|TheInsiders.com 2005 College Football Preview|
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|2004 BAYLOR BEARS|
|Author: Mike George, TheeBearsDen.com|
Last Season's Record: 3-9 (6th place in Big 12 South Division)
Last Bowl Appearance: 1994 Alamo Bowl (3-10 loss to Washington State)
Key matchup(s): Sept. 4 @UAB, Sept. 25 North Texas, Oct. 9 Missouri, Oct. 16 @Nebraska, October 30 Texas A&M .
Star Power: JQB Shawn Bell, So-1L, 6-1, 206; FB Jonathan Evans, Sr-3L, 6-1, 244; WR Marques Roberts, Sr-3L, 6-2, 224; C Glen Oskin, Jr-2L, 6-5, 300; RG Lequalan McDonald, Jr-2L, 6-5, 330; LT Quintin Outland, Sr-3L, 6-5, 324; LB Justin Crooks, Sr-3L, 6-0, 230; DE Khari Long, Sr-3L, 6-4, 254; FS Maurice Lane, Jr-2L, 5-11, 183; OS Willie Andrews, Jr-2L, 5-10, 186; P Daniel Sepulveda, So-1L, 6-3, 214.
Notable Additions: QB Dane King, Jr-Tr, Blinn Junior College (Gonzales HS), 6-2, 205; OL Yancy Boatner, So-Tr, Dixie State (Hamilton HS) 6-4, 305; DE Montez Murphy, Jr-Tr, Coffeeville CC (Centreville, Ill.) 6-6, 260; Anderson Horn, So., Texas State (Deer Park HS), 6-5, 246.
Notable Subtractions: TB Rashad Armstrong, WR Robert Quiroga, SS Derrick Cash, LB John Garrett, LB Stephen Sepulveda, CB Matt Johnson
Notable Returnees: TB Anthony Krieg, Sr-3L, 6-1, 217; TB Jonathan Golden, Sr-3L, 6-1, 221, RT Nick Pace, So-1L, 6-3, 270; DT M.T. Robinson, So-1L, 6-1, 295; DT Quincy Jenkins, So-1L, 6-1, 281; OS Maurice Linquist, So-1L, 5-11, 202.
Offensive Overview: Key to the productivity of the Baylor offense will be in finding a replacement for Rashad Armstrong, who rushed for 1,074 yards and six touchdowns last fall. The Bears’ offensive backfield has Jonathan Golden coming back after a redshirt season, and Anthony Krieg who rushed for 222 yards last season. Don’t count out sophomore RB Paul Mosley, the 6-3, 215-pounder from Austin Anderson, either. Mosley impressed coaches in the spring with his running abilities. Another tailback in the mix is So-1L Brandon Whitaker (5-10, 190). The fullback duties will again fall on Sr. Jonathan Evans. Evans only rushed for 65 yards last fall, but picked up another 132 by 14 pass receptions. His best asset, however, is as a tremendous blocker. Jonathan Evans can "plow the field."
Shawn Bell, who ended the season as the Baylor starter with a very impressive game against Oklahoma, is back for his second season. His biggest competition would appear to come from newcomer Dane King from Blinn JC, where he was named second-team junior college All-America after last season. The best "athlete" of the group is redshirt freshman Terrance Parks (6-4, 220), but he is also young and inexperienced.
With an offensive line that is experienced, but shallow in depth, the Baylor offense should be improved this season. Keeping that line healthy, and at the same time having two or three others step up into the rotation will have to happen. The receivers are "salty" and will keep defenses honest working out of multiple pro-sets.
Defensive Overview: Last year’s Defensive Coordinator John Goodner got his best performance from his Bears in the second half of last year’s Oklahoma game. Down 34-3, the Baylor Defense held the vaunted Oklahoma Offense to just one touchdown, but sacked Jason White, who would win the coveted Heisman Trophy, five times. Several more times Baylor defenders would deposit White to the ground as he attempted passes. It was a valiant effort, but John Goodner retired. Enter Bill Bradley, former New York Jet secondary coach, and Texas Longhorn player, and assistant coach as Baylor’s newest Defensive Coordinator, a key element in the Bear’s defense this fall.
The defensive front returns basically intact, with only DE Dominick Cravens graduating. Replacing him will be a touted Montez Murphy who changed his commitment to Kentucky to follow the coaching staff to Baylor. A problem in grade calculations, however, kept Murphy on the sidelines last year, but with two more years of eligibility remaining, Montez is finally ready to go. At the other DE spot, Khari Long is certainly no stranger. Long has the size, speed, and talent to be a dominant force in the Big 12 and only big things are expected from him. The interior line, made up of three sophomores and a junior listed on the two-deep, is young, but they’ll only get better.
John Garrett and Stephen Sepulveda are gone, but Justin Crooks, one of the more consistent Baylor players since he played as a true freshman, is back. Justin is good enough that he’s expected to be named to the Butkus Award watch list when it’s announced on August 19. There is experience in the remaining linebackers, but all eyes will be on incoming freshmen Bradley Bullitt, Ben Hixson, and Marcus Mead in August.
The strength of the defense in both talent and depth will certainly be the secondary. Willie Andrews, Maurice Lane, C.J. Wilson, James Todd, Anthony Arline, and Michael Boyd are just a few of the names fans will hear about in 2004, but there are plenty more. Players redshirted last fall who will also be involved will be Nick Fellows, Kyle Seals, and Josh Bell, among others.
Senior linebacker Justin Crooks came on strong a year ago and the Baylor coaching staff is counting on him to assume an even bigger role in 2004. Recognized as an outstanding team leader, Crooks should contend for 2004 All- Big 12 Conference honors after ranking second on the team in total tackles as a junior with 72 stops (45 solo). Crooks was one of 60 players recently named to the Football Writers Association of America's 2004 Bronko Nagurski National Watch List, which is a compilation of college football's best defensive players regardless of position.
Special Teams Overview: Special teams at Baylor are spelled S-E-P-U-L-V-E-D-A, Daniel Sepulveda, that is. Daniel came out of nowhere last year as a non-scholarship redshirt freshman to wind up as one of the premier punters in the Big 12. Daniel averaged 43.1 yards per kick last fall, and will be counted on to pick up where he left off and be even better this year. Oh, and he was put on scholarship.
The other half of the kicking duties will fall on Kenny Webb who proved to be the most consistent of all kickers last fall. Like Sepulveda, Webb is also a former walk-on.
Defensive special teams will miss the "guided missile" Robert Quiroga, but someone from the redshirt ranks or hopefully a back-up, will step up to take his place.
Baylor may not win the Big 12 Title, but... they are beginning to take the shape of a team that may have a say in who does. Long the doormat of the Big 12 and the Big 12 South, the Bears are looking for some payback for some lopsided scores handed to them a season ago. If they can stay relatively healthy and have a couple of positions come around, they could begin to finally turn things around.
|2004 COLORADO BUFFALOES|
|Author: Mark Collins, BuffaloSportsNews.net|
Last Season's Record: 5-7 (4th place in Big 12 North Division)
Last Bowl Appearance: 2002 Alamo Bowl (31-28 OT loss to Wisconsin)
Key matchup(s): Sept. 4 CSU; Sept. 11 @Washington State; Oct. 2 @Missouri; Nov. 13 Kansas State; Nov. 26 @Nebraska.
