practice starts March 8, Spring Game April 8
The big spring question is ... What does the team have to do to take the next step and go to a bowl? More offense would be nice after averaging a mere 318 yards and 21 points per game while also getting more production out of what was a solid D. Head coach Guy Morriss accomplished the nearly impossible task of making Baylor more than a speed bump, but getting over the next hurdle could prove to be even tougher.
The most important position to watch is ... Safety. Willie Andrews and Maurice Lane were two of the Big 12's best tacklers and best all-around safeties. The heart and soul of the Baylor D needs to be replaces meaning players like Dwain Crawford, Marlon Price and Jake LaMar have to turn into playmakers in a big hurry.
Spring attitude... Yes, Baylor can actually win in the Big 12. It's one thing to have a good attitude, but it's another to have something to back it up. Last year's wins over Iowa State and Oklahoma State, and near-misses against Oklahoma and Texas A&M, proved BU can be competitive. Considering the Bears have a late stretch of four road games in six dates before finishing with Oklahoma, coming out of the gate strong is an absolute must. They need every practice they can get before facing TCU.
practice starts March 20, Spring Game April 8
The big spring question is ... Is Rhett Bomar ready to blossom into a national title caliber quarterback? The quarterback situation was a jumbled mess last spring that settled nothing and, in hindsight, might have set the team's development back. There's no debate this year, and Bomar has to make the team his. He wasn't as bad as many made him out to be handling himself well considering the brutal schedule the Sooners faced. However, he was one of the nation's top recruits a few years ago and has to play like it if OU is going to live up to its potential.
The most important position to watch is ... Offensive lineman. Four starters from the Holiday Bowl are gone hurt most by the departure of tackle Davin Joseph. Every practice is vital to the line's cohesion with this spring a big one to form the unit that'll get the honor of blocking for Adrian Peterson. However, finding a starting five isn't the only issue; establishing the depth will also be a major priority.
Spring attitude... Maintain the Holiday Bowl attitude. The Sooners came into San Diego with more of a chip on their shoulder than the disrespected Ducks. Now it'll be important to play with the same fire and cockiness knowing that a shot at the national title is possible if everything falls into place. Starting strong will be important with a trip to Oregon coming in mid-September, the showdown with Texas on October 7th, and a stretch of four road games in the final five to close things out.
The big spring
question is ... How much improvement will there be in year two of the Mike Gundy era?
Things just didn't seem to work out in the first season trying to switch offenses while
having problems getting a meaningful stop on defense, but there are some exciting pieces
in place going into this year. Mike Hamilton is one of the Big 12's best backs, D'Juan Woods is one of the top receivers, and there's enough talent on the defensive line to hope
it can grow into something special, however ...
The most important position to watch is ... Quarterback. The entire defensive back seven needs working on, but getting more out of QB Robert Reid will make or break the season. Injuries have wreaked havoc on Reid's career, but he was solid in the win over Texas Tech to suggest that he might be the answer for the Cowboy offense. However, he has to start using more of his mobility and rushing skills to add another dimension to the attack. Alex Cate was the star of the 2006 recruiting class and will be around for spring ball to challenge for what has to be considered an open job. Al Pena had his moments with a great performance in the loss to Baylor, but he's not the answer.
Spring attitude... Time is still needed. A thousand thank yous to the schedule makers who gave OSU another joke of an early slate playing Missouri State, Arkansas State and Florida Atlantic before going to Houston. Those four games should be enough to finally get the offense going before dealing with a road trip to Kansas State, but it would be nice if things started to click in spring ball.
starts February 27, Spring Game April 1
The big spring question is ... Is Texas another Ohio State or another USC? It's not a knock against the Buckeyes since they've been so amazing since their national title season of 2002, but their inability to get back to the national title game shows just how tough it is, how many breaks you need, and what a fine line there is between getting in a BCS game and playing for the championship. Texas has enough returning talent to be the preseason number one and has to be considered a favorite for playing for the national title. Of course ...
The most important position to watch is ... Quarterback. Since the development of Colt McCoy and Jevan Sneed will be daily college football news, it'll also be important to pay attention to who the new killers will be on defense. Texas might be a factory, but it's not a positive when you lose the Thorpe Award winner (Michael Huff) and a headhunting linebacker like Aaron Harris. Also interesting to note will be a kicking game that loses placekicker David Pino and punter Richmond McGee.
Spring attitude... Act like the national champion. There was more to the 2005 Texas team than Vince Young with many of the key players returning for another run. Sure, Young gave the team an identity and a confidence it didn't have before, but having a ridiculous amount of talent all over the place can make up for the loss of one transcendent superstar. At least that's the hope. However, if Texas loses to Ohio State and/or Oklahoma and ends up failing to win the Big 12 title, you can bet the Mack-can't-win-without-Vince articles will start popping up.
practice starts March 3, Spring Game April 8
The big spring question is ... Is this the last chance for Coach Fran? A 16-19 record isn't exactly what Aggie fans were hoping for when they got Dennis Franchione away from Alabama, and there might not be a year five if there isn't a solid turnaround and a bowl season in 2006. Fortunately, the Aggies have a tremendous stable of running backs, a promising young offensive line, and a highly ranked recruiting class to get excited about. The potential is there for a good season.
The most important position to watch is ... Defensive back. All eyes will be on the quarterback situation, but that should turn out to be just fine with both Ty Branyon and Stephen McGee more than competent. The bigger question mark is in the secondary where the nation's worst pass defense loses coaches Melvin Smith to Mississippi State and Chris Thurmond to Houston along with heart-and-soul safety Jaxson Appel. In case you were wondering, the Aggies get Texas Tech in the Big 12 opener on September 30th.
Spring attitude... Do everything with an eye on starting fast. Barring a total disaster, the Aggies will be 4-0 (The Citadel, UL Lafayette, Army and Louisiana Tech) before facing Texas Tech. If they can go unbeaten at home, that would mean wins over Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Nebraska before the season finale at Texas. Considering the road games are at Kansas, Oklahoma State and Baylor, anything less than an eight-win season will be considered a disappointment. An early home might be devastating.
Spring practice starts March 22, Spring Game April 17
The big spring question is ... Is this really such a sound system that the quarterbacks can keep being replaced without a hiccup? It appears so, and now the defense has begun to match the success of the offense after finishing 30th in the nation last year. This isn't just a gimmicky team, it's good enough to actually challenge for the Big 12 title on a yearly basis. Now the program has to prove it can continue to play at a high level.
The most important position to watch is ... Running back. Of course the quarterback race will be the main focus, but there offense will still be high-flying with Graham Harrell or Chris Todd under center. The underrated cog in the machine over the last few years has been Taurean Henderson, who leaves Lubbock after rushing for 3,241 yards, catching 303 passes for 2,058 yards, and scoring a total of 69 touchdowns. Shannon Woods will be the main man early and has the talent to be another Henderson, but he has to prove he can block.
Spring attitude... Be consistent. There was the blowout win over Texas A&M, but that was followed up by the loss to a lousy Oklahoma State team. There was the destruction of Kansas State, and a struggle against Baylor. It would be heartbreaking for the Red Raiders to finally beat Texas and Oklahoma in the same year only to see it go for naught with losses to Texas A&M and Iowa State. The faster a starting quarterback can be named and the faster the holes in the secondary can be filled, the more consistent the team will be.