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2008 CFN Big 12 Team Capsules
Colorado NT Brandon Nicholas
Colorado NT Brandon Nicholas
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 15, 2008


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2008 CFN Big 12 Preview

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North
- Colorado | Iowa State | Kansas | Kansas State |
Missouri | Nebraska
South

- Baylor | Oklahoma | Oklahoma State | Texas | Texas A&M | Texas Tech


- 2008 CFN Big 12 Preview
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Big Ten Unit Rankings

- Big 12 Schedules & Predictions

By Pete Fiutak

Big 12 Championship: Missouri over Texas Tech

NORTH

1. Missouri
-
Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
Predicted record: 11-1  Conf. record: 7-1
Best Offensive Player: QB Chase Daniel, Sr.
Best Defensive Player:
FS William Moore, Sr.
Offense: If everyone plays as well as expected, this will once again be one of the five most productive offenses in the nation. It all starts with Heisman finalist Chase Daniel, an ultra-efficient passer who knows the offense backwards and forwards. Now in his third year as the starter and with 37 games under his belt, he'll make his dizzying array of weapons shine. The receiving corps is loaded with all-around playmaker Jeremy Maclin and tight end Chase Coffman, who'll be healthy again to start the year, unlike last season, while Danario Alexander and Tommy Saunders are strong targets to work with. The running backs will be fine with a good combination of players to rotate around, and the line should be fantastic if the starting five can stay healthy.
Defense: The defense took a backseat to the offense last season, but it had a fantastic year and could be even better if everyone is healthy. That's a huge if considering star FS William Moore was out this spring with a shoulder injury, as was top-tackling LB Sean Weatherspoon, while LB Van Alexander suffered a torn ACL. The linebacking corps, overall, needs depth to quickly develop after losing two top backup prospects to go along with the injuries. Moore should be back at 100% to combine with Justin Garrett to form one of the Big 12's best safety tandems. The corners aren't great, but they're experienced. Stryker Sulak is a fantastic pass rusher, but there aren't enough consistent plays in the backfield from the front seven. Ziggy Hood is an all-star tackle for the run defense to work around.


2. Kansas
- Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted record: 9-3  Conf. record: 5-3
Best Offensive Player:
QB Todd Reesing, Jr.
Best Defensive Player:
LB Joe Mortensen, Sr.
Offense: One of the most efficient and effective attacks in the country, KU did everything right. It could pound the ball when needed, push the passing game deep to open things up, and better than almost anyone in America, it was great at going for the kill and even better at answering when pushed. It'll be a stretch to get the same overall production, and the O stunk this spring, but it should be terrific as the season goes on. Todd Reesing grew into a special quarterback and a perfect leader who rarely made mistakes, but he'll have to be even better early on until the tackle situation is settled (even though it's promising) and until the right running combination is found. Jake Sharp is a nice back, but JUCO transfer Jocques Crawford could be the team's newest star. The receivers are nice, with the return of Dexton Fields and Dezmon Briscoe, but they're not special.
Defense: The whole is better than the sum of the parts. There might not be a whole slew of all-stars, but this is a tough, hard-nosed, veteran group that'll be a rock against the run and should be decent against the pass. The biggest question mark will be the coaching with Clint Bowen taking over the Big 12's best D. With nine starters returning, any slip will be blamed on the new defensive coordinator; he has pieces to work with and he's not going to change too much, if anything. The secondary will be worse without CB Aqib Talib, but there are three good returning starters and Kendrick Harper is ready to shine in a full-time starting corner role. The line needs to get to the quarterback more, but it's good at getting into the backfield and should be a rock against the run if the four-man tackle rotation can make up for the loss of DT James McClinton. The strength of the defense, and maybe the team, will be the linebacking corps that gets the team's top three tacklers back. Joe Mortensen is a terrific all-around playmaker in the middle, while Mike Rivera and James Holt will each make around 100 tackles on the outside.


3. Colorado
- Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted record: 6-6  Conf. record: 4-4
Best Offensive Player:
QB Cody Hawkins, Soph.
Best Defensive Player:
DT George Hypolite, Sr.
Offense:
Last year was part two in the maturation of the offense, but there might need to be one more year of seasoning to go before things really start to hum. This is still a very, very young group that's going to get even greener with a slew of new recruits expected to make a big impact on the line and in the backfield. The star of the show should be Darrell Scott, considered by many to be the nation's top high school running back, but he won't have to do it alone with Demetrius Sumler a good back who'll be the starter for now. The line is young, but very promising with senior center Daniel Sanders a strong anchor to work around. The key will be the efficiency of the passing game, as QB Cody Hawkins tries to handle the change to more of a no-huddle, hurry up attack. The tight ends will be good, but the wide receivers are nothing special.
Defense: The defense was fine at times, but with no pass rush, it had a nightmare of a time against the good passing teams. Unfortunately, the Big 12 is loaded with good passing teams and excellent quarterbacks, and considering the Buffs' early weakness should be a pass rush from the ends and cornerback play, it'll be vital to get better over the first month before Texas comes to town to kick off the Big 12 season in October. The run defense should be solid with George Hypolite and Brandon Nicolas forming a good tackle pair, and while star LB Jordon Dizon is gone, the situation should be even better with plenty of options and more on the way from a good recruiting class. The safeties, D.J. Dykes and Ryan Walters, will be terrific.


