And the winner is...

This week's "Fish with Trent" article will look at the Big XII as it stands without Rhett Bomar and J.D. Quinn, 2 players who were recently dismissed from the Oklahoma football team. We will also look at each team's chances of winning the Big XII South and two players from each team that must step up for them to reign supreme in the Big XII.

How quickly things can change. Rhett Bomar and J.D. Quinn were supposed to have a huge impact on both the Oklahoma Sooners football team and on the Big XII South this coming season. They were both starters on an OU team that ended the year better than it started and had high aspirations for this season. Rhett and J.D. made their impact but not in the way that their coaches and fans wanted them to. With their dismissal early last week, the entire make-up and predictions that had swirled around the Big XII since Vince Young left for the NFL were thrown out the window. This week's "Fish with Trent" will look at the Big XII as it stands without these two players, an analysis of each team's chances of winning the Big XII South, and two players from each team that must step up for them to reign supreme in the Big XII South.


BAYLOR - The Baylor Bears have been the laughingstock of the Big XII South since its inception in 1996. They haven't had a winning season and they have been labeled as perpetual bottom-feeders. And yet, as the past two seasons have progressed, Baylor has gotten closer and closer to being a contender in the South. Last season, Baylor was able to hang with nearly every team that they played, and went undefeated during the non-conference portion of the season. While they ended the season 5-6, for the first time in years, Baylor has the opportunity to have a winning season and head to a post-season game. While Baylor is a long shot to win the South, they have a decent chance with a few players making the progress from consistent to excellent.

Key Players:

Shawn Bell: Quarterback, RS Senior - Shawn Bell is one of those players that drives coaches nuts. He will make a play that will impress you one moment, and then throw a ball right to a defender. Shawn showed signs of progressing last year as both a passer and as a game manager. With the new "Bear Raid" offense that Baylor has been installing more pressure than ever is one Shawn to take his game to the next level. For Baylor to have any chance at winning the Big XII or making a post season game, Shawn Bell needs to have a monster year.

Marcus Foreman: Defensive End, Senior- Marcus is a key to a Bears defense that is just starting to find its claws. He isn't the biggest or strongest but is plenty fast. To help compensate for the loss of star safety Willie Andrews, Foreman needs to step up his pass-rushing abilities so that opposing teams can't pick apart the Baylor Defense. This is especially important considering that Baylor may have some growing pains adjusting to the new offense.


OKLAHOMA - The Sooners are the antithesis of the Baylor Bears. As perennial Big XII and national title contenders, there was no reason to expect any different from a team that has the most wins in the Big XII since the turn of the millennium. While Rhett Bomar hadn't become the amazing quarterback that many Sooners fans thought he was, he showed strong signs as the season progressed of becoming one of the new young guns in the Big XII that could beat you with his arm and his legs. His departure leaves OU in a hole, but perhaps the bigger loss is the unheralded right guard J.D. Quinn. Quinn had several starts on the OU offensive line last season, and was expected to play a big role this season. Without blocking, even the great Adrian Peterson is nothing more than a player to be pummeled by opposing defenses. Unfortunately for the rest of the Big XII South, Oklahoma didn't lose their coach, and Bob Stoops is one of the slyest cats around when it comes to pulling out all of the stops. Stoops will have his team ready to play by the time kickoff rolls around.

Key Players:

Paul Thompson: Quarterback, RS Senior - If a person wanted to see the definition of a quarterback having an off day, he would have to look no further than Paul Thompson's game against TCU last year. Thompson was flustered, didn't throw a touchdown pass and failed to be the leader that many felt he could be. For OU to have any success winning and for Adrian Peterson to be able to run the ball this season, Paul has to show that he can consistently make plays with his arm. While he won't necessarily be the fastest guy on the field, he can also burn you with his legs when given the opportunity. Still, if Thompson struggles, OU could be in for some trouble next season.