Star Power: RB Bobby Purify, 6-2, 220-pound senior; QB Joel Klatt, 6-1, 210, senior; TE Joe Klopfenstein, 6-5, 240, junior.
Notable Additions: Abraham Wright, 6-3, 240 Juco transfer.
Notable Subtractions: RB Brian Calhoun, DB Sammy Joseph, DE Marques Harris, transfers; WR D.J. Hackett, WR Derek McCoy, LB Sean Tufts, graduation
Notable Returnees: DT Matt McChesney, 6-4, 285, senior; LB Brian Iwuh, 6-1, 220, junior, S J.J. Billingsley, 5-11, 190, junior, OG Brian Daniels, 6-4, 285, sophomore.
Offensive Overview: Klatt brings stability to the Colorado offense as both a passer and a manager of CU’s West Coast system. However, he’ll be working with a bevy of wide receivers that includes just one player with experience, senior Ron Monteilh. CU needs a couple of its talented, but untested receivers to prove themselves in August. The running game should be strong with the return of 5th-year senior Bobby Purify, as well as five other backs who the coaches think can help this season. Tight end is another strong point as Klopfenstein could be among the best in the Big 12 at the position. The offensive line looked better this past spring than it did in some games in 2003, a good sign.
Defensive Overview: After a dismal showing in 2003, Coach Gary Barnett fired coordinator Vince Okruch and replaced him with Mike Hankwitz, who brings a flexible 4-3 scheme to the Buffs, a squad that ran the 4-2-5 the past two seasons. Still, CU will be young in the secondary, where only Billingsley has extensive experience. The linebackers will be young, but could emerge as a strength on the defense. The defense line should also be good, led by junior workhorse James Garee at one end and McChesney in the middle. Colorado needs to get more pressure on the quarterback and keep from giving up the big pass play, something they failed miserably at last season.
Special Teams Overview: Returner Jeremy Bloom is hoping the NCAA will allow him to play in 2004 after he took endorsements for his skiing exploits to help fund his quest for a gold medal in the 2006 Olympics in freestyle skiing. The Buffs are planning on being without Bloom, however, but should be fine in the return game if redshirt-freshman Stephone Robinson can live up to his potential. Both P John Torp and PK Mason Crosby are solid, sometimes spectacular in the kicking game.
The Buffs can win eight games and earn a bowl berth this season if... the defense can overcome its youth and keep from giving up the long touchdown that killed them so often in 2003. Colorado will need to get back to a balanced attack on offense as well, after relying on the pass last season. Also, it’s unclear yet how a tumultuous offseason will affect the Buffs on the field in the fall, but the controversy surrounding the team seems to have drawn them closer together.
|2004 IOWA STATE CYCLONES|
|Author: Bill Seals, CycloneNation.com|
Last Season's Record: 2-10 (6th place in Big 12 North Division)
Last Bowl Appearance: 2002 Humanitarian Bowl (34-16 loss to Boise State)
Key matchup(s): Sept. 11 Iowa; Oct. 9 Texas A&M; Oct. 23 @Baylor
Star Power: Jason Berryman, DE, 6-2, 225, SO; Brandon Brown, LB, 6-0, 230, SR; Stevie Hicks, RB, 6-2, 215, R-SO; Ellis Hobbs, CB, 5-9, 190, SR; Cale Stubbe, OL, 6-4, 300, R-SR; Tony Yelk, P/PK, 6-1, 200, R-SR.
Notable Additions: Tim Dobbins, LB, 6-1, 245, Copiah-Lincoln (MS) C.C.; Jerry Gair, S, 6-0, 200, West Hills (Calif.) College; Josh Hargis, CB, 6-2, 170, Palomar (Calif.) College; Terrance Highsmith, WR, 6-1, 175, Fort Scott (KS) C.C.; Webster Patrick, RB, 5-8, 200, Spring (TX) Westfield HS; Jason Scales, RB, 5-9, 200, West Des Moines (IA) Valley HS; Tyease Thompson, RB, 5-10, 180, Lakeland (FL) George Jenkins HS.
Notable Subtractions: K Adam Benike, S JaMaine Billups, DT Jordan Carstens, WR Lane Danielsen, OL Bob Montgomery, OL Casey Shelton.
Notable Returnees: SLB Erik Anderson, OL Aaron Brant, DT Brent Curvey, QB Austin Flynn, NG Nick Leaders, WLB Tyson Smith, OL Luke Vander Sanden, TE James Wright III, OL Seth Zehr.
Offensive Overview: McCarney started the offseason by firing two offensive coaches, coordinator Steve Brickey and line coach Marty Fine, then replaced them with Nebraska’s Barney Cotton and South Carolina’s Todd Fitch, who also found themselves out of jobs for various reasons. The verdict is out on exactly what type of offense Cotton will employ this season, but he has said it will be a combination of what Kansas State and Missouri have run in recent years. Although Cotton is new in town, look for the Cyclones to return to the floor plan that made them successful in past seasons – a ground-based offense run by an athletic quarterback that can make plays in and out of the pocket. A strength of this offense figures to be the athleticism and play-making ability of quarterbacks Bret Meyer and Austin Flynn, who will battle for the starting job in camp. Returning tailback Stevie Hicks will get a majority of the carries in a run-based attack, but true freshman Jason Scales will also make an impact after arriving in time for spring ball. Inexperience could again be a weakness of this unit, as quarterback is not the only area where the Cyclones will be young. The offensive line and wide receiver positions will have an abundance of youth this fall as well. ISU will be successful on offense if it can make a huge turnaround up front, which will in turn give Cotton’s offense a chance to move the ball and find success.
Defensive Overview: Coordinator John Skladany will continue to employ a 4-3 attacking defense, which relies heavily on speed, athleticism, and playmaking linebackers. The Cyclones have liked to blitz in past seasons and drop back into zone defenses. Fans have criticized ISU for being too much of a ‘bend but don’t break’ defense, but that approach has been to mask weaknesses. Although this unit lost veterans like Jordan Carstens, JaMaine Billups and Marc Timmons, it could actually be even stronger this fall. Skladany is steadily upgrading his defensive speed through recent recruiting classes, and will have Big 12 defensive newcomer of the year Jason Berryman back at rush end. Plus, McCarney has said his defensive line could be the best since 2000 when the Cyclones won nine games. Brandon Brown has been a steady linebacker for Skladany since contributing as a true freshman, but now the coach hopes improved depth at linebacker will keep him healthy throughout an entire season. The return of Tyson Smith from a broken leg will bolster the Cyclone defense. The fifth-year senior has been moved from defensive end to linebacker. In the back end, coaches enter fall camp with some uncertainty. Although JUCO transfers Josh Hargis, Jerry Gair and LaMarcus Hicks come to Ames with impressive credentials, they also have yet to play Big 12 football and will be needed to step into the fray immediately. ISU will be successful on defense if it can… Do two things: Get all of its questions answered in the secondary, and, unlike last fall when impact players dropped like flies, remain healthy all season.
Special Teams Overview: Senior Tony Yelk will attempt to handle the duties of punter, place-kicker, and kickoff man this season. He originally signed with the Cyclones as a kicker, but has found most of his success punting the ball in Ames. But the loss of kicker Adam Benike has given Yelk one more chance at kicking. ISU must upgrade its overall special teams play this fall. A pool of redshirt freshmen and first-year running backs should bolster ISU’s punt and kick return game. Coaches Terry Allen and DeMontie Cross are now co-special teams coordinators, and the two have already made some adjustments in how the Cyclones coach the unit.