T4. Iowa State
- Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted record: 6-6  Conf. record: 3-5
Best Offensive Player:
RB Alexander Robinson, Soph.
Best Defensive Player:
DE Kurtis Taylor, Sr.
Offense: Offensive coordinator Robert McFarland needed all year to finally get the offense moving after it did next to nothing for the first eight games, averaging just 15 points per outing. The attack didn't explode, but it got better, and now there should be a big jump in production even without veteran QB Bret Meyer and top WR Todd Blythe. The line was night-and-day better than in 2006, and it should be far superior this year with four returning starters and at least two of them being knocked out of jobs by better prospects. The running back trio of Alexander Robinson, Jason Scales and J.J. Bass is excellent. The key will be the passing game. Austen Arnaud and former WR Phillip Bates will combine for the quarterback job, while a dangerous receiver or two has to step up with Blythe not there to catch all the touchdown passes.
Defense: Defensive coordinator Wayne Bolt didn't exactly turn the defense into a killer, but it held its own at times considering the offense provided a fat load of jack squat. There were times when things got ugly, really ugly, but the D did a decent job of keeping the team in several games it had no business being a part of. The secondary that got toasted by the good Big 12 quarterbacks gets everyone back, but it needs help from a pass rush that wasn't consistent or effective enough. Losing outside linebackers Ace Bowen and Jon Banks is a killer, so the spotlight will be on Fred Garrin, Josh Raven and Michael Bibbs to shine. The line should be the strength of the D even though new tackles are taking over.


T4. Kansas State
- Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted record: 7-5  Conf. record: 3-5
Best Offensive Player:
QB Josh Freeman, Jr.
Best Defensive Player:
DE Ian Campbell, Sr.
Offense: There's certainly an interesting mix of talents for new offensive coordinator James Franklin to play around with. The line is experienced, deep and talented, the running backs are fast, receiving corps is really fast, and QB Josh Freeman is a rising junior with 20 starts under his belt. The big issue will be the experience of the skill players with top RB James Johnson and All-America WR Jordy Nelson gone. There are fantastic prospects who look the part, but can they play? If nothing else, Freeman will get plenty of time to bomb away. Scoring and yards won't be a problem, but it would be a big plus if there was more balance. KSU had to throw out of necessity, the defense gave up points in bunches. Freeman can handle the work, but the more help he gets, the better.
Defense: It didn't work. Defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar's switch to a 3-4 generated a little bit of pressure, but not enough, and the D got worse as the season went on. However, there's a chance for a major, major turnaround with 1) pass rushing terror Ian Campbell moving back to end after languishing last year as an outside linebacker, 2) the return of All-Big 12 candidate Joshua Moore at corner after spending last season out with academic issues, and 3) a mega-upgrade in talent. Virginia transfer Olu Hall and JUCO transfers Ulla Pomele and Hansen Sekona will make a huge difference at linebacker. JUCOers Blair Irvin and Billy McClellan will help the corners, and Daniel Calvin could instantly become the team's best tackle. If everything comes together, the potential is there for this to be a killer defense by the end of the year.


T4. Nebraska
- Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted record: 7-5  Conf. record: 3-5
Best Offensive Player:
RB Marlon Lucky, Sr.
Best Defensive Player:
DE Barry Turner, Sr.
Offense:
Lost in the shuffle of last year's nightmare of a season was that the offense really did work. Yeah, it died for a stretch mid-season, but once it started humming, it was a yardage machine. Now, all the key parts are back everywhere but wide receiver, which will be the team's Achilles heel with Maurice Purify gone. Nate Swift and Todd Peterson are serviceable, but hardly anything special. Steadying the quarterback situation is Joe Ganz, a good, accurate passer who'll make the receivers better. Fortunately, the coaching staff wants to run the ball more, and with Marlon Lucky, one of the nation's most versatile backs, and a good, veteran line that should blossom into something special, the ground game will be better.
Defense: The Nebraska Cornhuskers, the Nebraska Cornhuskers, allowed 477 yards per game, 232 rushing yards, and 38 points per game. Bo Pelini, and his brother, defensive coordinator, Carl, are going to change things up not tomorrow, not after breakfast, now. Everything starts with the line that did absolutely nothing last year to get into the backfield and was a marshmallow against the run. Now it's leaner, it's meaner, and it's full of good veterans and lots of depth. If the line isn't fantastic, it's uh-oh time with a potentially awful back seven that needs everything the Pelini brothers can put together. There's no depth whatsoever, marginal talent in the linebacking corps, and decent, but not great defensive backs. If nothing else, the defense will be far more aggressive and unlike last year, it should be able to tackle.


