Jay Beck

Jay Beck

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Monday, 21 July 2014 23:37

Baylor adjusting to life at the top

Baylor is a program that won 18 Big 12 football games over the conference’s first 15 years in existence. Couple that with 102 conference losses over the same time period and it’s not hard to see why Baylor struggled to get much notoriety within even their own state. As for national attention, forget it, there was none.

And then Art Briles came to town and during Monday’s Big 12 media days the conversation has now turned to whether Baylor is ready to defend their first ever Big 12 title. Winning the same number of conference games, 18, over that past three season as they did in the first 15, and that’s what happens.

“How can you defend and protect something that nobody can ever take from you; 2013 is gone forever. The title is ours. We’re attacking 2014 just like everybody else,” Briles said.

And therein lies the new problem for Briles and his Baylor program - dealing with increased expectations. Ten seasons ago, the Bears just hoped to win a game. Now the sights are set into making it into college football’s new final four.

“We have to learn how to prepare as the hunted as opposed to the hunter. We’ve always been the hunter. And I don’t want to lose that edge and that attitude and that’s something that we’re working hard to maintain,” he added.

Even with a Big 12 title to show for its recent success, Briles job may have been made a little easier given the outcome the last time the Bears took the field, a 52-42 loss to Central Florida in the Fiesta Bowl. If the Baylor players are having problems preparing as the hunter, just turn on the video from January 1st and they’ll soon realize there’s still plenty left to accomplish.

“We’ve talked about it. We certainly hope that we’ve learned from it. Like I said, the only way to get experience is to go out there, feel it, touch it, have a taste for it. And that taste wasn’t very good. So it’s been very motivating for us all spring and summer.”

There is a little doubt Baylor is now team marked on their opponent’s schedules but the good news for Briles is he’ll enter the season with one of the best quarterbacks in the nation behind center to steer the ship. Bryce Petty returns for his senior season after tossing 32 touchdowns against just three interceptions last season.

“What he can bring this year is an attitude of when I talk, people are going to listen a little bit. Like I tell the players, you want to be listened to, produce. He’s produced.   He’s got a chance to be heard. When he speaks, now people listen,” Briles said.

Petty will be surrounded by plethora of talent on offense that will be expected to carry a team early in the season that returns just four starters on defense.

“We lost a lot of good football players without question, but we got a lot of guys back that we have a lot of confidence in. It’s like Petty coming in last year. The only way to get experience is to get on the field and play.”

"We’ve got a lot of good football players that we’ve recruited that have been here two or three years that have been waiting to play and this is their opportunity,” Briles added.

Times have certainly changed in Waco. Gone are the days of winning one, two, or three football games which have been replaced with talk of Heisman contenders, conference titles, new stadiums, and getting into end of season football playoff. No longer is six wins and a low-tier bowl game the expectation, it’s become a worst case scenario.

Baylor has Briles to thank for that along with plenty of NFL caliber players stacking its rosters which I guess Briles is to be thanked for, as well.

Can the Bears not only maintain the recent run of success but take it a step further?  The fact that anyone is even thinking about that question is the surest indicator that Baylor football has indeed arrived and as long as Briles is there pulling the strings, here's guessing they aren't going back into the abyss anytime soon.

(Video of Briles entire Big 12 media session is below)

The Big 12 released its 2014 preseason football team on Wednesday, a sure sign that there is indeed light at the end of the tunnel known as the offseason. The poll is selected by the media who cover the league.

Baylor led the way with seven players selected as the Bears dominated the offensive skill positions with Bryce Petty, Shock Linwood, and Antwan Goodley each receiving preseason honors. Petty was also chosen as the Big 12’s offensive player of the year which shouldn’t come as any surprise.

Big 12 new logoOn defense, TCU had the most players selected with all three of their nominees coming on that side of the ball. The Horned Frogs had two defensive linemen, Chucky Hunter and Devonte Fields, chosen along with safety Sam Carter.

Fields was chosen as the defensive player of the year which is lofty praise for a player who missed the final nine games of the 2014 season. Obviously the voters in the media feel like Fields is going to return to the form he showed as a freshman when he registered 10 sacks and was named defensive freshmen of the year.

Oklahoma State was the only team in the conference without a player selected, but junior college transfer Tyreek Hill was chosen as the newcomer of the year. The Cowboys have plenty of holes to fill but without a doubt, there is plenty of anticipation to see Hill on the field after drawing plenty of praise in Stillwater this spring.

Here’s a look at the entire team and also a link to the press release from Big 12 sports.