The Cyclones will return to their winning ways if... the offensive line can make huge strides under Cotton, which will pave the way for Hicks to rush for 1,000 yards; ISU can settle on either Meyer or Flynn as its quarterback for the entire season; and three JUCO newcomers to the secondary pan out and play big roles in what will be an inexperienced secondary.
|2004 KANSAS JAYHAWKS|
|Author: Kevin Flaherty, Phog.net|
Last Season's Record: 6-7 (4th place in Big 12 North Division)
Last Bowl Appearance: 2003 Tangerine Bowl (56-26 loss to North Carolina State)
Key matchup(s): @Northwestern (Sept. 18), Texas Tech (Sept. 25), @Missouri (Nov. 20)
Star Power: RB Clark Green 5-foot-11 220 pounds Junior, WR Brandon Rideau 6-4, 190 Senior, WR Mark Simmons 5-11 175 Junior, C Joe Vaughn 6-1 285 Senior, LB Gabe Toomey 6-4 235 Junior, LB Banks Floodman 6-3 230 Junior, LB Nick Reid 6-4 226 Junior, CB/WR/PR Charles Gordon 5-11 170 Sophomore.
Notable Additions: QB Jason Swanson 6-0 190 JC Transfer, RB Gary Green II San Antonio, Tex., **DE Charlton Keith 6-5 230 JC Transfer DT James McClinton 6-1 295 Garland, Tex., DT Todd Haselhorst 6-5 290 Olathe, Kan., CB Theo Baines 5-11 190 JC Transfer, S Rodney Harris 6-0 185 JC Transfer P/K Kyle Tucker 6-2 205 Katy, Tex.
**(pending academic status)
Notable Subtractions: QB Bill Whittemore (graduation), LT Adrian Jones (fourth round NFL Draft- New York Jets), RT Danny Lewis (graduation), DE Monroe Weekley (left program), DT Phil Tuihalamaka (left program), DT Chuck Jones (left program), P Curtis Ansel (undrafted, signed by Detroit Lions).
Notable Returnees: QB Adam Barmann 6-4 210 Sophomore, RB John Randle 6-0 185 Sophomore, G Bob Whittaker 6-5 320 Sophomore, DE David McMillan 6-3 240 Senior, DT Travis Watkins 6-4 295 Senior, LB Kevin Kane 6-1 225 Junior, LB Brandon Perkins 6-1 225 Junior, S Tony Stubbs 5-10 200 Senior.
Offensive Overview:The Kansas offense must replace Bill Whittemore, who set a school record with 18 touchdown passes last season. While his leadership will be missed, the Kansas offense relies on short passes like slants and screens that enable quarterbacks to become comfortable quickly. Barmann is ahead of Swanson for the quarterback race based on his knowledge of the offense. Running back and receiver return experienced talent. Look for Kansas to run the ball a little more this year to alleviate the pressure in the inexperienced quarterback, and take advantage of a loaded backfield and physical offensive line. Mangino said this line has a chance to be the best he’s had at Kansas, with Adrian Jones being replaced by Cesar Rodriguez, a budding star. The line does lack depth, so an injury or two could shortchange the unit.
Defensive Overview: The defense should be much improved from last season’s unit which allowed offenses 4.9 yards per carry and a 62.1 percent pass completion rate. It all starts with the linebackers as Toomey, Floodman and Reid are all honors candidates and depth abounds. Potentially the two most talented newcomers, Mike Rivera and Joe Mortensen, will find playing time tough to come by this season because of the logjam of talent. The defensive line has no depth after the departures of five players from last season and Tuihalamaka. To make matters worse, possible starter DE John McCoy was called up for duty and DE Charlton Keith has yet to qualify. Watkins and McMillan form a strong starting point on the line, and Haselhorst and McClinton might have to play right away. Gordon, Baines, Harris and Stubbs form what should be a much-improved secondary.
Special Teams Overview: Scott Webb redshirted last season and should compete with Johnny Beck, Jerod Brooks and newcomers Jeff Edwards and Kyle Tucker for the starting position. Shoddy kicking cost the Jayhawks several times last season. Curtis Ansel may have been the best defensive player last season for his ability to directional punt and pin opposing teams near the goal line. Tucker, Chris Tyrell and Walker Douglas are in the battle to replace him.
The Jayhawks can go to another bowl game this season if... The non-conference schedule goes well. Whoever plays quarterback will have to grow up quickly as the non-conference schedule includes two 2003 bowl teams in Tulsa and Northwestern, and Toledo, a team poised just outside of the Top 25 to start the season. If they win all three, they should be confident heading into the Big 12 opener against Texas Tech at Memorial Stadium, a winnable game. Every team on the schedule is capable of putting up a fight, so the Jayhawks will have to play well every week and snatch an upset or two to repeat last season’s result.
|2004 KANSAS STATE WILDCATS|
|Author: Sean Kelly, KStateFans.com|
Last Season's Record: 11-4-0 (1st place in Big 12 North Division, AP No. 14)
Last Bowl Appearance: 2004 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (35-28 Loss to Ohio State)
Key matchup(s): Oct. 2 @Texas A&M, Oct. 16 Oklahoma, Oct. 23 Nebraska.
Star Power: Darren Sproles, Running Back, Senior, 5-7, 180 pds, Antoine POLITE, WR (6-2, 195, Sr.), Cedrick WILLIAMS, Corner Back (5-10, 170, Sr.), Jermaine BERRY, DT(6-0, 295, Sr.-1L)
Notable Additions: Matt Boss OL 6-4 310 Fr. Cherryvale, Kan. (Cherryvale) Yamon Figurs WR 6-0 175 Jr. Lakeland, Fla. (Garden City CC/Westwood) Kyle Williams DB 6-1 195 Jr. Pine Bluff, Ark. (Navarro JC/Watson Chapel) Ro Grigsby WR 6-4 185 Fr. Dayton, Ohio (Northmont)
Notable Subtractions: Josh Buhl, LB (NFL), Ell Roberson, QB (Graduated), Nick Leckey OL (NFL), Josh Buhl- LB (NFL), Ell Roberson- QB (Graduated), OL Nick Leckey (NFL), LB Bryan Hickman (NFL), WR James Terry (NFL), LB Bryan Hickman (NFL), WR James Terry (NFL).
Notable Returnees: QB Dylan MEIER (6-4, 205, So.), QB Allen WEBB (6-3, 205, So.), WR Jermaine MOREIRA (5-11, 190, So.), WR Tony MADISON (6-3, 205, Sr.)
Offensive Overview: When the Wildcats are on offense- It all starts and stops with Darren Sproles who finished fifth in the Heisman voting in 2003. Darren is the heart and soul of the offense and will be looked to early and often to carry the load offensively for the Cats. Darren will be running behind a less experienced line this year due to graduation hits and Cat fans may need to have patience- as the OL will need time to gel. Keep in mind that this is the running back that ripped off 247 yards against the Sooners and what Bob Stoops made painful effort to point out on national television as the "number one rated defense in the country". Yea those Sooners. The bigger question mark is the QB position where the Cats will go to a sophomore for the first time since 2001 when Roberson was first breaking in under center. Dylan Meier and Allen Webb are your candidates and both have shown the ability to win the starting job during spring ball. Both are talented and capable of moving the ball and the chains, while Webb has been described as the second coming of Ell. Right now it is a toss up and only Head Coach Bill Snyder himself probably knows who gets the nod under center. Early on look, for the Cats to run the ball and break in new faces along the OL while trying to find the QB that will provide the offense that Coach Snyder desires in his 16th year as Head Coach.