SOUTH

1. Texas Tech
- Offense
| Defense | Depth Chart
Predicted record: 11-1  Conf. record: 7-1
Best Offensive Player:
WR Michael Crabtree, Soph.
Best Defensive Player:
DE Brandon Williams, Jr.
Offense: The machine should be humming better than ever with almost everyone returning. Expect close to 500 passing yards per game, a lot of points, and a whole bunch of fun for what could be the best offense yet under head coach Mike Leach. The only starter gone from last year is WR Danny Amendola, and Edward Britton and Detron Lewis are expected to fill in the gap without a problem. The phenomenal pitch-catch combination of Graham Harrell to Michael Crabtree will once again set all sorts of records, while the mammoth, veteran offensive line will give everyone time to work. The one issue is a running game that took a major step back last season, but now it has four options in the rotation to try to generate more production, or at least more yards per carry.
Defense: Ruffin McNeal started to transform the defense over the second half of last season and now the potential is there for a huge season. There's speed to burn on the corners, a good trio of relatively young linebackers to work around, and a defensive line that would be the team's strength if it wasn't for the high-octane passing game. Pass rusher extraordinaire Brandon Williams is about to become a superstar while tackles Colby Whitlock and Rajon Henley each have All-Big 12 potential. As good as they are, they'll all have to fight to hang on to their jobs with top JUCO transfers Brandon Sesay, Broderick Marshall and McKinner Dixon all good enough to start. The defensive back seven is designed to get the most speed and athleticism on the field as possible, and it should pay off with a secondary that should be as good as the one that led the Big 12 last year. Now the run defense has to be better.


2. Oklahoma
- Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted record: 10-2  Conf. record: 6-2
Best Offensive Player:
QB Sam Bradford, Soph.
Best Defensive Player:
DT Gerald McCoy, Soph.
Offense: Consistency will be the key, especially on the road, but all the parts are there. The offense has the talent to be unstoppable, but there are a few question marks. Starting with the positives, Sam Bradford should once again be among the nation’s most effective and efficient quarterbacks and the line might be the best in America by a wide margin with all five starters returning, along with impressive depth. However, the top two returning running backs, DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown, are coming off knee injuries, and the receiving corps will be looking for immediate help with Malcolm Kelly moving on early to the NFL. Juaquin Iglesias and Manuel Johnson are great targets, but can they be more than just complementary receivers? Can the new superstar running back and receiver recruits shine right away? Again, though, with a line like OU has, everyone will get time to jell.
Defense: Last year's defense had several major concerns, but there wasn't much of a question that everything was going to be fine. That's not the case this year. This D has more than enough athletes and more than enough five-star talents to replace the former stars with new ones, but there are gaping holes to fill and some very, very big ifs. If LB Ryan Reynolds can stay healthy and take over in the middle for Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Curtis Lofton, and if corners Reggie Smith and Marcus Walker can be replaced, and if ultra-talented DT DeMarcus Granger is back after getting nailed on shoplifting charges, and if pass rushing demon Auston English is back to normal after suffering a broken ankle, and if several untested underclassmen and a few newcomers can play right away up to Sooner standards, then this might be among the Big 12's best defenses again.


3. Texas
- Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted record: 8-4  Conf. record: 4-4
Best Offensive Player:
QB Colt McCoy, Jr.
Best Defensive Player:
DT Roy Miller, Sr.
Offense: It wasn't always consistent and it had problems at times getting revved up, but the offense quietly finished 13th in the nation in yards and 14th in scoring. Even with huge losses at running back (Jamaal Charles) and in the receiving corps (Limas Sweed, Nate Jones and TE Jermichael Finley), the production should keep on coming with promising replacements at the skill spots and with a strong, veteran line that should be even better after a decent 2007. Conducting the show is the underappreciated Colt McCoy, who's one of the Big 12's better quarterbacks but gets lost in the shuffle. The one big concern is veteran depth. If there are injury problems, a slew of first year players, including several true freshmen, will have to grow up quickly.
Defense: Last year's defense was supposed to be more aggressive and provide more pressure. Enter new defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, who'll show what the real meaning of the blitz is. In one of the big upsets of the off-season, Muschamp wasn't snapped up for a big head coaching job, but he could be one-and-done at Texas considering he's one of the hottest young coaches around. He has a tremendously athletic back seven to work with, and he's going to get them moving and with a far nastier attitude. The front four could be even better despite losing Frank Okam and Derek Lokey inside. While backup tackle is a concern, Roy Miler and Lamarr Houston will form a great run stuffing tandem, while the end combination of Brian Orakpo and former RB Henry Melton should hang out in opposing backfields.


