It is quite possible that the strength of the Big 12 this season will be the secondaries, and in particular, the cornerbacks. There are no less that four cornerbacks in the Big 12 who have a legitimate shot at reaping first-team All America honors. The conference's safeties are not too shabby either. The talent of Big 12 defensive backs is good enough that it may actually influence game-plans by deterring the pass. Yet another reason to think the Big 12 will be more of a running conference this year than it has been in many a moon.
1. Texas: Probable starters are cornerbacks Quandre Diggs and Carrington Byndom, and safeties Mykkele Thompson and Adrian Phillips. All are returning starters. Most defensive coordinators pine away for just one shut-down corner, but in Diggs and Byndom, Manny Diaz has two. Safety Thompson brings the added bonus of being an ace punt blocker.
2. Baylor: Probable starters are K. J. Morton, Terrell Burt, Joe Williams, Sam Holl, and Ahmad Dixon. Corners Morton and Williams are returning starters. So are nickel back Holl and safety Dixon. Williams is a rapidly improving corner, and Morton is almost his equal. Holl is a very good all-around player and Dixon has the athletic package NFL scouts love. In short, Baylor's secondary is stacked.
3. TCU: Probable starters are Jason Verrett, Kevin White, Chris Hackett, and Elisha Olabode. All are returning starters. Verrett, once a relatively unheralded JUCO transfer, is now the best cornerback in the Big 12. He is a ballhawk, and unwise is the quarterback who throws his way. Safety Olabode is also a very good player.
4. West Virginia: Probable starters are cornerbacks Brodrick Jenkins and Nana Kyeremeh, and safeties Darwin Cook and Karl Joseph. All except Kyeremeh are returning starters. Cook and Joseph are probably the best safety tandem in the Big 12. Joseph, in particular, is a thoroughbred. He made a huge splash last season as a freshman and now stands poised to stake his claim to being the best safety in the conference.
5. Oklahoma State: Probable starters are cornerbacks Kevin Peterson, and Justin Gilbert, and safeties Daytowion Lowe and Shamiel Gary. All but Peterson are returning starters. It is a testament to the quality of Big 12 defensive backfields that the OSU defensive backs are mid-pack material. Cornerback Gilbert would be the best in some conferences, and the Lowe-Gary combination at safety is also very good.
6. Oklahoma: Probable starters are cornerbacks Cortez Johnson and Aaron Colvin, nickel back Julian Wilson, and safeties Gabe Lynn and Quentin Hayes. Colvin and Hayes are returning starters. Colvin is a serious All America candidate and Lynn is competent. Still, Oklahoma's secondary is a clear cut below Oklahoma State's. This is where the quality of Big 12 defensive backfields drops off.
7. Kansas State: Probable starters are cornerbacks Randall Evans and Kip Daily, and safeties Ty Zimmerman and Dante Barnett. Evans and Zimmerman are returning starters. Zimmerman is the clear headliner here. The savvy veteran is a strong contender for first team All Big 12 honors.
8. Iowa State: Probable starters are cornerbacks Kenneth Lynn and Sam Richardson, and safeties Jacques Washington and Deon Broomfield. Both safeties are returning starters, and Washington is a really good one.
9. Texas Tech: Probable starters are Bruce Jones, and Olaoluwa Falemi at corner, and Tre Porter and J. J. Gaines at safety. Jones is the only returning starter, and he is a tough little player. Falemi is an unknown, and so is Gaines. Porter has been promise itself since his arrival, but chronic injuries have prevented him from making any sort of a consistent impact. He has one last chance.
10. Kansas: Probable starters are Dexter McDonald and Cassius Sendish at cornerback, and Tevin Shaw and Dexter Linton at safety. The most notable thing about Kansas' secondary is that it has two guys named Dexter in it. Additionally, both cornerbacks are untried JUCO prospects. If the Jayhawks were not so dominant in basketball, one would be tempted to feel pity.