Defensive Overview: The Lynch Mob took a hit again but around these parts it is not rebuild it is reload. The Cats will be looking at lots of new faces again on defense but the style of play will be the same- aggressive and stifling. The Cats got great news this off-season as Andrew Bulman was awarded another year of eligibility and will be the workhorse along the DL. Although the loss of Buhl cannot be understated, this year’s squad is loaded with senior leadership. All but one senior will man the secondary with Cedrick Williams highlighting what could be a very stingy defense. The Cats will again look to completely shut down opposing team’s running games and then use pressure to get to the quarterbacks and force play. Berry, Bulman and "the Freak" Kevin Huntley will be counted on upfront to apply the push and will determine how aggressive the Cats can get on defense. Look for the Cats to again put their corners on islands and turn loose the Lynch Mob from an assortment of blitz packages.
Team Overview: Coming off the first Wildcat Big 12 Conference Championship, as well as the first BCS Bowl bid in school history and even the casual fan can see that expectations are high for the program. In talking with players and coaches however, that’s all in the past. Gone are seniors Ell Roberson, Nick Leckey, Josh Buhl and James Terry and with them a good part of the senior leadership. Once again however, Coach Snyder has replenished the cupboard signing 26 recruits in this year’s class and the words potential and talented are associated with this year’s squad. The cupboard is not bear but as usual, these Cats will look to field new faces at new positions and find the best combinations. Darren Sproles is geared for a run at the Heisman and undoubtedly will be looked to carry the offense early on while Coach Snyder revamps an offensive line.
The Wildcats will finish up the season and repeat as Big 12 Champions if... they can find a suitable replacement for Ell Roberson at the Quarterback position and Darren Sproles stays health and makes his move on the Heisman. It really boils down to one of the Sophomore QB’s stepping up to take the reins of the offense and then getting out of Darren Sproles way. Sproles has the ability to literally carry this team as far as it will go and the Cats have both the potential and the talent in place to repeat as Conference Champs. I predict yet another 11 win season for Coach Snyder and the Kansas State Wildcats and another run at a BCS Bowl.
|2004 MISSOURI TIGERS|
|Author: Brad Burgess, InsideMizzou.com|
Last Season's Record: 8-5 (3rd place in Big 12 North Division)
Last Bowl Appearance: 2003 Independence Bowl (14-27 loss to Arkansas)
Key matchup(s): Colorado (October 2), @Texas (October 16), @Nebraska (October 30), Kansas State (November 6).
Star Power: Brad Smith (quarterback, junior, 6’3 201), Damien Nash (running back, junior, 5’11 215), C.J. Mosley (defensive tackle, junior, 6’3 305), Atiyyah Ellison (defensive tackle, senior, 6’4 305), James Kinney (middle linebacker, senior, 6'1 240).
Notable Additions: Chase Patton (quarterback, Rockbridge High School, 6’4 210), Van Alexander (linebacker, Rockbridge High School, 6'-1, 220), Tony Temple (running back, Rockhurst High School, 5’10 190), William Franklin (wide receiver, Vashon High School, 6’2 185), George Lane (defensive tackle, junior, College of the Siskiyous, 6’3 275).
Notable Subtractions: Zach Abron, running back; A.J. Ricker, center; Rob Droege, offensive tackle; Michael Harden, cornerback, Sonny Riccio, quarterback (transferred to Delaware), Orlando Gooden, linebacker (transferred to Indiana State).
Offensive Overview: For the past two seasons, Missouri's offense has gone as quarterback Brad Smith has gone. Smith is being mentioned prominently as a Heisman Trophy candidate in 2004, and why not? As a freshman, he became only the second player in NCAA Division One history to pass for 2,000 yards and rush for another 1,000 yards. He was only a few yards shy in the passing department last season from doing it two years in a row. Missouri's focus during the spring was to improve the passing game, where the Tigers struggled in several games last year. The Tigers must also replace Zach Abron, who became the school's all-time leading rusher last season, not based on long break-away runs, but rather solid, consistent performance for four full years. Abron's power and reliability will be replaced by Damien Nash's speed and slashing ability. Nash, no small back himself, was one of the most heralded running backs from the state of Missouri coming out of high school. He will share carries with electric redshirt freshman, Marcus Woods from Detroit. Woods has drawn comparisons to Barry Sanders and Kansas State's Darren Sproles in his size and running style. Missouri's offense will go only as far as its new offensive line will take it, however. Gone are stalwarts, A.J. Ricker and Rob Droege. Enter redshirt freshmen Adam Spieker at center and Tyler Luellen at offensive tackle. The receivers were a question mark for the Tigers last year. Mizzou returns three starters from last year, but this group will be pushed by a talented group of redshirt freshmen and true freshmen.
Defensive Overview: Since Gary Pinkel arrived four years ago, Mizzou's defense has taken consistent steps forward toward consistency. However, Mizzou struggled when they faced solid rushing teams during 2003 such as Kansas State and Oklahoma. The Tigers adjusted by installing a 4-3 defense and adding another linebacker to the mix. Missouri's front four should be its strong suit on this side of the ball. Zach Ville and Xzavie Jackson will be the Tigers' starters at defensive end, while Atiyyah Ellison and C.J. Mosley will anchor the middle of the line. This unit will compare favorably to the top defensive lines in the conference. Mizzou's linebacking corps will consist of senior James Kinney and Dedrick Harrington on the inside, and converted tailback, David Richard at the outside backer position. Harrington and Richard bring size and speed to the table, but they are short on experience at this point. The secondary is set at safety with Nino Williams II and Jason Simpson. Their cornerbacks will likely be Shirdonya Mitchell and A.J. Kincaid, but this will be a key battle ground during fall camp.
Special Teams Overview: The Tigers did a credible job on punt and kickoff coverage during 2003. They also had solid return men who handled the ball cleanly and gained positive yardage. However, going into 2004, the special teams are among Pinkel's greatest concerns. Senior Brock Harvey should be fully healed from off-season ankle surgery, and it hoped that he'll return to his 2002 form this season. The placekicking spot vacated by Mike Matheny will likely fall to Alex Pettersen, who struggled to win the job against walk-on competition in the spring.
