AROUND THE BIG 12: A WEEKLY LOOK AT THE TOP BIG 12 FOOTBALL HEADLINES

Our weekly look at the top football headlines in the Big 12 from the publishers and editors of your Scout Big 12 sites ...

Baylor

Read more at Bears Illustrated www.scout.com/college/baylor

The Good: The Bears had their second and final scrimmage of “Camp BU” on Saturday and head coach Jim Grobe was much happier with the offense and the way veteran quarterback Seth Russell, returning from the neck injury of last season, played in the scrimmage. He was much better than in the first week when the defense dominated the action in the scrimmage inside McLane Stadium.

“Seth made better decisions and had a greater understanding of what we wanted to do with the football,” Grobe said of the quarterback. “The offense was much better overall and there was some give and take in the scrimmage because the defense did some good things too. What I’d like is that when the offense or defense has a good series that they would come back and reinforce that with another good series. We did good things on offense and defense but neither was consistent.”

Grobe also awarded scholarships to two deserving walk-ons in linebacker Tyler James, a junior from Gatesville, Texas that has become a special teams dynamo and holder Cole Edminston, that also helps out at receiver.

The Bad: That had to be the video tape that came out and the announced Class C misdemeanor charges of animal abuse against wide receiver Ishmael Zamora. The video shows Zamora alternately slapping his dog with his open hand, kicking, and then hitting the dog with a leather strap or belt. The image is ugly and just heaps on more ammunition for those out to keep up the attack on Baylor football and the university as a result of the sexual assaults that occurred either on campus or involving Baylor students and the way they were handled by the administration, athletic department, and football program.

Something to Keep an Eye On: Grobe said most of the two-deep is solid such as quarterback, running back, secondary are solid but other areas, especially on the second line have a lot of and/or to them. The two-deep will still need to be shored up and some answers still learned. Some of those will come during Baylor’s opening game with Northwestern State from Louisiana.

Iowa State

The Good: Iowa State had productive live scrimmage sessions that continued to help new head coach Matt Campbell narrow down his depth chart. ISU started pretty much from scratch in that area with the arrival of the new coaching staff, so evaluation of players in game situations has been an important aspect of their first fall with the Cyclones. By the middle of next week, many of the final depth chart decisions are expected to be made, and there are a number that will change the current listing that dates from the middle of camp.

 

The Bad: Campbell noted that a number of injuries and illnesses have kept players off the field during the past week, which has hindered the evaluation process. Coming on top of the injury to star offensive lineman Jake Campos, who sustained a “lower leg” injury last Monday and is out indefinitely, ISU hasn’t been able to field its full roster, or even one closely approximating it, during recent practice sessions. Campbell hopes those players with less severe problems will be back for the final two weeks of preparation, and he is optimistic that he will have a full roster of players to work with in the coming week of practices. Still, the loss of Campos is a big one, and will force some scrambling along the offensive front.

 

Something to Keep an Eye On: Mike Warren, deservedly, gets a ton of attention as the star running back, but a pair of newcomers have also been making waves in camp.  Campbell, while not singling them out by name in recent interviews, has been impressed with true freshmen Kene Nwangwu and David Montgomery – so much so that they will likely avoid redshirts and advance up the depth chart. If they pan out, the Cyclones could have one of the deeper rotations at running back in the league.

 

Kansas

Read more at Phog www.scout.com/college/kansas

 

The Good: Saturday head coach David Beaty and his team opened up their practice at Memorial Stadium to the fans and a good crowd showed up to encourage the Jayhawks as they progress toward their opener at home with Rhode Island. The practice featured a lot of specific situations in special teams such as quick change field goal, which has some new nuances to it this year because of rules; onside kicks, both kicking and receiving; long field goal returns, see Auburn vs. Alabama 2013; individual drills, and some receivers vs. defensive backs one-on-one work. The first two field goals, including a 42-yard kick by Matt Wyman were good, which had to please new special teams coordinator and former Oklahoma State and West Virginia assistant Joe DeForest. Also, the defense for Beatty this season will have a veteran feel to it with seven seniors expected to start, three juniors, and one sophomore. Those expected starters include standouts like linebacker Joe Dineen, safety Fish Smithson, and senior corner Marnez Ogletree. That group has a combined 81 game starts for Kansas on defense.

