Joining the Cornhuskers in the dubious distinction of placing no first-team all-Big 12 performers is Texas A&M, Baylor, and Kansas. Those schools compiled four of the five worst conference records and combined to produce a 7-25 league mark (21.9%). Ouch!
On the other side of the field, Oklahoma (seven first-teamers), Texas, Kansas State, and Colorado (all with four) dominated the all-conference squad. Those four schools comprise only a third of the Big 12, but grabbed 73% of the first-team slots. Not coincidentally, they also nabbed the top four records in conference play, joining to produce a 25-7 league mark (78.1%), the perfect flip from the bottom four schools. The Sooners, Longhorns, Wildcats, and Buffaloes gave the Big 12 its three final top ten and all of its top 25 members (CU finished 20th and 21st) in 2002.
With the first two squads featured above out of the South division and the second two the North, which division placed more players on the all-conference team overall? The South handily took the honors with 16 on the first unit versus just 10 from the North. This too makes sense considering two of the three top ten teams (Oklahoma and Texas) come from the South. The warmer division went 11-7 against its colder counterpart, not even counting the conference championship game. Oklahoma and Texas' only four defeats between them all came at the hands of South opposition. North squads did gain, however insignificant overall, a 15-11 edge in second-team all-conference performers.
When awarding two points for first-team and one for second-team and a one-half point bonus for a unanimous all-conference selection, here's how the teams stack up:
Kansas St 12.5
Texas Tech 7.5
Iowa St 6
Oklahoma St 4
Texas A&M 3
Oklahoma ran away from the pack with seven first-team performers, including three unanimous selections, and three second-teamers. OU's top group (unanimous designated by ‘u' in front): OL Jammal Brown, TE Trent Smith, u-RB Quentin Griffin, DL Tommie Harris, u-LB Teddy Lehman, u-DB Brandon Everage, and DB Derrick Strait.
Texas' four first-teamers: OL Derrick Dockery, DL Cory Redding, LB Derrick Johnson, and DB Rod Babers. The Horns had no unanimous pick. Making second team is RB Cedric Benson, WR Roy Williams, and DB Nathan Vasher.
As noted above, Kansas State and Colorado each placed four first-teamers, with the Wildcats nabbing an extra second-teamer over the Longhorns and one unanimous all-conference pick in DB and sprint champ Terence Newman.
Nebraska's and Texas A&M's performances are astounding considering they each normally color the Big 12 individual awards scene with plenty of red and maroon. Perhaps significant coaching staff changes in the off-season will reap dividends in time.
The source of much of the disparity in mature talent comes in the embryonic form of high school recruits. Once Mack Brown took over Texas' sagging fortunes, he bumped up the Horns' talent hauls dramatically, and the end results are showing in terms of top players in the program. Around that arrival, the A&M groups, once characteristically glittering with gold, er blue, began to fade considerably in comparison to Jackie Sherrill's signees and R.C. Slocum's first several harvests.
Speaking of Texas talent, how many and what percentage of players that hail from the Lone Star State lined the all-conference teams? Answer: nearly half (12 of the 26 spots) of the first-team personnel are from Texas, with 10 more on the second team, scoring a 42.3% rate on the two units combined. It's expected that a higher percentage of players will come from Texas, due to area and the fact four of the 12 teams (33%) are stationed in the state. The overall numbers though indicate Texas produces some "pretty good" football players.
It's both a cliché and common knowledge that games are usually won up front. Again, the numbers tell the story. Of the top four teams in the conference (based both on conference records and national polls), all five first-team offensive linemen block from those schools. Three of the top four defensive linemen and three of the top four linebackers also excelled at OU, UT, K-State, or Colorado.
An interesting note on the offensive linemen: the top ten's (those comprising first and second team) average weight is 304 pounds based on the official press release. Guess who weighs the most? UT's lone representative, Derrick Dockery, at 345, by 14 pounds over the next heaviest individual. Eight of the ten move the scales to no more than 310; six less than 300. Curiosity causes one to question if maybe the Longhorn linemen aren't a bit too beefy in general, especially considering the overall blocking schemes that have been implemented the past few seasons. Mac McWhorter, Texas' new offensive line coach, may change some of those strategies and stomachs both.
It's said the strong get stronger, the weak get weaker. Baylor and Kansas, both shut out in fielding any first-teamers, lose their lone second-squad reps to graduation. Nebraska, in a similar but uncommonly frail position, loses its three second-team spots, where departing DeJuan Groce held two of those as a defensive back and all-purpose performer. The Aggies aren't much better off. Of the three second-teamers (void of firsts) it placed, two leave College Station.
Among the strong, Colorado is hit the hardest. With the decision of running back Chris Brown to exit early for the NFL, all four first-team Buffs and the one second-teamer will not be wearing the gold and black in 2003. Texas loses Dockery, Redding, and Babers, but returns the rest. OU waves goodbye to Griffin, Trent Smith, Wilkerson (early draft entry, from state of Texas) and Woolfolk. K-State loses all three first-team defenders in DL Tank Reese, LB Terry Pierce (early draft entry, from Texas) and DB Newman. Second-team OL Thomas Barnett also leaves.
So which team gets the biggest immediate boost from proven stars returning to school? The same one that took the Big 12 title–OU. Using the same scoring system as listed above, the Sooners easily outdistance the others, accumulating 12 points on the strength of defenders back such as Harris, Lehman, and Everage. Texas and Kansas State each compile five points, with Iowa State at four. Baylor, Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska have no returning first- or second-team studs. A&M along with Missouri leads the "losers" with one point.
There is certainly more to team success than a few individual awards, but the correlation is strong nonetheless based on all the research. One team that seemed to buck the trend is Oklahoma State. Though the top talent (wideout Rashaun Woods, DL Kevin Williams) is sparse, the Cowboys went 5-3 in conference, 8-5 overall, and blistered the Sooners much more severely than the 10-point final margin indicated. Kudos to head coach Les Miles.
Going again by these numbers, a case could be generated that Mack Brown squeezed the most out of his personnel as well. Texas' 11 points is just shy of Kansas State's 12 and well back off the pace of OU's 18.5. Yet the Horns finished with the same overall record as the Wildcats (11-2) and only one spot behind the Sooners in the final AP poll (#5 vs #6).
Does that indicate Mack's more than just a "Coach February?" For another time folks, but soon.
Bert Hancock has owned two college football-related web sites and was designated "Lead Writer" of one of the first independent web sites dedicated strictly to UT sports. At the University of Texas, where he received a Bachelor of Business degree, his area of specialty was in statistics and probabilities. His "Strength In Numbers" column appears regularly on InsideTexas.com.