Mizzou will win eight games if... Brad Smith stays healthy, the offensive line grows up quickly, and the punting and kicking games are at least respectable. The defense should be improved and there appears to be sufficient depth there to avoid any significant drop off if injuries occur there. Mizzou's schedule appears to be favorable for an eight-, nine-, or ten-win season if the Tigers take care of business against the teams they should beat and improve their road performance.
|2004 NEBRASKA HUSKERS|
|Author: Steve Ryan, BigRedReport.com|
Last Season's Record: 10-3 (2nd in Big 12 North Division, ESPN/USA TODAY No. 18, AP No. 19)
Last Bowl Appearance: 2003 Alamo Bowl (17-3 over Michigan State)
Key matchup(s): Oct. 23 @Kansas State, Oct. 30 Missouri, Nov. 13 @Oklahoma
Star Power: MLB Barrett Ruud 6-2 240 Sr, FS Josh Bullocks 6-0 205 Jr, TE Matt Herian 6-5 240 Jr, OL Richie Incognito 6-3 300 Jr, CB Fabian Washington 5-11 180 Jr
Notable Additions: OT Lydon Murtha 6-7 300, DB Cortney Grixby 5-9 130, RB Brandon Jackson 6-0 220, QB Jordan Adams 6-3 200, OL Danny Muy 6-3 290
Notable Subtractions: WLB Demorrio Williams 6-1 215, DE Trevor Johnson 6-4 250, NT Ryon Bingham 6-3 295, all drafted into the NFL
Notable Returnees: DE Adam Carriker 6-6 275 So, DT Le Kevin Smith 6-2 305 Jr , RB Cory Ross 5-6 195 Jr
Offensive Overview: Breaking in a new offense is one thing, but going from a run-oriented tradition of 30+ years that favored the "option", now suddenly opting for the "West Coast", that’s not going to be an easy transition for NU. Expect the running backs and tight ends to be involved in the passing game more than they ever have as the West Coast dictates heavy use of the tight end and Bill Callahan’s habits from the NFL are to use the running backs as prominent receivers coming out of the backfield. The receivers for NU while uncommonly good for the option are going to get a baptism by fire. Expect players like Isaiah Fluellen to thrive though, the Sophomore able to do just about everything including stretching the field almost at will.
The offensive line will be the question for Nebraska though and right now it’s a wide-open race as to who will be where. The only cemented position is at center, returning starter and All-American candidate Richie Incognito moving inside from the left tackle position.
How that line does early on could dictate who the starter is at QB, the two favorites right now being incumbent, Joe Dailey and JUCO transfer Jordan Adams. Dailey’s the more fleet-footed of the two, but if the line holds, Adams’ experience in the West Coast could give him the advantage. Look for Cory Ross to have a big year running and catching the ball, but David Horne has came on of late and could push Ross all year for the top position.
Defensive Overview: The best news for Nebraska’s offense will be this Nebraska defense as they will no doubt shoulder the load for the team early on. They are capable of doing it to, this unit ranking as one of the best returning groups in the country. FS, Josh Bullocks led the country in interceptions last year and MLB, Barrett Ruud could be on his way to being a top 10-15 pick in the NFL draft. Add to that the deepest group of rush ends in years, NU is heavy on talent, front to back. Depth is the issue right now, but with a very friendly early schedule, Nebraska will be able to figure out who’s where and exactly what they have by the time the real games approach. Also look for CB, Fabian Washington to make a return to prominence as the new Kevin Cosgrove (the new DC) "man" coverage system will once again favor the cornerbacks, whereas their predominate "zone" favored the safeties last season. This unit was one of the best last year and don’t expect that to change this year. The only question is if they will be able to get off the field.
Special Teams Overview: Losing one of the best punters in the country is a major blow for Nebraska. Kyle Larson was so good at pinning offenses deep in fact, interim head coach and defensive coordinator gave Larson a "blackshirt", a jersey normally only for starters on the defensive side of the ball as Pelini considered him a defenses’ best friend. Replacing him will be Sam Koch who while he has a great leg doesn’t have any experience in doing what Larson did so seemingly effortlessly, so this will be his chance to learn. At kicker, Nebraska returns starter, David Dyches, who didn’t have a great season last year, but as a true Frosh., he still managed to go perfect on his extra points and scored 74 points on the season. The question for Nebraska will be on who will be doing the kickoffs as they have been experimenting with numerous players all year. In the return dept., it’s almost anyone’s position right now, a bevy of players having been tried out for the position. RB, Cory Ross, FS, Josh Bullocks and many others are contending for the job. Don’t be surprised though if incoming freshman, Cortney Grixby isn’t given a shot at the position as well, Grixby being fairly small, but devastatingly explosive, especially on the run.
The Huskers can win eight games this season if... they can avoid any major injuries and find some continuity on the offensive line. Seriously, this is potentially a very solid team, easily capable of contending for the Big XII North. But, it starts and ends with that offensive line and as they go, so will the Huskers. If Callahan can find the right combination in the trenches so that the QB has some time to work this "West Coast" attack, Nebraska has more than enough defensive power to make this not just a good team, but a team that most of the Big XII wouldn’t want to play. The only game that would seem not to be winnable for Nebraska at this point is the road-trip to Oklahoma. Other than that, NU has a chance to come out looking pretty good. If the O-line is solid, Nebraska is going to be equally solid all year.
|2004 OKLAHOMA SOONERS|
|Author: Brian Bishop, OUInsider.com|
Last Season's Record: 12-2 (1st place in Big 12 South Division, AP No. 3)
Last Bowl Appearance: 2004 Sugar Bowl (21-14 loss to LSU)
Key matchup(s): Sept. 18 Oregon, Oct. 9 Texas, Oct. 16 @Kansas State, Oct. 30 @Oklahoma State, Nov. 6 @Texas A&M, Nov. 14 Nebraska.
Star Power: QB Jason White, WR Mark Clayton, OT Jammal Brown, DE Dan Cody, DT Dusty Dvoracek, LB Lance Mitchell, S Donte Nicholson.
Notable Additions: RB Adrian Peterson, Palestine, Texas; DT Remi Ayodele, NEO JC; Chijioke Onyenegecha, San Francisco CC.
Notable Subtractions: CB Derrick Strait, DT Tommie Harris, LB Teddy Lehman and S Brandon Everage.
Notable Returnees: WR Brandon Jones, WR JeJuan Rankins, WR Will Peoples, FB J.D. Runnels, RB Kejuan Jones, OL Wes Sims, OL Kelvin Chaisson, OL Davin Joseph, OL Vince Carter, FS Brodney Pool, LB Gayron Allen. Offensive Overview: Heisman trophy quarterback Jason White and wide receiver Mark Clayton are back, and so are eight other starters from an offensive unit that ranked third nationally in scoring offense at 42.9 points per game last season. Junior running back Kejuan Jones returns after rushing for 925 yards a year ago, but all eyes will be on true freshman running back Adrian Peterson during two-a-days. He arrived on campus in early June to get an early start learning OU's system and the word from Norman is that the Texas native already has the size, speed and game-breaking ability needed to take the Sooner running game and offense to another level. The only question is how quickly can he learn the offense and most importantly, the blocking schemes and techniques, needed to protect White in passing situations? However, OU's running backs will have plenty of help as the Sooners return all five starters on the offensvie line.
Defensive Overview: Is it really possible that the major question mark facing a Bob Stoops coached team is the defense? Sure, the Sooners don't have six starters from last year's defense, including Outland winner Tommie Harris, Butkus winner Teddy Lehman, Thorpe winner Derrick Strait and co-defensive coordinator Mike Stoops (now head coach at Arizona), but don't expect Oklahoma's defense to drop off much in 2004, if at all. More than capable replacements are waiting in the wings and that includes on the coaching staff, where former Nebraska defensive coordinator Bo Pelini replaces Mike Stoops. Senior linebacker Lance Mitchell, who led the team in tackles last season before suffering a season-ending knee injury, returns to fill the gap left by Lehman. Defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek, who actually recorded more tackles and sacks than Harris a year ago, is a star in the making and junior safety Brodney Pool is finally ready to step into a full-time starting role at safety to ease the departure of Brandon Everage. Pool led the Sooners with seven interceptions last season. The only major question mark heading into two-a-days is who will replace Derrick Strait at cornerback?