 

The Bad: As veteran as the defense may be the offensive line in front of a yet to be named starting quarterback will be young. Senior D’Andre Banks lined up at left tackle in the open practice on Saturday, junior left guard Jayson Rhodes was next to him, and sophomore Jacob Bragg was at center. Those three have a combined 14 career starts (Banks with nine and Bragg with five). The right guard at the practice was red-shirt freshman Mesa Ribordy and the right tackle was true freshman Hakeem Adeniji.

 

Something to Keep an Eye On: The week came and went without a decision announced on who will be the KU quarterback. The leading contenders are still sophomore Ryan Willis and red-shirt junior Montell Cozart. “We won’t make that decision until we feel good about it,” head coach David Beaty expressed on Saturday.

Kansas State

The Good: It would appear that the quarterback race is on track for the spring star, the starter last season that was injured and out for the year on the first series of the first game, and the player that his teammates voted a captain before any announcement of a starter to end up being the starting quarterback. Jesse Ertz is all the answer to all those circumstances and looks like he will be the answer to who will start for the Wildcats. There is no expectation that will be announced at any point by head coach Bill Snyder, who keeps practices closed, and this time of year, depth charts close to the vest. Ertz is the choice of his teammates. “They believe in Jesse,” offensive coordinator Dana Dimel said.

The Bad: Dimel, if you can get close to him in the K-State football compound is the window from the world inside Wildcat football. Dimel is a little more accommodating to the media than his boss. He is also on the hot seat, a feeling that his boss will never feel. Snyder is the man of multiple miracles in Manhattan and Dimel is the offensive coordinator that threw the ball too much for fans’ liking last season when he had little luck in quarterback health. Dimel explained himself well at K-State Media Day.

“No one is going to sit there and let K-State run the football on them,” Dimel said when asked about working toward his goal of offensive balance. “I’m not being conceited, but if you ask who is the best run-scheming offense in the country we would be top five with anyone. So they are going to come up with all kinds of extravagant schemes to stop our run game. They aren’t going to sit back and say, ‘OK, run the ball, K-State.’ We would rip them apart, because we have got so many quarterback angles and ways that we attack people. So if you don’t have speed at receiver, they are going to take away the run. They are going to make our receivers beat them one on one. That is what they did to us last year.”

Something to Keep an Eye On: The battle for the starting cornerback job between Cal graduate transfer Cedric Dozier and Cerritos, Calf., C.C. transfer D.J. Reed. Neither player was there for spring football, but they are waging a daily battle for that precious starting corner position. Dozier is originally from Alabama and Reed from Bakerfield, Calf., but that plot of land outside the numbers and inside the boundary is the home these two so badly want.

Oklahoma

Read more at Sooners Illustrate www.scout.com/college/oklahoma

The Good: Another week, another major commitment for OU’s 2017 class, SoonerSquad17. Hayward (Calif.) Stellar Prep outside linebacker Addison Gumbs becomes the latest Cali Sooner, picking OU over schools such as Texas A&M, UCLA and Nebraska, among others, last week. Gumbs is ranked No. 120 in the Scout 300 and No. 7 at outside linebacker. With Gumbs in the fold, OU remains a solid No. 3 in Scout’s rankings and now has 14 of its 19 commits ranked in the Scout 300.

The Bad: Ouch. OU head coach Bob Stoops confirmed Friday evening redshirt freshman running back Rodney Anderson will miss the entire 2016 season with a neck injury suffered during Thursday’s scrimmage. No signs of paralysis, but this will be essentially the second full season missed for the former Scout 300 running back from Katy (Texas) High. Anderson broke his leg in the second game of the year last season. With Anderson out, expect true freshman Abdul Adams to certainly not redshirt and to earn some quality reps behind Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon and perhaps even as someone to look at as a kick returner.

Something to Keep an Eye On: Camp is over for OU so now the focus will be more on Houston and OU needs to find its kick returners. Alex Ross is at Missouri. Sterling Shepard is with the New York Giants. Rodney Anderson seemed like an option as a kickoff guy so that’s another one that has to be crossed off. Running backs like Mixon and Adams could be in the running, while Jarvis Baxter seems like the early favorite at punt returner. OU has loads of talent with freshmen in that capacity, but the question will be whether the OU coaches can trust those young guys to get the job done?