Steven Coleman: Defensive Tackle, Junior - No player epitomized the saying "bulldog mentality" better than Dusty Dvoracek. With the graduation of Dvoracek, there is a huge hole to be filled in the interior of Oklahoma's defensive line. Steven Coleman is a big bruising tackle that could fill this hole if he had the proper mentality. Only time will tell if Steven can be the same type of player as Dvoracek, hopefully without all of the off-the-field issues. For Oklahoma's stellar linebackers to be able to dominate, they will need someone to keep the offensive linemen off of them.


OKLAHOMA STATE - To say that Oklahoma State had a down year would be an understatement. The Cowboys lost head coach Les Miles at the end of the 2004 season to LSU and played like a team without a coach in 2005. While they did manage to barely beat the teams on their non-conference schedule, they only won one game the rest of the season. The defeat of Texas Tech was a departure from the poor play that plagued the Cowboys for the most of the season. To be able to win in the Big XII this season, head coach Mike Gundy needs to stop trying to force feed a program that has been run based since Barry Sanders time the pass. Gundy was intent on installing his new spread offense last season and it had less than stellar results. While the Cowboy offense did struggle, Oklahoma State did show that all was not lost as their defense was decent throughout most of the year. Look for the Cowboys to go bowling this year barring another offensive meltdown the likes of last season.

Key Players:
       
Bobby Reid: Quarterback, Sophomore - Bobby Reid spent much of last season running around like a chicken with its head cut off. His head and body didn't communicate well, and he was unable to grasp his new offense. Reid is fast enough to be dangerous on the scramble and could be a great QB, if he would just settle down and give himself a chance. He has the arm strength, but needs to add the mental aspect to his game to be successful this season. Otherwise, he might turn into as big of a bust as Reggie McNeal was for Texas A&M.

Donovan Woods: Free Safety, Junior - There was a time when the OSU football team was full of players with the last name Woods on their jerseys. While the team no longer has an unusual number of Woods brothers, Donovan has a chance to make a name for himself on defense. Oklahoma State was decent against the run last season and managed to frustrate Vince Young for at least a half of football. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, their pass defense was terrible. Donovan has the power to change that. Moving from Quarterback to Free Safety isn't something that normally happens, but Donovan seems to have embraced the change. His speed is better than the norm, and if he is as savvy a free safety as quarterback, then Oklahoma State will be in good shape.


TEXAS - How could one not pick the returning Big XII and National Champions as their favorite to repeat? The loss of Vince Young is one reason that comes to mind, and it is a perfectly reasonable objection. Vince was the gasoline that ran the Longhorns' motor last season, and without his catalytic affect, the team may struggle on offense. Further hurting the Longhorns is the lack of a clear-cut starter at quarterback to replace Young, as true freshman Jevan Snead and red shirt freshman Colt McCoy are battling it out. The one thing that truly helps pacify some of their concerns at quarterback is a stable of outstanding running backs headed by sophomore Jamaal Charles, which also includes Senior Selvin Young and the gigantic Henry Melton. Either of the quarterbacks that starts at Texas will be protected by a stellar offensive line captained by senior Casey Studdard who has set the bar the last few seasons for offensive linemen in the Big XII. The defense should be good enough to win the Big XII, but the question remains if the offense can score enough points to take some pressure off of the defense.

Key Players:

Jamaal Charles: Running Back, Sophomore - After a freshman season that can be described only as fantastic, Jamaal has to show the ability to run the ball without Vince Young's dual-threat ability and be healthy for an entire season. Jamaal was at his peak last season before the Oklahoma game, where he suffered an injured ankle that hampered him the rest of the season. Jamaal also had a costly fumble against Texas A&M, and he needs to secure the ball better. If Jamaal's sophomore season is anything like his freshman campaign, he should help take some of the weight off of the new Quarterback that will head up this UT offense.

Drew Kelson: Linebacker, Junior – Kelson must fill the void left by Aaron Harris. The Longhorns will try out some position changes at a few of the linebacker spots, and Kelson may very well be the player who determines the success of the unit next season. Drew has looked impressive in his playing time thus far, but he has to prove that he can be a consistent player if Texas is expecting not to see a dropoff in play next season and continue their defensive dominance.