Special Teams Overview: Don't look here for a weakness. The Sooners return kicker Trey DiCarlo, punter Blake Ferguson and punt returner Antonio Perkins. The senior cornerback set NCAA records a year ago for touchdown returns in one game (3) and punt return yards in a game (277) last season against UCLA. He is also one punt return TD shy of the tying the NCAA career mark of eight, set by Texas Tech receiver Wes Welker.
The Sooners can win the Big 12 title if... they can find a suitable replacement for Strait at cornerback and develop a more consistent rushing attack. There are plenty of candidates to replace Strait, including former junior college All-American Chijioke Onyenegecha, juniors Eric Bassey and Jowahn Poteat as well as true freshman Marcus Walker. Yet the jury is still out as to just how well they will be able to fill the shoes of the former four-year starter. As for the running game, Oklahoma ran just enough to keep the defenses honest, except in their two losses to Kansas State and Louisiana State. The Sooners averaged 146.7 yards per game, but only mustered 83 yards on the ground against the Wildcats in the Big 12 title game and 52 against the Tigers in the Sugar Bowl.
|2004 OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS|
|Author: Robert Allen, O-State Sports Report|
Last Season's Record: 9-4 (3rd place in Big 12 South Division)
Last Bowl Appearance: 2003 Cotton Bowl (31-28 loss to Ole Miss)
Key matchup(s): Sept. 4 @UCLA (ABC TV), Oct. 30 Oklahoma, Nov. 6 @Texas, Nov. 27 @Texas Tech (Fox Sports Net).
Star Power: Sam Mayes OG 6-3 330 Sr, D'Juan Woods WR 6-1 195 So, Billy Bajema TE 6-5 265 Sr, Shawn Willis FB 6-1 260 Jr, Vernand Morency TB 5-10 215 Jr, Clay Coe DT 6-2 295 Sr, Lawrence Pinson LB 6-1 240 Jr, Paul Duren LB 6-1 240 Jr, Darrent Williams CB 5-9 175 Sr, Robert Jones CB 5-11 190 Sr, Cole Farden K/P 5-11 200 Sr.
Notable Additions: Robert Reid QB 6-3 225 Galena Park (North Shore) TX, Prentiss Elliott WR 6-0 175 Tulsa (TSST) OK, Roderick Johnson LB 6-3 255 Galveston (Ball) TX, Walter Thomas DT 6-5 340 Galveston (Ball) TX.
Notable Subtractions: Rashaun Woods WR 1st Round Draft-San Francisco 49ers, Tatum Bell RB 2nd Round Draft-Denver Broncos, Antonio Smith DE 4th Round Draft-Arizona Cardinals, Greg Richmond DE Free Agent-Philadelphia Eagles, Josh Fields QB 1st Round Baseball Draft-Chicago White Sox.
Notable Returnees: Corey Hilliard OL 6-5 300 So, Chris Akin OL 6-2 300 Sr, Charlie Johnson TE 6-4 270 Jr, Donovan Woods QB 6-2 215 RS Fr, Marque Fountain DE 6-1 260 So, Vernon Grant SS 5-9 180 Jr.
Team Overview: The Oklahoma State Cowboys will be a mixture of old and new this season. The offense will be missing the triplet attack of quarterback Josh Fields, tailback Tatum Bell, and All America wide receiver Rashaun Woods. Fields is hitting baseballs in the White Sox organization after being a number one selection in the draft. Bell is in Denver after the Broncos picked him in the second round, while Woods was the top pick of the 49ers in the first round of the NFL Draft. That is a lot of offense to replace for head coach Les Miles and company.
The defense is more veteran as the entire linebacker corps and most of the secondary return along with some young, but somewhat experienced defensive linemen. The defense is projected to be the best it's been since Miles and his staff arrived in Stillwater for the 2001 season. The offense will be a little bit of a throwback to Miles' days as offensive coordinator at OSU backs in the mid 90's.
Offensive Overview: New faces and a little bit of an X and O makeover will highlight the Coiwboys on offense this fall. Following the spring it looked like freshman star Robert Reid would battle redshirt freshman Donovan Woods for the quarterback duty, but a shoulder injury to Reid looks like it will sideline him much, if not all, of the season and youngest of the Woods brothers should be the quarterback. At 6-2, 220 pounds and with 4.5 speed, Woods will re-open a chapter in the Miles' playbook that hasn't ben used since the head coach was the Cowboy offensive coordinator and had Tony Lindsay at quarterback on the way to the 1997 Alamo Bowl. Woods is an excellent runner with speed and power, but is also an underrated passer that just needs some game experience. The key according to Miles and current offensive coordinator Mike Gundy is to do the things that Woods is comfortable with and avoid mistakes. Woods did lead his high school team, Oklahoma City Millwood, to three straight Class 3A State Championships.
Woods will have plenty of talent around him as tailback Vernand Morency nearly rushed for 1,000-yards last season while filling in for the injured Tatum Bell. Seymore Shaw and Greg Jones are veterans at tailback too. Shawn Willis may be one of the best fullbacks in the country, just ask Big 12 linebackers. Willis is a 6-3, 260 pounder that runs a 4.6 and benches 400 pounds plus. The offensive line returns all of it's starters including All Big 12 guard Sam Mayes. Tight ends Billy Bajema and Charlie Johnson are both very experienced and can catch and block. Wide receiver may be a mystery as another Woods brother D'Juan is the leader and top talent. There is more talent there, but consistency is a question going into the season.
The offense willl be successful if Woods makes a smooth transition from watching and learning to executing and if a couple of other receivers emerge. The running game will be there and Woods just adds to the weaponry in that phase of the offense. Opposing pass rushers will need to tread more carefully for fear of letting Woods loose on the scramble.
Defensive Overview: Defensively, start with the best pair of cornerbacks Oklahoma State may have ever had in Darrent Williams, who has returned four interceptions for touchdowns in his career, and Robert Jones. They have great speed and cover ability. Add in the secondary an aggressive Vernon Grant, Jon Holland, Jamie Thompson, Thomas Wright, and Jamar Ransom as veteran safeties in the 4-2-5 alignment and you have a recipe for defensive coordinator Bill Clay to get aggressive up front. The linebackers run from the steady Paul Duren, who has led the team in tackles the past two seasons, to the physical Lawrence Pinson, to the spectacular Victor DeGrate. A new freshman that reported early in the spring in Roderick Johnson will also see some playing time.
The defensive line is young with senior Clay Coe, a returning starter, as the only old man in the group. However, defensive tackles Xavier Lawson-Kennedy and Brad Girtman played a lot last season with junior college product Efe Mowarin. At defensive end sophomore Marque Fountain is getting All Conference mention in the preseason. He is joined by 6-4, 265 pound Jerry Don Bray and a host of other young defensive ends that have been waiting for their chance.
The defense will be a success, and may carry a heavy share of the load early if the corners stay healthy and play like they have in the past. The defensive line needs to hold up their end of the bargain.