The Big 12 will host its media days next Monday and Tuesday, July 21-22. The league will also release its media poll next tomorrow, as well.

Who’s going to be on top?

OFFENSE

Position Name School
QB Bryce Petty Baylor
RB Shock Linwood Baylor
RB Malcolm Brown Texas
WR Antwan Goodley Baylor
WR Tyler Lockett Kansas State
TE E.J. Bibbs Iowa State
OL Cody Whitehair Kansas State
OL Spencer Drango Baylor
C B.J. Finney Kansas State
OL Daryl Williams Oklahoma
OL Le'Raven Clark Texas Tech
PK Michael Hunnicutt Oklahoma
KR Tyler Lockett Kansas State

 

DEFENSE

Defense Name School
DL Chucky Hunter TCU
DL Devonte Fields TCU
DL Ryan Mueller Kansas State
DL Cedric Reed Texas
LB Bryce Hager Baylor
LB Ben Heeney Kansas 
LB Eric Striker Oklahoma
DB Zack Sanchez Oklahoma
DB Karl Joseph West Virginia
DB Quandre Diggs Texas
DB Sam Carter TCU
P Spencer Ruth Baylor
PR Levi Norwood Baylor

 

Selections by School

School Players selected
Baylor 7
Kansas State 5
Oklahoma 4
Texas 3
TCU 3
Iowa State 1
Texas Tech 1
West Virginia 1
Kansas  1
Oklahoma State 0

On the road to the Big 12 opener, here is the second installment of a series of player rankings brought to you by Can-Am Spyder, a collection and analysis of the best players at each of the skill positions on offense and a group ranking by position on defense.

We've already covered the Big 12's quarterbacks and today, here's a look at what could be a special group of running backs carrying the ball in 2014.  The Big 12 has always been known for its quarterback play but with this group of backs, it wouldn't be shocking to see a resurgence at the position this fall.

That being said, trying to actually rank them heading into the season is a bit like playing darts after spinning yourself around in circles and seeing how many triple 20's you come up with on your first try. It's tough.

The top five rushers in the league last season have moved on leaving plenty of talent behind them, but also plenty of inexperience, as well.

Here's our best crack at the top five with several others who could be in for big seasons this fall.

Let me know in the comments section below what you think; where I got it right and where I may have erred in my ways. And while you're at it, please take a moment to check out and support our sponsor, Can-Am Spyder.

1. Shock Linwood - Baylor

Linwood saw limited action as a freshman in 2013 as Baylor's third string back, but when he got onto the field, he made the most of his opportunity. While filling in for an injured Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin, he put together back-to-back 180 performances against Oklahoma and Texas Tech which giving him four 100-yard rushing performances on the season.

Even though the sky is the limit for Linwood in 2014, he'll face competition for carries with Devin Chaffin and Johnny Jefferson but from what we know now, the Linden, Texas native should be in for big sophomore season.

2. Johnathan Gray - Texas

Gray was enjoying an impressive sophomore season before tearing his Achilles tendon and missing the final four games of the 2013 season. Even so, he finished the season second on the team in rushing with 780 yards.

With a new coaching staff taking over in Austin, it's difficult to set any expectations for anyone, but given the uncertainty at the quarterback position, you can bet Gray and cohorts Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron will be big pieces to the Longhorns' offense come August.

3. Desmond Roland - Oklahoma State

After seeing limited carries over the first half of 2013, Roland finished the season strong highlighted by a 219 yard effort against Iowa State and another 144 yards against Oklahoma to end the regular season.

After leading the Big 12 with 13 rushing touchdowns in 2013, he’ll likely shoulder the bulk of the Cowboys in 2014 although newcomer Tyreek Hill will be pushing for his share of touches, as well, after his impressive performance this spring.

4. Malcolm Brown – Texas

Brown shouldered the load last season after Johnathan Gray went down an Achilles injury rushing for over 100 yards in five of the Longhorns last eight games.

In terms of yards, Brown is the top returning back in the Big 12 although he’ll be back to splitting carries with Gray and Joe Bergeron expected to return healthy this fall. Brown has plenty of work just to earn carries on his own team, but he’s already proven that if given the chance, he’s more than capable of carrying the load for Texas.

5. Rushel Shell – West Virginia

Like Gray, Brown, and Bergeron at Texas Rushel Shell has a battle on his hands within his own team just to earn carries. The Mountaineers are loaded at the running back position with Dreamius Smith and Wendell Smallwood expected to play role, as well (and nobody’s counting out Andrew Buie and Dustin Garrison, either).

