Big 12 Wire: preseason football preview

Cameron Jourdan & Hallie Hart

Sports Bloggers

@theozoneonline

Baylor

Baylor receiver KD Cannon sprints down the sidelines in a game against Oklahoma State last season. The Bears handed OSU its first loss of the season in 2016, but the Bears are surrounded by controversy in 2016. (O'Colly File Photo)
Baylor receiver KD Cannon sprints down the sidelines in a game against Oklahoma State last season. The Bears handed OSU its first loss of the season in 2016, but the Bears are surrounded by controversy in 2016.
(O’Colly File Photo)

Chaos has recently surrounded the Baylor football program, ultimately leading to the firing of coach Art Briles. Several members of Baylor’s 2016 class were granted their release from the program because of the scandal surrounding Baylor. This included defensive tackle DeQuinton Osborne, who is now on the OSU roster. The Bears look for a fresh start with coach Jim Grobe, but will they have enough depth after losing several players?

While Baylor has faced trouble off the field, last season on the field was impressive. The Bears had a total of 214 points throughout the first quarters of their 2015 games. All teams that Baylor played last season scored a combined total of only 118 points in the first quarters of their games against Baylor. The Bears begin their 2016 season with a relatively easy schedule before Big 12 play, facing teams such as Rice and SMU. Quarterback Seth Russell has recovered from a broken bone in his neck last season. There is no doubt that the Bears are a talented team, but the mystery remains if Baylor’s issues will affect the team’s mental game.

The Bears kick off the season with a home game against Northwestern State. Big 12 play begins for Baylor when they face Oklahoma State in Waco on Sept. 24

Iowa State

New coach Matt Campbell promised one thing when he was hired: the Cyclones will run the football.

He doesn’t have a bad starting point in sophomore running back Mike

Warren. Warren, who ran for the most yards of any freshman in the country last season, returns along with quarterback Joel Lanning, who could potentially have a breakout season and be another star quarterback in a conference that’s highlighted with great talent and depth at the position.

The question for Iowa State is the loss of talent on the offensive line. The unit lost a combined 111 starts from last season and returns only left tackle Jake Campos.

The defense returns eight starters from last season, and should take a huge step forward after ranking 107th nationally last year. Demond Tucker, the 2015 Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year, is one of the best tackles in the conference and will carry the front four. Iowa State has four NFL-caliber cornerbacks in Brian Peavy, Nigel Tribune, Jomal Wiltz and Jay Jones, and Kamari Cotton-Moya is an All-Big 12-caliber free safety.

ISU visits Boone Pickens Stadium on Oct. 8.

Kansas

In David Beaty’s first season at the helm, Kansas went 0-12.

Kansas can only go up this season, and Beaty wants to start with the turnover margin. The Jayhawks finished with a minus-7 mark in the turnover margin for the year tied for 105th nationally. Beaty created a turnover competition during fall camp to improve that number.

KU will look for its first win against OSU since 2007 in, its matchup Oct. 22 in Lawrence, Kansas.

Kansas State

Knowing how consistent the Wildcats have been under coach Bill Snyder, don’t expect anything less from them this season.

K-State finished seventh in the Big 12 last season with an average of 29.9 points per game. Charles Jones will lead the Wildcat rushing attack. He ran for more than 1,200 yards last season, and he looks to build upon that this year. Quarterback Joe Hubener returns in hopes to once again lead Snyder’s offense, but he will have to compete with a healthy Alex Delton and Jesse Ertz. K-State was 108th in the country last season in passing yards per game, and improving that number has been a point of emphasis this offseason.

The defense is going to be the strength of this team, with a linebacker unit made up of Elijah Lee, Charmeachealle Moore and Will Davis. This is going to be one of the best linebacking groups in the country this year.

OSU visits Manhattan, Kansas, for a date with the Wildcats on Nov. 5.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma claimed the Big 12 title last season and are favored to capture it again in 2016. (O'Colly File Photo)
Oklahoma claimed the Big 12 title last season and are favored to capture it again in 2016.
(O’Colly File Photo)

The Oklahoma Sooners are coming off a year in which they went to the College Football Playoff, posted an 11-2 record and were Big 12 champions. So how can they go up?

Returning a Heisman-trophy favorite in Baker Mayfield is a good place to start. Mayfield is a terror for defenses on the field with his vision as a passer, ability to scramble and his strong arm. Add that with Samaje Perine, who needs a little over 1,000 yards to become OU’s all-time leading rusher, and you have the best backfield in the entire country.

OU is going to have to find consistency at the receiver position. With Sterling Shepard moving on to the NFL, the Sooners are going to rely on young talent to carry them on the field.

