The Ten Pre-Preseason Big 12 Questions
Big 12: No. 6-10
Can Seth Russell be the next great Baylor quarterback, or will Chris Johnson fight for the gig? It won’t matter with a phenomenal receiving corps that should only get stronger with KD Cannon leading the way and Corey Coleman and Jay Lee more-than-fine to fill in for Antwan Goodley and Levi Norwood. The offense should rely even more on the running game with Shock Linwood and Johnny Jefferson back working behind a line that welcomes back all five starters including OT Spencer Drango, who should’ve left early, but didn’t.
Huge DE Shawn Oakman is ready to turn pro, but he’s back and should be more than just a Twitter trend - the rest of the line returns intact. Taylor Young needs to be the leader of the linebacking corps that loses Bryce Hager, but has several good options. The secondary might be the best yet under Art Briles with four of the five starters returning, only losing Collin Brence at the nickel. Big-booting P Spencer Roth is done, but rising PK Chris Callahan returns.
The fun should continue on offense with QB Trevone Boykin back along with the top three receivers back and only likely to lose David Porter. The backfield loses RB B.J. Catalon early to the NFL, but gets everyone of note back including Aaron Green for a ground game that should do a bit more. The line loses LT Tayo Fabuluje but gets everyone else back – it should be a line that starts five seniors.
The defense is potentially just as dangerous, losing DT Chucky Hunter but getting back everyone else in the front four. Finding linebackers is never a problem for the TCU, but it’s still not fun losing Paul Dawson and Marcus Mallet. CB Kevin White and SS Sam Carter are gone, and Chris Hackett left early, but the secondary gets back two starters and should be excellent if the linebackers can do their part in the 4-2-5. PK Jaden Oberkrom is back after a big year, but P Ethan Perry has to be better after failing to average 40 yards per kick.
Can the Sooners be more consistent after a disappointing year? It starts with the health of QB Trevor Knight, who has to be able to last throughout the season while also needing to progress and be more consistent, or else former Texas Tech passer Baker Mayfield will make an impact. Samaje Perine is a superstar back to work around, but the O line loses a ton of talent with tackles Tyrus Thompson and Daryl Williams destined to be NFL starters. There’s depth, but four starters have to be replaced up front. The receiving corps might lose Sterling Shepard to the NFL, but the rest of the top targets return.
The defensive front is going to be decimated by the NFL draft including the loss of Jordan Phillips on the inside – he left a year early. Fortunately, most of the top tacklers return with linebacker Dominique Alexander, Jordan Evans and Ahmad Thomas returning. Eric Striker has NFL talent, but he’s back to be a terror for the OU defensive front seven, and end Charles Tapper decided to put off the big league for another year. The secondary has the most experience, but even after the awful Russell Athletic performance against Clemson, there’s potential – as long as the defensive backs can start to tackle - with three starters back including corners Zack Sanchez and Jordan Thomas. PK Michael Hunnicutt is gone along with P Jed Barnett.
4. Oklahoma State
Is Mason Rudolph ready to be a franchise quarterback, or will J.W. Walsh come back from injury and fight for the job? Losing RB Desmond Roland means Rennie Childs has to become a bigger part of the ground game, and someone has to bring the flash with do-it-all playmaker Tyreek Hill off the team. Fortunately, the receiving corps should be outstanding with Brandon Sheperd, David Glidden and James Washington all back to make any quarterback under center shine. The O line loses Daniel Koenig at left tackle and guard Chris Grisbhy, but the three young starters who had to step in this year should form a strong nucleus.
The defensive interior tandem of James Castleman and Ofa Hautau are gone, but Emmanuel Ogbah and Jimmy Bean return on the outside. The linebacking corps is loaded with Ryan Simmons and Seth Jacobs two big tacklers returning, while leading tackler Jordan Sterns heads a veteran secondary that loses SS Larry Stephens. Ben Grogan is a terrific kicker who had a nice year, but P Kip Smith has to be replaced after averaging 42 yards per try.
5. Kansas State
Gutty quarterback Jake Waters is done, and now it’ll likely be to Joe Hubener to give it a go. The bigger problem is the loss of heart-and-soul, perennial All-American receiver Tyler Lockett and running mate Curry Sexton. Along with TE Zach Trujillo, Kansas State loses its top three targets. Charles Jones is back to lead the rushing attack, but DeMarcus Robinson is gone – Hubener is a strong runner, though. The O line should be a strength with four senior starters back, but the loss of C B.J. Finney is a killer.
Pass rushing terror Ryan Mueller is gone along with DT Valentino Coleman, but the line returns some nice playmakers in Jordan Willis and Marquel Bryant. The linebacking corps got through a few growing pains, but loses leading tackler Jonathan Truman and Dakoey Johnson – Will Davis is a good one and Elijah Lee is ready to be a big factor. With three of the five top defenders returning in the secondary, it should be a strength as the season goes on. P Nick Walsh came up with a good first year, while Matthew McCrane should be among the nation’s most accurate kickers again – at least that’s the hope.
The Ten Pre-Preseason Big 12 Questions
Big 12: No. 6-10
2015 Pre-Preseason Big 12 Rankings: Top 5
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