Shell transferred to WVU from Pitt following his freshman season when he rushed for 641 yards on 141 carries. That was following a high school career in which he became the leading rusher in Pennsylvania high school history running for over 200 yards 25 different times.

With the Mountaineers still trying to prove they have a quarterback on their roster capable of winning Big 12 games on a consistent basis, Shell should get plenty of opportunities to carry the load in 2014 and could be a household name in the Big 12 come season’s end.

And don’t forget about:

  • Aaron Wimberly – Iowa State
  • Keith Ford – Oklahoma
  • DeAndre Washington – Texas Tech
  • Tyreek Hill – Oklahoma State
  • B.J. Catalon – TCU
  • Aaron Green – TCU
  • Wendell Smallwood West Virginia
  • Devin Chaffin – Baylor
  • Johnny Jefferson – Baylor
  • Joe Mixon – Oklahoma

 

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All eyes will be on Dallas in week seven as Texas and Oklahoma tangle once again at the Cotton Bowl. If the Sooners can avenge last season’s loss to Texas, they’ll be squarely in the Big 12 driver’s seat entering the season’s second half.

Every team in the league is in action during week seven except Kansas State due to Iowa State finishing up their nonconference schedule against Toledo. There should also be a very interesting matchup happening in Waco as the Baylor looks to keep their perfect record intact.

So without further ado, here’s a look at week seven along with the projected standings as the season keeps chugging right along.

Big 12 schedule: week seven

Date Game Prediction
Sat. 10/11 Toledo @ Iowa State ISU win
Sat. 10/11 West Virginia @ Texas Tech Tech win
Sat. 10/11 Oklahoma State @ Kansas OSU win
Sat. 10/11 Oklahoma @ Texas OU win
Sat. 10/11 TCU @ Baylor Baylor Win
Sat. 10/11 Kansas State - BYE

 

Game of the week

Texas vs. Oklahoma (Dallas)

Charlie Strong will get his first taste of the AT&T Red River Showdown (as it's now coined) when the Sooners and Longhorns kickoff in Dallas highlighting the action in week seven.

The Sooners will have had the easier schedule to this point and will most likely enter with a perfect 5-0 record.

Texas’ record entering the game is much tougher to predict given they will have already faced BYU, UCLA, and Baylor. Our predictions to this point say UT will be 3-2 so if they want to stay in the Big 12 title race, beating the Sooners will be paramount, as it always is.

TCU @ Baylor

If you'll recall, TCU coach Gary Patterson was none too pleased with Art Briles following Baylor's 41-38 victory over the Horned Frogs last season. "I didn't build this program backing down to anybody and I'm not going to back down to him. Not in anything we do. Not in recruiting, not anything. So you need to understand this, he's picking on the wrong guy," were just a few of the choice words Patterson had for Briles following the game instigated by a targeting penalty against Ahmad Dixon.

TCU will head to Baylor the week after hosting Oklahoma (with Oklahoma State to follow) but if there's anybody who can devise a defense to slow down Baylor once again, it's probably Patterson. I'm not saying TCU will beat Baylor on their home field, but with the budding rivalry building in central Texas, expect this one to go down to the wire much like last season.

West Virginia @ Texas Tech

The Red Raiders may very well be in desperate need of a Big 12 win after opening the conference slate on the road against Oklahoma State and Kansas State.

Our predictions have the Red Raiders losing both of those games but that two game losing streak should come to an end against the Mountaineers. Unlike last season when the Red Raiders cruised to a 7-0 start in part because of an easy early season schedule, Tech will have to make its mark over the second half of the season and it will start against West Virginia.

Dana Holgorsen’s return to Lubbock where he spent seven seasons as an assistant will likely be a rough homecoming although if he’s able to find a way to pick up a road win, it would go a long, long way in helping the Mountaineers return to a bowl game.

And don't forget about:

  • Toledo @ Iowa State
  • Oklahoma State @ Kansas

 

Projected Big 12 standings following week seven:

Team Overall Conference
Oklahoma 6-0 3-0
Baylor 6-0 3-0
Oklahoma State 5-1 3-0
Kansas State 4-1 2-0
Texas 3-3 1-2
West Virginia 3-3 1-2
Texas Tech 4-2 1-2
TCU 3-2 0-2
Iowa State 3-3 0-3
Kansas  2-4 0-3

 

Season recap:

Week six

Week five

Week four

Week three

Week two

Week one

 

Mack Brown won't be on the sidelines this season, but that doesn't mean you still won't be seeing plenty of the former Texas coach this fall.

Brown is expected to become ESPN's newest studio analyst with the official announcement possibly coming later this week.