Oklahoma State

Read more at Go Pokes www.scout.com/college/oklahoma-state

The Good: Oklahoma State held two 100 plus play scrimmages within the past week with the first last Saturday and the most recent on Friday. The best part of it was there were no major injuries, just bumps and bruises and Gundy complimented his players in both sessions for looking out for each other and realizing this was their team going good on good and not an opposing team. That said after a first scrimmage that started so well for the defense and then balanced out, the second scrimmage was more defensive oriented. There was a hint of that coming during the week.

“The defense was really aggressive, and I think they've improved considerably over the last couple of days,” Gundy had said in the practice prior to the scrimmage. “It's good for us to get out and practice in the heat. We're going to have a scrimmage tomorrow, about 100 plays, and then practice Saturday and Sunday. Monday will be their day off, just in-school routine. We're just moving along as normal. I like where our team is at right now, but we certainly need the next few weeks of practice."

One other bit of good news, which we had mentioned the possibility of last week, former LSU wide receiver and class of 2015 five-star recruit Tyron Johnson enrolled at Oklahoma State on Friday. He sits out a year before he is eligible.

The Bad:  There hasn’t been much, Gundy would like to see more improvement from the offense in the offensive line, the running backs, really, all areas to improve the anemic run game the Cowboys experienced last season.

Something to Keep an Eye On: That same area where senior running backs Chris Carson and Rennie Childs have expectations and goals for their final season, but the challenge has been great from fellow senior and graduate transfer Barry J. Sanders, talented sophomore Jeff Carr, and true freshman Justice Hill. How the running back depth chart shakes out will be a major story line and topic of great discussion for the media and Cowboy fans leading up to the opening game with Southeastern Louisiana on Sept. 3.

Texas

Read more at Horns Digest www.scout.com/college/texas

The Good: Jerrod Heard's move from QB to receiver is continuing to pay big dividends. Heard hauled in a 50-yard bomb from Shane Buechele in the most important scrimmage of fall camp. And with recent ankle injuries to inside receivers Armanti Foreman and Reggie Hemphill, Heard has been getting a ton of reps at inside receiver and should see playing time against Notre Dame catching passes.

Also, sophomore DT Chris Nelson continues to show he's ready to contribute after making several plays in Saturday's scrimmage. Nelson is now neck-and-neck with senior Paul Boyette for the starting 3-technique DT while junior Poona Ford has locked down the starting nose tackle position.

The Bad: Ankle injuries to freshman center Zach Shackelford and right tackle Tristan Nickelson have sent coaches scrambling to find suitable backups for both - even though the outlook for Shackelford and Nickelson is to both be back for the opener against Notre Dame on Sept. 4. Right now, Jake McMillon is holding down the backup center position, while JUCO transfer Brandon Hodges, who redshirted last season, has been getting the most reps lately at right tackle.

Something to Keep an Eye On: Even though Charlie Strong has yet to name a starting quarterback between senior Tyrone Swoopes and freshman Shane Buechele, Strong said Saturday, "I kind of know" who the starter is going to be. Fans are hoping like crazy it's Buechele, because they've seen what Swoopes can (or can't) do in 14 starts (6-8) and because Buechele's quick release and accuracy seem a better fit for Sterlin Gilbert's new offense. Swoopes was the starter in UT's season-finale victory at Baylor and had 12 rushing TDs in 2015 (6.1 ypc) operating the 18-Wheeler package. Swoopes has also been handling the blitz better in practice than Buechele from what we're told, even though it seems like Buechele still makes the quicker decisions and gets the ball out more quickly in the passing game.

Should be interesting.

TCU

Read more at Horned Frogs Insider www.scout.com/college/tcu

The Good: After not being happy with his group late last week, TCU head coach Gary Patterson was upbeat after Wednesday’s post-practice media session. 

“It has been physical,” said Patterson. “It is interesting. I have taken them off the field more because of the heat. And really have had less problems injury wise and we have gotten our legs back. The key will be can we play in the fourth quarter like people are used to seeing us.

