ABCs Of The Big 12: A-I
By Steve Pipps
With one week left before the 2014 season kickoff, we take a look at the ABCs of the Big 12. Part 2 & 3 to come.
A. Antwan Goodley –The Baylor Bears are looking to defend their Big 12 title and WR Antwan Goodley will be an integral part in that. With Bryce Petty back under center, Goodley is sure to have another season like 2013 where he was named an All-American. He put up solid numbers with 1,339 yards, 13 TDs on 71 catches. There is no reason Petty and Goodley can’t connect for similar, if not better numbers, in 2014 and top the Big 12 again.
B. Blake Bell –Blake Bell shared starting honors with Trevor Knight in 2013. After the All-State Sugar Bowl where Knight shined, Bell moved to tight end. On Monday, Bell was named starting tight end. In an article on Fox News, Bob Stoops said of the move: “He’s been very positive about it and he’s been nothing but a great teammate and worker and attitude guy for us.” Bell will be a great asset at tight end because he understands the offense from multiple points of view. At 6-foot-6 and 259 pounds, he is everything you want at tight end.
(Other B’s: Bryce Petty Heisman hopeful, Bill Snyder looks to coach a strong Kansas State team to a dark horse Big 12 title.)
C. Charlie Weis –The hot seat doesn’t get cooler until the season starts and his team starts producing. Charlie Weis knows this well, but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, 2014 is going to be a good year for Kansas. Montell Cozart has been named starter since the spring game and Nick Harwell will lead the offense and revitalize the receiving core. The Jayhawks did suffer two big losses in the backfield, which depleted them of any starting experience. Brandon Bourbon and Taylor Cox both suffered season-ending injuries. They now have freshman Corey Avery and JUCO transfer De’Andre Mann at the top of the depth chart. They also have wide receiver Tony Pierson, who has running back experience, to help out when needed. Also to add depth to the position, the Jayhawks moved freshman safety Joe Dineen to running back.
(Other Cs: Charlie Strong who looks to toughen up the Longhorns and put the T back in Texas.)
D. Defense –The inevitable inclusion of defense. (It was going to be Dorial Green-Beckham, but his waiver request was denied.) The Big 12 is known for high-powered spread offenses that can destroy you for 50 plus points. Last year Baylor was first overall in the FBS with an average 52.4 points per game. The Big 12 is the only conference in the Big 5 where teams play every other team in the conference. This make defense imperative if anyone wants a shot at the inaugural playoff.
(Other Ds: Davis Webb looks to lead Texas Tech)
E. Endurance –Fast-paced offenses are the norm in the Big 12. Last season Baylor and Texas Tech were sixth and first respectively in average plays per game with 82.6 and 87.3. Texas averaged 77.3, Oklahoma had 72.4 and Oklahoma State had 75.9. Players are going to be pushed on both sides of the ball and without the endurance to last all four quarters, they are going to slow and ultimately hamper their team’s ability to win. They need the endurance to play all 60 minutes or the Big 12 will break them.
F. Frank Shannon –The Sooner depth chart was released Monday and Frank Shannon was not listed. The linebacker was not charged criminally after an alleged sexual assault in January of 2014. The university then ran its own investigation, which is currently being appealed by Shannon. Meanwhile, he was been suspended for one year. Shannon was the leading tackler for the Sooners last season and the defense will take a hit without him on the field.
(Other Fs: Focus, self-explanatory. A good preseason list can never have too many buzzwords.)
G. Gary Patterson – Gary Patterson, the head coach of the TCU Horned Frogs, needs to have a good year in 2014. The Horned Frogs missed their first bowl game in eight seasons last year and have struggled to establish themselves as a force in the Big 12 since moving from the Mountain West. TCU faces off with three winnable non-conference games, but jumps into conference play headfirst. TCU’s October schedule consists of Oklahoma, at Baylor, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. If they can survive October with only two losses they will be well on their way to an eight win season.
H. Heartbreak -Every team and every fan experiences heartbreak at some point. Usually it happens once a season, sometimes more, but it is something we all deal with. It’s in the terms of agreement that we don’t read when we sign up to be a sports fan. But heartbreak is something we cannot let break us. It could be argued that Alabama lost to OU in the All-State Sugar Bowl because they suffered a heartbreaking loss at the hands of Auburn the game before and hadn’t quite gotten over that. Whether you believe that or not, teams who suffer a heartbreaking-loss early in the season cannot get discouraged and let it affect the next game or games. This isn’t the BCS. Undefeated doesn’t necessarily mean a trip to the national championship. Play your heart out every week and let it get broken, but don’t let it break you.
I. Isaiah Bruce –Isaiah Bruce is one of six returning starters on the West Virginia defense. As a redshirt freshman, he was named Freshman All-American and was All-Big 12 Conference Second Team. Last season, he finished with 43 tackles including three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. As WVU looks to establish itself in the Big 12 after leaving the Big East, defense will be a key. Bruce will be a leader on Mountaineers’ defense and a playmaker that teams will have to account for.