The move probably shouldn't come as a huge surprise. Brown hasn't entirely ruled out coaching again according to Texas booster Joe Jamail and working in studio for ESPN is one way to keep his name front and center in everyone minds while keeping him involved in the game albeit in an entirely different capacity.

But outside of a possible return to coaching, the move makes sense for both Brown and ESPN. Brown has always been a likeable guy and great in front of the camera. He'll surely provide insight into a studio show that not just anyone could provide.

Not to mention, with Lou Holtz expected to retire from his studio gig after the season, getting Brown some in-studio seasoning could lead to an even bigger role for Brown should he decide to take that route with the rest of his career.

Whether or not Brown can go to battle with Mark May the way Holtz has over the years remains to be seen, but it'd be pure entertainment to see Brown trying to tackle a question like this with say... Charlie Strong being the subject in three years.

Fear not Saints fan, Drew Brees will be on the field this fall.

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Finally, nonconference play is in the rear view mirror and finally, every team in the league plays on the same weekend for the first time all season entering week six.

The first full weekend of Big 12 play features what is becoming one of the better rivalries in the league with Baylor heading to Texas while another huge game pits K-State and Texas Tech as teams begin jockeying for position in the Big 12 standings.

Big 12 schedule: week six

Date Game Prediction
Sat. 10/4 Iowa State @ Oklahoma State OSU Win
Sat. 10/4 Texas Tech @ Kansas State K-State Win
Sat. 10/4 Baylor @ Texas Baylor Win
Sat. 10/4 Kansas @ West Virginia WVU win
Sat. 10/4 Oklahoma @ TCU OU win

 

Game of the week

Baylor @ Texas

Despite Baylor beating Texas three of the last four seasons, Longhorn linebacker Steve Edmond remained unimpressed with Baylor's rise to the top of the Big 12 based on his comments about the Bears this spring. "I'm like, 'They won it, so what?' They still suck to me," Edmond said.

Edmond will have the last chance of his career to put some action to his words when the defending Big 12 champs head to Austin in a game that will have plenty of implications on the 2014 Big 12 race.

Barring any upsets, Baylor will likely enter the game sporting a top ten ranking and Texas will likely be in the top 25 depending on how they fared against BYU and UCLA.

It's anybody's guess who will be quarterbacking UT's offense but either way, is the Texas defense up to slowing down Baylor's offensive attack?

If Texas can find a way to knock off the Bears, they'll have a huge opportunity to take control of the Big 12 the following week against OU in Dallas. If they win that, they'll all of sudden become the team to beat in the Big 12.

But first things first, beating Baylor has been anything but a given the last four seasons for the Horns.

Texas Tech @ Kansas State

The Red Raiders will be facing their second consecutive road test after playing in Stillwater the Thursday prior. If Tech can come out of this two game stretch with at least one win, it will pay big dividends down the road with this likely being the toughest stretch of the season. They do play OU and Texas in back-to-back in early November, but at least both of those games are at home.

Kansas State will also be entering a tough four game stretch with the OU, Texas and Oklahoma State games to follow (with a bye week mixed in) so it goes without saying that the Wildcats protecting their home turf against the Red Raiders would be a great start as they enter the meat of their schedule.

Oklahoma @ TCU

The Sooners will head to Fort Worth coming off a bye week after their trip to Morgantown. And you know who follows their matchup with TCU? Texas. Beating the Sooners is going to be an uphill battle for TCU any way you slice it, but maybe, just maybe, OU will be peaking ahead on the schedule.

This will be the first Big 12 game of the season for the Horned Frogs after a relatively easy nonconference schedule with Minnesota being the possible exception. TCU will have had three weeks to work out the kinks in their new offense but this will by far the toughest test TCU has faced to date and one of the toughest tests they'll see all season.

I'd expect TCU to give the Sooners a battle on their home field, but they simple won't have the horses to send OU to their first loss of the season. Oklahoma will head to Dallas at 5-0 and 2-0 in conference play.

Also on the docket:

  • Iowa State @ Oklahoma State
  • Kansas @ West Virginia

 

Projected Big 12 standings following week six:

Team Overall Conference
Oklahoma 5-0 2-0
Baylor 5-0 2-0
Kansas State 4-1 2-0
Oklahoma State 4-1 2-0
Texas 3-2 1-1
West Virginia 3-2 1-1
TCU 3-1 0-1
Texas Tech 3-2 0-2
Kansas  2-3 0-2
Iowa State 2-3 0-3

 

If you've missed any of the previous weeks or wonder where your team may have already stumbled, weeks one through five are below.  Thanks for reading.