“The thing that has been most impressive with this football team has been if a guy has gone down and not been able to practice for a couple days, somebody has stepped up to do it.” 

The Bad: TCU is without projected starting kicker Jonathan Song (stubbed toe) and it looks like he might miss the opener against South Dakota State. At this point, three walk-on kickers are vying to be the top backup, but no one is standing out.

“If they make it they stay and if they miss it, they are out,” said Patterson during his weekly press meeting.

Song’s experience is limited, with just one PAT attempt and two kickoffs last season.

Something To Keep An Eye On: Patterson has been very complimentary when it comes to the true freshman class – his highest ranked group since taking over the Frogs. More than couple players appear to be ready to contend for a spot in the TCU two-deep. Depth was an issue at times last season, but many youngsters could look to contribute right away in 2016.

Texas Tech

Read more at Raider Power www.scout.com/college/texas-tech

The Good: A pair of former four-star skill position players were welcomed to practice after missing the first week of camp. Derrick Willies, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound junior college All-American at Trinity Valley CC last season, stepped in and is competing with standout veteran Devin Lauderdale for the starting X-receiver position. Corey Dauphine, a 6-foot, 200-pound redshirt freshman and former Texas high school 200 meter state champ, received his first live reps of camp and impressed. Dauphine is fighting for playing time in a crowded backfield which includes Justin Stockton, Demarcus Felton and Quinton White.

The Bad: It may not necessarily be bad, but it is a little disconcerting that changes are being made to the offensive line this late in camp. It was the biggest news of week two of camp, a reshuffling of the offensive line. Senior Baylen Brown, who has been working at left tackle for most of the offseason has moved down to center, where he worked when he was a freshman and sophomore. Redshirt freshman Terence Steele, who has been the best lineman in camp so far, has been moved to left tackle. Another redshirt freshman, former four-star recruit Madison Akamnonu has been working at right tackle all week after getting snaps at left guard. Big Justin Murphy, who was really coming into his own last season before tearing an ACL, is still at right guard. That leaves only the left guard spot in question. Either Paul Stawarz, a former junior college transfer who has been with the program for a year now, or Tony Morales, who was starting at center but has missed several practices due to "maintenance", are expected to compete for the final starting spot there. Brown is the only projected starter with extensive experience and both tackles have yet to play a down of college football.

Something to Keep an Eye On: No surprise the offensive line as Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury told RaiderPower.com the concern about the young and talented group has been overblown. 

"(The offensive line is performing) really well, really well,” the head Red Raider told RaiderPower.com “I think a lot more has been made about that, we're not stressing as much as maybe some people are because we have three returning starters, Terence Steele is going to be a very good player and we're just kind of figuring out that fifth piece. Those veteran guys have really shown great leadership and it's going to be a solid line."

West Virginia

Read more at Blue Gold News www.scout.com/college/west-virginia

The Good: West Virginia’s defense has showed resilience as it rebuilds from graduation losses a year ago. The Mountaineers, continuing to focus on forcing turnovers with a number of drills that focus on stripping and recovering the ball, have been flying to the ball during camp, which concluded this past week as classes began on Wednesday. WVU now shifts into its normal weekly practice routines as it prepares for the Missouri opener on Sept. 3.

The Bad: WVU lost another potential piece of the defense when freshman linebacker Brendan Ferns suffered a season ending knee injury during practice. Ferns, who was West Virginia’s most highly-rated recruit in the Class of 2016, had already moved into a second team spot on the depth chart at middle ‘backer, and was poised to earn a lot of playing time there and on special teams. That’s the second big loss of the fall for WVU, and makes the depth situation a bit dicey for defensive coordinator Tony Gibson.

Something to Keep an Eye On: West Virginia’s completion percentage has been a focus all fall. Quarterback Skyler Howard pointed that out during a recent interview session, and he has been routinely joined by members of the offensive coaching staff, in highlighting the need for improvement there. Howard completed just fewer than 55% of his passes a year ago, and the goal is to get that number above 60%. Additional completions obviously benefit in many ways, but in Dana Holgorsen’s passing offense are critical to keeping offensive rhythm clicking.

 

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