old JUCO transfer Nate D'Cunha giving sophomore Ian Wolfe a fight. Wolfe has the edge, but it's hardly a sure-thing with the massive, but unpolished, D'Cunha getting better. Freshman Jeff Spikes is considered the most talented tackle on the roster, but it's asking a lot for him to star on the left side right away. Senior Matt Darton isn't Collins, but he's more than just a replacement.

Replacing Aqib ... The Jayhawk secondary needs a No. 1 corner to replace Aqib Talib, and so far there isn't anyone close to his caliber. Senior Kendrick Harper has the most overall experience, starting out in the JUCO ranks, but true sophomore Chris Harris will likely be the best of the group and freshman Isaiah Barfield and converted receiver Ryan Murphy will get long looks.

Kansas State 

Giving Freeman More Freedom ... Now in his third year as the starter, QB Josh Freeman is being given more responsibility running new offensive coordinator Dave Brock's no-huddle, up-tempo offense. Basically, the KSU coaching staff saw how Missouri and Kansas flourished last year with the quicker attack, and it wants the same thing. While Freeman appears to know what he's doing, the line needs more time to get used to the rhythm.

Replacing Jordy Nelson ...
Nelson was everything to the KSU passing game, and while there's a ton of speed returning Josh Freeman needs more reliable options to throw to. With Deon Murphy out this spring to work on his schoolwork, it's been up to a slew of untested players to try to come through. Sophomore Lamark Brown is the size and the talent to grow into the role, but he's not a finished product, and Ernie Pierce and Cedric Wilson have a little bit of experience, but everyone's in a holding pattern until fall when JUCO transfers Attrail Snipes, Aubrey Quarles, and Brandon Banks come in. Don't be shocked if the three newcomers are the three starters on opening day.

45-29, Bulldogs ... Kansas State wanted out of its date with Fresno State, and it got it. The Bulldogs won last year's game in Fresno, and the Wildcats obviously didn't want anything to do with an even better FSU team coming to Manhattan. Out goes Pat Hill and company, and in comes Montana State. Fresno State quickly replaced the Wildcats with Rutgers
, and now KSU head coach Ron Prince's talk about not wanting to duck anyone goes out the window. Making the wimp-out even more unnecessary is that the game with FSU would've come after a tune-up against North Texas and with an off-week to follow.


The Linebacker Nightmare ... The off-season couldn't have been much worse for a Tiger linebacking corps that's expected to be one of the team's strengths. Strongside starter Van Alexander, who made 59 tackles last season, tore his ACL and while the early speculation is that he'll be ready in time for the season, that's asking for a quick healing process. This comes on top of Connell Davis, a reserve on the weakside who was expected to play a bigger role, quit the team, Sean Weatherspoon, the team's leading tackler, suffered a shoulder injury that'll require surgery, and Marquis Booker was booted off the team.

Replacing Tony Temple ...
The focus on the offense before spring ball was on the running game to compliment Chase Daniel and the high-octane passing attack. The Tiger backfield appears even better than ever with Derrick Washington stepping up as the possible star many were hoping he'd become early his freshman year. The 5-11, 210-pounder has shown power and good speed, while De'Vion Moore has also been great and shown a bit of flash running for 64 yards and a score in a scrimmage. Throw Jimmy Jackson into the mix and there might end up being a bit more offensive balance.

Will The Punting Improve? ... Adam Crossett was a three-year starter with a big leg, but Mizzou was 113th in the nation in punting. Former Oregon State Beaver Jake Harry is the odd-on favorite for the job, but all-star PK Jeff Wolfert is getting a look. The coaching staff would rather not have the All-Big 12 kicker do double duty, and he likely won't with Harry appearing to be much better and much more consistent after struggling in practices last year.


The House That Bo Built ... Think Husker fans are pumped up to wipe the slate clean and move on? Memorial Stadium is a sell-out for the spring game with all 81,067 seats filled, and new head coach Bo Pelini and his staff are taking full advantage of the excitement with the scrimmage to be a prime showcase for recruits. These events are always a big deal in the recruiting process, but considering this is Pelini's first really big moment as the man in charge, the support and the environment are expected to make a huge impact.

Oh Yeah, The Running Game ... Senior Marlon Lucky is still the star of the Husker ground attack, but the talk of spring ball, at least from Pelini, has been sophomore Roy Helu, a 215-pound bruiser who has shown excellent breakaway ability. Even though Helu won't beat out Lucky, watch for him to quickly turn into a fan favorite and possibly become the No. 2 back ahead of sophomore Quentin Castille, a 245-pound thunderback. The emergence of Helo and Castille as more prominent figures in the offense, and with Lucky already the main man ...