Special Teams Overview: Special teams, especially Darrent Williams on punt returns and returning punter and kickoff specialist Cole Farden, will be a contributor to success. The majority of the coverage units are back with plenty of young players eager to get out there and join special teams coordinator Joe DeForest's "one play and out" crew. The one lingering problem to solve going into the preseason is who will replace Luke Phillips on extra points an field goals. Farden is competing for that duty along with redshirt freshman Luke Roberts and true freshman Jason Ricks.
The Cowboys should be on their way to a third bowl game in as many years... despite the changes on offense. The talent level has imporved greatly through recruiting efforts. They will debut a new and improved Boone Pickens Stadium that has seen phase I of a three-year expansion completed. Key games include the opener at UCLA. OSU has not won an opener yet under Miles. Other big games include a trip to Missouri, a home date with conference favorite Oklahoma, who OSU has beaten two of the past three seasons, and a finale on the road at Texas Tech.
|2004 TEXAS LONGHORNS|
|Author: Bill Frisbie, InsideTexas.com|
Last Season's Record: 10-3 (2nd Place in Big 12 South Division, USA Today/ESPN No. 11 / AP No. 12)
Last Bowl Appearance: 2003 Holiday Bowl (28-20 loss to Washington State
Key matchup(s): @Arkansas (Sept. 11), Oklahoma (Oct. 9), Missouri (Oct. 16), @Texas Tech (Oct. 23)
Star Power: WLB Derrick Johnson, RB Cedric Benson, QB Vince Young
Notable Additions: DT Frank Okam, S Drew Kelson, WR Jordan Shipley, OL Cedric Dockery, WR Nate Jones
Notable Subtractions: SE Roy Williams, DT Marcus Tubbs, CB Nathan Vasher, FL B.J. Johnson
Notable Returnees: LDT Rodrique Wright, TE David Thomas, QB Chance Mock, FS Phillip Geiggar, FB Will Matthews, OT Justin Blalock
Offensive Overview: Texas re-invented itself offensively at mid-season, implementing a Zone Read scheme and replacing Mock with Young at quarterback. The makeover revitalized a sputtering ground game as Texas finished No. 8 nationally (232.5 ypg) in rushing offense. Benson averaged 167 ypg during the last five contests of the regular season and led the nation in rushing touchdowns (21) on the season. Young's 7.4 ypc was second to none in D-I football. The scheme sometimes rendered former SE (and Detroit first-round draft pick) Roy Williams into college football's best decoy in 2003. Mock considered transferring after his 8-to-1 TD to INT ratio (16-to-2) was tops nationally yet his playing time diminished as the season progressed. Now, coaches want both signalcallers to run the same plays to keep defenses from preparing for Young as the running quarterback and Mock as the designated passer. Texas is placing its most prolific receiving corps in school history. With just 277 career receiving yards on 24 catches, FL Tony Jeffery is Texas' top returning wideout. Coaches look to involve experienced tight ends (including sixth-year senior Bo Scaife) and the backfield in the passing game to allow new receivers time to adjust. New WR coach Bobby Kennedy joined Brown's staff this spring from Washington after former assistant Darryl Drake accepted the same job with the Chicago Bears. Brown pronounced Thomas as the unofficial MVP of spring drills for his work ethic and versatility allowing him to be cross-trained at wing and at fullback. A seasoned offensive line stacks up as potentially one of the best in Brown's tenure at Texas.
Defensive Overview: Brown is convinced defensive improvement is key to getting an otherwise successful program "over the hump" and into the BCS promised land. A Longhorn unit that led the nation in total defense just three years ago has seen its rush defense slide toward mediocrity (152.5 ypg, No. 58 nationally in 2003). Former Kansas City Chiefs Defensive Coordinator Greg Robinson is now directing the UT defense, along with Co-Defensive Coordinator Duane Akina. Former Arizona head coach (and architect of the renowned Desert Swarm defense) Dick Tomey is now in charge of DEs. Texas will still base out of a 4-3, but Brown wants to force more turnovers by incorporating more zone coverage and zone blitzes into what has typically been a man-to-man scheme in the secondary. Johnson is the Butkus Award favorite and Texas' first All-American linebacker since 1983. He'll anchor a linebacking corps that, along with junior Aaron Harris and redshirt sophomore Garnet Smith, promises to be the fiercest at Texas in recent memory. Geiggar is the old man of a defensive backfield that is loaded with young and capable talent. Wright is as solid a DT as there is in the country, leading the team in both QB pressures (30) and QB sacks (7.5) last season. Former prep All-American Larry Dibbles replaces Tubbs at the RT tackle spot but Brown said stud recruit Okam is a "sudden impact" player who should compete for playing time. Depth at DE remains a concern, but Mike Williams and Tim Crowder are explosive off the edge.
Special Teams Overview: Senior Dusty Mangum, a three-year starter at PK, missed the Texas A&M game and Holiday Bowl due to leg injury and is in a battle with junior David Pino for the starting spot. Walk-on junior Richmond McGee shook off a shaky start in 2003 and emerged as a dependable starter handling both punting and kickoff duties. In fact, McGee held off scholarship athlete and freshman All-American Vanderbilt transfer Greg Johnson for the starting nod during spring. Speedy Selvin Young will likely return both punts and kickoffs, proving he can do both with two TD returns (one KO, one PR) in the season opener last year versus New Mexico State. CB Tarell Brown is also slated to return kicks.
A 2004 title run is possible if... Texas can end its four-year skid against arch rival Oklahoma. Mack Brown has produced the best six-year start in program history and is the only active Division-I coach who has led teams to nine-plus win seasons in each of the last eight years. Yet Texas is still looking for its first Big 12 championship and BCS berth under Brown. The rest of the games are winnable for the talented Longhorns.
|2004 TEXAS A&M AGGIES|
|Author: Staff, 12thFan.com|
Last Season's Record: 4-8 (5th place in Big 12 South Division, AP No. 12)
Last Bowl Appearance: 2001 Gallery Furniture Bowl (28-9 win against TCU)
Key matchup(s): @Utah (Sept 2, ESPN 7:00 p.m. National), @Oklahoma State (Oct 16, TBA), Texas Tech (Nov 13, TBA)
Star Power: Courtney Lewis (running back, Soph, 5’11 195), Terrence Murphy (wide receiver, Senior, 6’1 195), Jaxson Appel (free safety, Jr., 5’11 195), Michael Montgomery (Defensive End, Sr., 6’6 275)
Notable Additions: Lee Foliaki (linebacker, Jr., Butler County Community College, 6’3 235) Terrence Smith (linebacker, Jr., Northwest Mississippi Junior College, 6’3 240) Aaron Brown (linebacker, Jr., Compton Community College, 6’2 235) William Morrisey (defensive tackle, Fr. H.S., Silsbee High school, 6’2 280) Stephen McGee (quarterback, Fr. H.S., Burnet High School, 6’3 210)
Notable Subtractions: Jamar Taylor (wide receiver, New York Giants 6th round pick, 6’1 205) Derek Farmer (runningback, Sr., Transfer to Stephen F. Austin, 5’11 210) Dustin Long (quarterback, Sr., Transfer Sam Houston State, 6’3 190)
Notable Returnees: Jason Jack (defensive end, Rfr., 6’4 270) Red Bryant (defensive tackle, Rfr., 6’5 310) Reggie McNeal (quarterback, Jr., 6’3 190) Jami Hightower (offensive tackle, Jr., 6’3 345) Geoff Hangartner (center, Sr., 6’5 310)
Offensive Overview: Although the Aggies amassed 4678 yards of total offense last year, they only scored 304 total points on the season (73 against Baylor). But the Aggies return 9 starters on offense, so look for these numbers to climb in 2004.