T4. Oklahoma State
- Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted record: 7-5  Conf. record: 3-5
Best Offensive Player:
TE Brandon Pettigrew, Sr.
Best Defensive Player:
S/LB Andre Sexton, Jr.
Offense: The machine will keep on rolling with little tinkering. There's no reason to mess with success, and with so much returning talent to the nation's seventh best attack, things will be kept as is with QB Zac Robinson leading the way behind a tremendous, deep line that might not have much in the way of star power, but is as effective as any in the nation. There are some question marks at running back and receiver with JUCO transfer Beau Johnson needing to make the ground game explode while Dez Bryant needs to be a strong number one receiver to go along with top pro prospect Brandon Pettigrew at tight end.
Defense: Defensive coordinator Tim Beckman is on a bit of a hot seat. He has the athletes to work with, and now he hast o come up with some production. The Cowboys will use a combination of a 4-3 and a 4-2-5 as Andre Sexton moves around in the Star position, but the real key will be the play against the run. There has to be better toughness up front against the stronger teams, and more of a pass rush would be nice with an average, but fast secondary returning several good players like CB Jacob Lacey and S Rickey Price. In influx of JUCO talent could make a night and day difference with Swanson Miller and Jeremiah Price for the line, Donald Booker for the linebacking corps, and Lucien "The Punisher" Antoine for the secondary.


T4. Texas A&M
- Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted record: 6-6  Conf. record: 3-5
Best Offensive Player:
RB Mike Goodson, Jr.
Best Defensive Player:
DT Kellen Heard, Jr.
Offense: The offense won't make a complete about-face after being all run, little throw for the last few years, but it's going to become more tilted to the passing attack in the new pro-style offense. Even so, the strength will be on the ground as big Jorvorskie Lane will play more of a fullback role to pave the way for Mike Goodson, who should bust out now that he'll be used more. Stephen McGee should be the leader, but the quarterback job isn't his for sure with hot-shot sophomore Jerrod Johnson pushing hard. The receivers are big and fast, but they need experience in the new offense, while the line has to undergo a major change after losing several long-time starters..
Defense: After an awful 2005, Gary Darnell had turned things around and made the Aggie defense respectable over the last few season, but it was a tentative, read-and-react D that didn't do nearly enough to get to the quarterback and dictate the action. That all changes under Joe Kines as the defense is going to be far more aggressive and will try to generate far more pressure after finishing 104th in the nation in sacks and 90th in tackles for loss. The problem is the talent level; it's not all that high, and there's not a lot of starting experience on the front seven. However, the linebacking corps will go from lumbering to sleek and fast, and there are plenty of veterans in the secondary to count on. The line has to be better, and it should be if everyone stays healthy. However, the tackles will be an issue outside of Kellen Heard.


6. Baylor
- Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted record: 1-11  Conf. record: 0-8
Best Offensive Player:
OT Jason Smith, Sr.
Best Defensive Player:
LB Joe Pawelek, Jr.
Offense: Baylor will still throw the ball, but the coaching staff, and co-coordinators Phillip Montgomery and Randy Clements, will add more rushing wrinkles to the equation. Step one is to settle on a quarterback with Blake Szymanski the veteran starter, Miami transfer Kirby Freeman looking for redemption and lightning-fast true freshman Robert Griffin battling it out. The receiving corps is experienced, but outside of the tight ends and touchdown-machine Thomas White, the wideouts haven't produced like they should have. That should change. Jay Finley and Jacoby Jones are tough runners who'll get more chances to work behind a fantastic line led by future NFL tackles Jason Smith and Dan Gay.
Defense: The defense struggled to do much of anything having problems against the run, getting ripped apart by the pass, and giving up yards and points in chunks. Now there's hope for a big improvement with six good returning starters and a switch from a 4-2-5 alignment to a 4-3. The Bears should be strong up the middle with 300+ pounders Vincent Rhodes and Trey Bryant and tackle and all-star tacklers Joe Pawelek back at linebacker and Jordan Lake returning at free safety, but they all have to be better against the power running teams. Generating more pressure is vital to help out the secondary, and while ends Jason Lamb and Leon Freeman are good at getting to the quarterback, they have to do it on a more consistent basis.