Cody Glenn Moved To Linebacker ... Forgotten about in the running game as last year went on, 230-pound senior RB Cody Glenn was moved to linebacker right away this off-season and it seems to have worked out. With several big replacements needed in a linebacking corps that got worse and worse, Glenn hasn't looked too lost, and has even been one of the team's most productive defenders at times. While he likely has too far to go to be an opening day starter, he's expected to quickly become a major defensive factor once he gets more playing time and more experience.



The Quarterback Battle ... New head coach Art Briles will allow the quarterback derby to go into the fall. Miami transfer Kirby Freeman, who was awful with the Canes, got plenty of time with the first team, including the spring game, and has been fine, but not special. He completed 7-of-13 passes and was shaky at times. Freshman Robert Griffin has been an unexpected surprise adding more speed to the mix (he was a Texas all-state caliber high school sprinter) and good efficiency, while Blake Szymanski, the opening day starter last year, is neck-and-neck with Freeman for the No. 1 job. Briles likely won't name his starter until late this summer.

The Big Defensive Move Could Be ... Center/Guard Sam Sledge to defensive tackle. While undersized at 265 pounds, the junior has been fantastic at times on the inside showing quickness, pass rush ability, and a non-stop motor. While he's not big enough to be an every down starter, he's been good enough to potentially become a regular part of the interior rotation. The coaching staff wants the defense to camp out in the backfield, and Sledge could become the catalyst on key downs. Considering senior Vincent Rhodes is expected to blossom into an all-star, the defensive tackles could become a strength.

The Offensive Tackles ... Partly by design to get rid of the ball in a hurry and partly because the line was decent in pass protection, Baylor gave up a mere 22 sacks last year in 309 pass attempts. The offensive tackles might not be the Big 12's best, but they won't be too far off. Senior Dan Gay is a veteran 290-pound all-star in waiting on the right side, but the real excitement is over 298-pound senior Jason Smith on the left. He had the coaching staff beaming and could be one of the league's breakthrough stars. 


The No-Huddle And Sam Bradford ... Bradford led the nation in passing efficiency last season and only threw eight interceptions. That's why his three-interception performance in the spring game opened a few eyes and might get fans wondering if the new no-huddle offense will hurt what was an already effective air attack. Whatever. Call it working the kinks out as the offense clicked throughout spring ball and should make the already great Bradford even more of a Heisman candidate. Backup Joey Halzle had an up-and-down spring throwing for 177 yards in one scrimmage and completing one-of-13 passes in another. Keith Nichol was also inconsistent, but overall he was fine.

Who Will Bradford Throw To? ... Jermaine Gresham, Jermaine Gresham, and Jermaine Gresham.
Wisconsin's Travis Beckum will have a lot to say about it, but Gresham might be the favorite for the Mackey Award. The 6-5, 265-pound junior caught 37 passes last season, with 11 going for scores, highlighted by a four-touchdown day against Texas A&M. He caught a 51-yard touchdown pass in the spring game and should be the go-to target even though Juaquin Iglesias is back and ready to be a No. 1 receiver.

The Secondary Will Be A Problem, Right? ... Wrong. Reggie Smith, D.J. Wolfe, and Marcus Walker are gone and Nic Harris was out this spring with a shoulder problem ... and the secondary looked better than ever. Granted, the offense was trying to work the kinks out of the new no-huddle attack, but the defensive backs dominated at times. With Harris and senior Lendy Holmes, the secondary isn't starting from scratch. Sophomore Dominique Franks emerged as OU's next superstar corner with three picks in the spring game coming after a great spring session. Sam Proctor should grow into the rotation at one of the safety spots, and corner Brian Jackson had some big moments.

Oklahoma State  

Transfers, Transfers, Transfers ... OSU is looking for an immediate upgrade on defense, and if the spring was any indication, it's mission accomplished. Safety
Lucien Antoine is a big-time hitter at safety, and while he still needs plenty of work and will give up some big plays, he's an intimidating force. Maurice Gray will be in the mix for one of the corner jobs, and 300-pound Swanson Miller, with more time on the treadmill and the salad bar, could become a force at tackle. Even with Orie Lemon coming off a great spring session, star JUCO transfer Donald Booker will likely get the start in the middle once he gets to campus.

Running Back By Committee ... The rushing production will be there even if Dantrell Savage isn't. Sophomore scatback Kendall Hunter was fantastic last year running for 696 yards as a backup, and he proved he's ready to do more as a big-play runner throughout spring ball. 210-pound JUCO transfer Beau Johnson was a superstar for Butler County CC and he showed the same power and flash this spring. He didn't look lost at all even through he was thrown to the wolves right away. Those two would be fine on their own, and Keith Toston is coming back this summer as good as new after a knee injury sidelined him last season.