Week five recap

Week four recap

Week three recap

Week two recap

Week one recap

Oklahoma State got some bad news from the NCAA on Wednesday following the release of the most recent APR (Academic Progress Rate) scores.

The Cowboys' score of 929.41 was just under the 930 four-year average required to avoid facing penalties. As a result, the Cowboys will be docked one day of practice per week in the upcoming season.

And making the sting just a little worse, had OSU scored just .09 of a point higher, that would have given them a score of 929.5 which would have been rounded up to achieve the necessary score of 930.

The good news is that they avoided a postseason ban because their two-year average of 943.54 was above the required two-year score of 940. In addition, their level one (reduced practice time) penalty was cut to two hours of practice time a week from the usual four that comes at the level after on OSU appeal meaning it could have been even worse.

As it stands now, OSU will likely do away with their usual Sunday night practice according to the USA Today leaving them with Tuesday-Friday to prepare each week. That will remain unchanged from years past when OSU has normally taken Monday's off anyway.

With the NCAA already putting limits on practice time of 20 hours per week for all teams, losing any amount of preparation time has to sting. The Cowboys will no doubt work their way through the one year practice limitations, but it's not an ideal situation any way you cut it.

Will a potential three point win become a three point loss because of two less hours the coaches will get to spend with their players on the practice field? They'll really be no way to ever know but it certainly won't make an already difficult job any easier for the OSU coaching staff in 2014.

It's no secret Texas has had issues at the quarterback position since Colt McCoy left town following the 2009 season.

The position for the Longhorns remains in flux heading as the 2014 season draws closer, but according to one of the foremost experts in training quarterbacks, George Whitfield, those issues could be a thing of the past sooner rather than later.

That's not because of any one quarterback on the current roster, either, but because of one of the assistants new head coach Charlie Strong brought with him to Austin from Louisville, offensive coordinator Shawn Watson.

"The future of Texas quarterbacks is already in secure hands and it's not by the two quarterbacks you mentioned (Tyrone Swoopes and Jerrod Heard)," Whitfield said. "I'd say it's by Shawn Watson their offensive coordinator. Coach Watson is one of the best in the game, in my opinion - college or pro, in developing, teaching quarterbacks to acclimate up to the next level."

 

"You've seen what he's done with Teddy Bridgewater, and he's had quarterbacks before Teddy, but you give him a talented kid like Teddy; there's a reason why Teddy Bridgewater is one of the top quarterbacks in this draft."

Not only is Whitfield high on Watson's ability to develop young quarterbacks, but he believes his presence on the Longhorns' staff makes Texas a contender for any quarterback in the country.

"Texas is in play for quarterbacks nationally. Not just because their the Longhorns anymore but because like Stanford, like USC has done, like other big time programs have done, it is a destination for kids who want to play in a pro-style system and wind up playing on Sundays."

"Now Texas becomes - again - a destination spot for some of those blue chip kids," Whitfield said.

Those are some pretty strong words coming from a guy who's well respected in the business of coaching quarterbacks.  Watson indeed helped Bridgewater become one of the best quarterbacks in the country and if he can do the same with one of UT's current crop of QB's, it won't be long before Texas finds itself back in the national spotlight for all the right reasons.

It's every college football player's dream to one day make it on to an NFL roster. That dream will become reality for many next week with the NFL draft slated to be held k in New York City starting on May 8th.  Many more will also be a step closer as they sign as free agents in the days following.

While it may not be that dream coming to reality just yet, it still has to be a surreal experience to see your face donning the cover an actual football card. So was the case for Oklahoma State receiver Tracy Moore who is part of the Upper Deck Star Rookie Series released prior to the upcoming draft.

Tracy Moore card2"It's funny how something as small as a trading card can be motivation to keep pushing, since I feel like I'm so close," said Moore of the trading card release. It's a really good feeling when you see your work pays off!"

Moore is coming off a senior season in Stillwater that saw him finish second on the team in receptions (51) while leading the Cowboys in touchdown receptions with six. The season was a solid rebound performance following 2012 when he missed the final eight games of the year with an ankle injury.

Anyone that's watched Moore play throughout his tenure at Oklahoma State knows the guy has the skills to play at the next level. He has the speed to go along with a 6'2" frame not to mention, it certainly won't hurt him that's he's played in an up-tempo offenses coordinated by Dana Holgorsen, Todd Monken, and most recently by Mike Yurcich.

Now, all he needs is a chance which he will undoubtedly get very soon. "Whether it's in the first round of later, I will get a chance to make a team and I'll be prepared to take full advantage of that opportunity," Moore said. "You know never know when you'll get another one."

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