The defense is going to be one of the best front sevens in college football. With the veteran leadership of Charles Walker, the defensive line is going to be the strongest unit for the Sooners. Jordan Thomas is the experienced defensive back, and he will be trusted to lead the secondary against the pass happy offenses of the Big 12.

OU hosts OSU on Dec 3 for a Bedlam matchup.

TCU

TCU’s football team made an impressive run in 2015. The Horned Frogs ended the season with an 11-2 record, which made them the No. 7 team in the country. Quarterback Trevone Boykin’s talent was the major reason for TCU’s success. Now, Boykin is on the roster for the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL. This leaves the Horned Frogs with a key question: Who will take the starting quarterback position?

Most see that the contest is between Foster Sawyer and Kenny Hill. TCU’s lineup is also stocked with backup quarterbacks in Brennan Wooten, Jordan Kitna and Grayson Muehlstein. Meanwhile, coach Gary Patterson tends to focus on the defense, which will face some difficulties now that linebacker Travin Howard is out for unknown health-related reasons.

TCU had a strong start to the 2015 season, demolishing Stephen F. Austin 70-7. Even without Boykin, the Horned Frogs could have a similar beginning with their game against South Dakota State on Sept. 3. On Nov. 19, the Cowboys visit Forth Worth to take on the Horned Frogs.

Texas

Last season, Notre Dame destroyed the Texas Longhorns in a season-opening contest 38-3. The Longhorns will again meet the Fighting Irish on the gridiron for the 2016 season opener. This season’s matchup could have a similar outcome, or the Longhorns could find sweet revenge and beat Notre Dame. No matter the final result, this is definitely a game that will have football fans watching.

Texas coach Charlie Strong is back for his second year and the team added offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert to the coaching staff. Gilbert looks to create a fast-paced offense for the Longhorns. The offense definitely needs some improvement. In all games but two last season, Texas tallied fewer than 162 passing yards. The offense also had a pass completion percentage of 55 percent. One player who could improve the Longhorns’ offensive situation is first-year quarterback Shane Buechele, son of former Texas Ranger Steve Buchele. The Longhorns haven’t named a starting quarterback, but Buechele is the front-runner. Texas also has returning quarterbacks Tyrone Swoopes and Jerrod Heard on the roster.

Although the Texas defense struggled during the 2015 season, it holds potential in 2016. Linebacker Malik Jefferson and cornerbacks Davante Davis and Holton Hill display the defensive talent that the Longhorns need.

The Longhorns’ first Big 12 game will be against OSU at Boone Pickens Stadium on Oct. 1.

Texas Tech

O'Colly File Photo
O’Colly File Photo

The biggest challenge for Texas Tech will be filling the shoes of key players who are no longer on the team roster. Star running back DeAndre Washington has made the transition to the NFL from Red Raider to Oakland Raider. Last spring, offensive linemen Trace Ellison and Robert Castaneda were released from the team, as well as standout linebacker Dakota Allen. Allen was later arrested on charges of burglary during the summer.

However, the Red Raiders still have hope. They find it in quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Although the Red Raiders haven’t seen much glory since the Graham Harrell days, Mahomes could be someone who eventually challenges the records that Harrell set. Mahomes was added to the Manning Award watch list August 15th and is also a prospect for several other awards this season.

As for replacing DeAndre Washington, Justin Stockton is a running back to watch. Stockton and the high-octane Texas Tech offense are fast on the football field. The question remains if the defense will be fast on the football field as well.

After going 7-6 in 2015, Kliff Kingsbury and the Red Raiders will begin the 2016 season against Stephen F. Austin. Texas Tech will face OSU on Nov. 12 in Stillwater.

West Virginia

A 43-42 win against the Arizona State Sun Devils capped off an 8-5 season for the West Virginia Mountaineers in their 2015 campaign.

WVU’s rushing attack ranked 16th in the nation last year, a higher number than anticipated for the Air Raid offense coach Dana Holgorsen runs. If the Mountaineers can continue to run the ball well, and rely on their passing attack under senior Skyler Howard, look for big things from the Mountaineers this year.

On offensive, the Mountaineers return Howard and a trio of wide receivers in Daikiel Shorts, Shelton Gibson, and Ka’Raun White.

The West Virginia defense had a decent year last season, allowing fewer than 24 points in seven of its games. The front three is loaded with upperclassmen working around Darrien Howard on the inside and Noble Nwachukwu on one end. The defensive line is going to be the leader of the defense, with West Virginia losing three linebackers and both starting safeties.

WVU has OSU for the Cowboys’ homecoming game Oct. 29.

Editor’s note: the Big 12 Wire keeps readers updated on Big 12 teams, excluding Oklahoma State, throughout the season.  

ozone@ocolly.com

 

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