The Bobby Reid Factor ... The former OSU quarterback, made most famous by head coach Mike Gundy's all-timer of a rant, has stirred things up in a recent interview, but he's not around the program anymore and there's still a hole to fill for the backup job behind Zac Robinson. This spring didn't help. For now, sophomore Alex Cate would be the No. 2 if the season started today, but he doesn't run much and he hasn't been sharp. Brandon Weeden is the likely third man in the mix, but he'll get every shot to be the backup if he can prove to be more consistent. Considering the way Robinson runs and the big shots he takes, the backup spot has to be settled in a hurry.


The New No. 1 Running Back Will Be ... there really isn't one. Redshirt freshman Foswhitt Whitaker had the best spring, but "Fozzy" will have to share the workload this fall. Sophomore Vondrell McGee got a lot of first-team work, including in the spring game, but he's not going to be a 25-carry back and will likely get used in more power situations than Whitaker. The coaching staff limited Chris Ogbonnaya to get a better look at Whitaker and McGee, but he'll be part of the three-man rotation. At the moment, McGee is the No. 1, but that's in title only.

Will Muschamp ...
Spring ball was hardly for the weak around Austin with Muschamp, the new defensive coordinator, making things very, very physical throughout. If you want to see a new, angry, nasty Texas defense, this might be it after having so many problems over the last few years, especially in the secondary. While Muschamp played around with a 4-2-5 setup at times to see what he had in the secondary against three and four-wide sets, like Texas will see against Texas Tech, the D will still play a 4-3 with some different wrinkles thrown in from time to time.

Does Texas Still Have All Its Quarterbacks? ... Junior Colt McCoy still has two years left and isn't going to be challenged for the starting job any time soon. Backup G.J. Kinne already left, star recruit Garrett Gilbert is on the way next year, and John Chiles showed off his tremendous running skills this spring and isn't going anywhere, and that includes another position. So what happens to Sherrod Harris? The sophomore will be lost in the shuffle, won't be better than the No. 3, and he might be gone. Stay tuned.

Texas A&M  

Does The New Coaching Staff Know Who Jorvorskie Lane Is? ... Apparently so. Dennis Franchione and his staff forgot about the bruising touchdown machine, but new head man Mike Sherman wants to get Lane on the field more as a fullback. First, Lane, at Sherman's request, has to get in better shape and be ready to handle more of the workload as a receiver and blocker as well as a runner. If nothing else, Lane will get the work he was missing last year.

Can Stephen McGee Throw In A Pro-Style Offense? ... The jury's still out. Sherman isn't going to stop what was working and will let McGee take off and run when the time is right, but there's not going to be any high-octane passing early on. The problem is his non-throwing shoulder, which was healing this spring and limited him from all the workouts. That meant redshirt freshman Ryan Tannehill got plenty of work and Jerrod Johnson showed signs of being the real deal. Tannehill has been the better of the two, but Johnson has been just dangerous enough to potentially make the quarterback situation interesting if McGee struggles this year.

The Offensive Line ... All five starters are gone and the line is starting from scratch in more ways than one. Forgetting the new players needing to come together and jell, they're truly learning on the fly in the new offense. It didn't help that guard Lee Grimes hurt his shoulder. Junior Kevin Matthews will be the anchor at center while Vincent Williams will be the man at right guard with Grimes out and Travis Schneider will start at tackle. It's an open casting call on the left side.

Texas Tech  

The Running Back Situation ... Yes, Texas Tech does actually run the ball once in a while, and it likes to throw to the backs, too. While Shannon Woods has the experience and Aaron Crawford was the No. 1 back late last year, Baron Batch and Kobey Lewis are being given every shot at playing time. Crawford has been the main man around the goal line, but Batch has had his moments looking like the No. 1 man. It'll definitely be running back by committee going into the fall.

Ruffin McNeill ...
It's not like the Red Raider defense was lousy last year finishing third in the Big 12, but that was after Ruffin McNeill took over and transformed things. There will be even more attacking this year and more of a reliance on the ends to make big things happen. With all the returning experience in the back seven, McNeill is playing around with some ideas and is working on the line occasionally putting the ends a bit deeper in a linebacker role to give them more of a head start. This will be interesting.

Edward Britton ...
Everyone returns on offense except Danny Amendola, meaning junior Edward Britton is expected to play a bigger role. After catching 48 passes for 631 yards and four scores, his numbers could double as the expected No. 2 target next to Michael Crabtree. That's still the case despite being picked up after a warrant was out for him after an alleged assault in a bar two years ago, but it doesn't appear to be that big a deal and is expected to be cleared up.