TEXAS A&M - Texas A&M has fallen a long way from its glory days in the late 90's and earlier this millennium. A&M was taken to overtime by Baylor for the second consecutive year, but this time it was at home. They also lost to the big three teams of the South in Oklahoma, Texas, and Texas Tech for the first time in several seasons. The Aggies were unable to stop anyone, and the play of their offense was mediocre. Blowout losses to Texas Tech and Iowa State showed gaping holes in what was once the pride of Texas A&M, as their beloved Wrecking Crew hasn't been seen in several seasons. To be successful this year, the Aggies not only need to find a way to be score on offense, they also need to be able to stop someone on defense after being ranked 119th out of 119 teams in pass defense last season. Darnell, their new defensive coordinator, has put in the 4-2-5 scheme that Coach Fran had success with at TCU, but it remains to be seen if there will be any difference at A&M. For A&M to make a post season game or even have a chance of not being a joke of the Big XII, they will have to dig themselves out as the South is stacked against them.

Key Players:

Stephen McGee: Quarterback, RS Sophomore - Texas A&M has been plagued with poor quarterback play since the arrival of Dennis Franchione, but Stephen McGee seems to be trying to wreck that tradition. While his only start was against the University of Texas, he played well enough to win the game if he had a defense behind him. McGee has to develop the ability to be an at least efficient passer, if not great, to allow him to lead the Aggies back out of the cellar. While the Aggies do run the spread option, it only works with the threat of a pass. At the end of last season, McGee couldn't provide that. The question remains if he can throw, but he did prove that he can play in a big game and handle the pressure. Still, it remains to be seen what he can do with an entire team and season on his shoulders.

Defense: Any Position, Any Class - Texas A&M used to pride itself on their Wrecking Crew, but the title "Wrecking Who?" might be a more accurate description of the past few seasons. Without improvement across the board, and especially in the secondary, it won't matter how many points the offense puts up. The 4-2-5 that has been installed has been successful at some schools, but it remains to be seen if the talent at A&M is good enough to make it work.


TEXAS TECH – As perhaps the only team in the Big XII South that doesn't have quarterback worries, Tech looks poised for their first legitimate shot at the Big XII Title. Tech returns all 4 starting receivers and 4 of 5 starting offensive linemen. While the loss of running back Taurean Henderson is hard to cope with, the position should be handled well enough by Sophomore Shannon Woods and RS Freshman Kobey Lewis. True Freshman Baron Batch also has the chance to see some playing time if the guys ahead of him on the depth chart can't get the job done. While offense is never a concern for the Red Raiders, the defense has slowly been making their climb out of the basemen and into the spotlight. Last season they had the first road shutout in Tech's Big XII history and were no longer the laughingstock of the Big XII. For Tech to win the South division this year, they need to show that they can consistently win on the road in hostile environments with road games at Texas A&M and Oklahoma.

Key Players:

Graham Harrell: Quarterback, RS Sophomore - One of the most prolific passers in the state of Texas' High School programs, Graham is the key to the Red Raiders offense this season. For the first time in 4 seasons, the Raiders won't be starting a 5th year senior and the gamble is that it won't show. If Harrell is anything like his high school self, he should be cool and business-like in the pocket and be capable of making all the throws and helping Tech lead the nation in total offense. If he isn't as good as predicted, look for the offense to flounder and need a little help from its experienced and deep receiving corps.

Darcel McBath: Free Safety, RS Sophomore - Dwayne Slay was the Defensive Player of the Year for a reason. His bone-jarring, fumble-causing hits not only provided excitement for the fans, but they also gave the Red Raider defense a legitimacy that had been missing for years. With his graduation, Darcel McBath is expected to start at FS, and should be able to fill the big shoes left by Slay. While he won't cause as many fumbles, McBath's increase in speed and coverage ability over Slay should allow him to pick off more passes. Darcel's ability to play is the key to the Tech defense's ability to blitz. If Darcel can be counted on to cover one-on-one, then it will free up a linebacker or another position to blitz. If not, then look for more Cover 2 defensive alignments and a poor pass-rush for Tech this season.

The Big 12 race is as open as it has even been. Who will step it up and win the coveted title this year? Another great football season awaits to answer all the questions.
 


Raider Power Top Stories