Texas A&M runs a multiple offense, utilizing both run and pass-based elements. Last year the Ags often ran multiple wide out sets as well as the basic I formation. With players like QB Reggie McNeal, RB Courtney Lewis, and WR Terrence Murphy, Head Coach Dennis Franchione has several options.
Three starters return on the offensive line, including OT Jami Hightower who missed all of last season. Also returning is RB Courtney Lewis who rushed for 1024 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2003. Joining Lewis is WR Terrence Murphy, considered to be one of the top wideouts in the Big XII. QB Reggie McNeal also returns for his second season as a starter. After a rough first year, look for McNeal to rebound as more talent and experience surrounds him.
While Texas A&M has solid starters on offense, depth is a major issue. The Aggies lost two top backups in QB Dustin Long and RB Derek Farmer. Both transferred at the end of last season. The Ags will have to rely on a redshirt and true freshman to shoulder the backup load at both positions. Wide receiver is also inexperienced. This is a large and talented group, but there is little on-field production experience outside of Murphy.
Defensive Overview: As many as six new faces could be seen in ‘04, as A&M tries to revive the Wrecking Crew. Youth and inexperience will litter the two deep for A&M. With the influx of youth, however, comes an influx of speed and athletic ability lacking from last season.
The Aggies run out of the basic 4-3 defensive alignment, however, they multiple defensive fronts depending on the type of offense they will face. Defensive Coordinator Carl Torbush has forged his reputation on a blitzing, aggressive style of defense; however, A&M lacked the talent last season to run his defense effectively, managing only 19 sacks.
With immediate help from JUCO-transfer linebackers and redshirted defensive linemen, A&M should be far more athletic and faster. The secondary returns three starters. With several athletic backups, this unit should be much stronger. New faces on the defensive line and in the linebacking corps should bring great speed to the defensive.
As many as thirteen first-year players could appear on the two-deep roster. This lack of division one experience could be a major Achilles Heel for a team that faces three top-20 teams in its first four games. The talent level will rise, but it will take time for new faces to gel.
Special Teams Overview: The Aggies had a horrible time last season just fielding punts. This season they will turn to Terrence Murphy who solidified himself as a premier kick returner last season. The Aggies also return the very solid if not spectacular Todd Pegram to resume the place kicking duties.
With several JUCO transfers and redshirt freshmen becoming available the Aggies will have plenty of athletic bodies to choose from on the coverage units this coming fall.
Punter was a considerable weak spot for A&M as incumbent starter Jacob Young could only manage a net average of 35 yards. He will be pushed by incoming true freshman Richie Bean who will also be in contention for the kickoff duties.
The Texas A&M Aggies will make it to a bowl game if... on defense the new players gel quickly and if the rebuilt defensive line and linebackers generate a solid and consistent push against both the run and the pass, and if on offense they find reliable backups to McNeal and Lewis, and if their young wide receivers make plays opposite Murphy.
|2004 TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS|
|Author: John Dalkowitz, RaiderPower.com|
Last Season's Record: 8-5 (4th place in Big 12 South Division)
Last Bowl Appearance: Houston Bowl (38-14 win over Navy)
Key matchup(s): Sept. 18 TCU, Oct. 9 Nebraska, Nov. 13 @Texas A&M, Nov. 27 Oklahoma State.
Star Power: Adell Duckett, DE Sr. 6-4 265; Chad Johnson, S So. 5-11 197; Nehemiah Glover, WR Sr. 5-8 180; Taurean Henderson, RB, 5'9 205.
Notable Additions: Anthony Jenkins, WR, Ennis, Texas Fr. 5-11, 180; Brett Bischofberger, DE Oroville, CA (Butte College)Jr. 6-3, 270; Darcel McBath, DB, Gainsville, Texas, Fr. 6-0, 176.
Notable Subtractions: BJ Symons, QB, Sr. (Houston Texans); Carlos Francis WR, Sr. (Oakland Raiders); Mickey Peters WR, Sr. (Tennessee Titans); Wes Welker WR, Sr. (San Diego Chargers)
Notable Returnees: Jarrett Hicks WR, So. 6-4, 208; E.J. Whitley OL, 6'6, 305; Brock Stratton LB, So. 5-11 233; Mike Smith LB, Sr. 6-3, 245.
Offensive Overview: After BJ Symons broke numerous NCAA records last year, all eyes are on fifth year senior quarterback Sonny Cumbie. In addition to losing Symmons, three starting senior wide receivers left for the NFL; however, the Red Raider offense is far from toothless. The offensive line returns four starters and several other players with significant playing time. Taurean Henderson is a dangerous running back that pretty much does it all-- blocks, catches and runs very well. Glover only needs three TDs to break the school's TD reception record held held by Mickey Peters (22). Jarrett Hicks is a big target and showed some flashes of brilliance as a red shirt sophomore. Though this offense might not lead the nation again in yards per game, expect this unit to put up some pretty good numbers as this is the first year that every player on the roster is a Mike Leach recruit. Joel Filani was the surprise of the spring offensively, and Bristol Olomua is a huge target at 6'5, 250, giving Cumbie a few more options in this pass-happy offense.
Defensive Overview: The Red Raider defense took its lumps last year learning a new scheme with young and inexperienced players throughout the two deep. Eleven players on the two-deep roster were freshmen and sophomores. The defense improved as the year progressed in stopping the run, giving Red Raider fans some hope for next season. Also factor that Tech played some potent offenses in Ole Miss and NC State, who are no longer on the schedule. The Red Raiders will face a rebuilding OSU offensive squad in Lubbock and will get the Longhorns at home as well. With a Big12 record 14 sacks, Adell Duckett was the lone bright spot last year on defense. This defense is more talented than the numbers suggest from 2003. The Tech defense will not have a stifling, shutdown type of defense; however, fans should expect to see a marked improvement over last year's unit due to more experience, depth and incoming JUCO transfers Bishofberger (DE), Sylvester Brinkley (LB), Dek Bake (DE) and Dewayne Slay (S). The defense returns 9 starters including all three of its starting linebackers. The secondary looks to be stronger with Vincent Meeks moving to corner and Johnson moving over to safety. Red shirt freshman cornerback Chris Parker and true freshman defensive back Darcel McBath will have the opportunity to challenge for playing time in the secondary. The defensive line will have a deeper and stronger rotation. Look for this unit to finish closer to the middle of the pack in the Big12 than the bottom.
Special Teams Overview: Keith Toogood kicked with some injuries hindering his performance toward the end of the year. Wes Welker set an NCAA record in punt returns returned for TDs. Glover will take over that chore this year. Kick returners have not yet been decided, but Vincent Meeks, Johny Mack and Glover are candidates.
With OU being so strong..., the Red Raiders will likely have to fight it out with the Longhorns for second place-- not an unlikely scenario, given the fact that the game will be in Lubbock. October is a brutal month with games at OU and KSU. UT and Nebraska round out the home schedule that month.