Posted on: January 12, 2012 3:52 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
We interrupt this steady stream of college football players announcing that they're leaving school early to bring you news of one player who has decided to return. Texas A&M wide receiver Ryan Swope took to his Twitter account on Thursday to tell the world that he'd be returning to College Station for his senior season.
"Looking forward to wearing maroon and white one more season! Can't wait to play for [Kevin] Sumlin and be a part of something special. Gigem!" tweeted Swope.
Swope had quite the breakout season for the Aggies in 2011, becoming Ryan Tannehill's most reliable target. The junior set single season school records by catching 89 passes for 1,207 yards and also pulled in 11 touchdowns. So Aggieland has to be happy to know that one of its biggest playmakers will be returning to the team next season when Texas A&M makes the move to the SEC and the gauntlet that is the SEC West.
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Posted on: December 31, 2011 3:39 pm
Edited on: December 31, 2011 3:40 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
TEXAS A&M WON. There were two factors at play in this game. There was Texas A&M's ability to blow a double-digit lead, and then there was Northwestern's tendency to come back late in bowl games only to come up just short. So, in a sense, Northwestern won this game?
No, Texas A&M finished its season with a victory, but not before making things a lot more interesting than they had to be.
The Aggies went into the fourth quarter with a 30-7 lead, so of course this one came down to the final seconds as Northwestern mounted a comeback. Still, the Aggies made some key plays when they had to in the fourth quarter, and Ryan Tannehilll threw for 392 yards and a touchdown. Jeff Fuller and Ryan Swope were his favorite targets, as Fuller finished the day with 7 grabs for 119 yards -- including a huge grab on A&M's final drive for a pivotal first down -- and Swope had 8 catches for 105 yards.
WHY TEXAS A&M WON. The Aggies built a lead that not even they could blow. Well, that and the fact that for the first 45 minutes of this game the Texas A&M defense just proved to be too much for Northwestern's offense. The Wildcats only managed 278 yards of offense on the day, and 147 of those yards came in the final quarter.
WHEN TEXAS A&M WON. The Aggies finally had the drive they needed so many times during the regular season to put an opponent away late in this one. After getting the ball back with 5:22 left and an 8-point lead, the Aggies put together a 12-play 68-yard drive that ended with a 31-yard field goal to make it a two-score game with 30 seconds left to play.
WHAT TEXAS A&M WON. After a season that was full of mostly disappointment for the Aggies, this one had to feel good. The Aggies were able to pick up a seventh victory and finish the year with a winning record before moving on to the SEC under Kevin Sumlin.
WHAT NORTHWESTERN LOST. Northwestern came into 2011 with higher hopes than a 6-7 season, but that's exactly what the Wildcats got with this loss. Making matters worse, this bowl loss marks the school's ninth consecutive bowl loss, tying the mark previously set by Notre Dame. Pat Fitzgerald has done a great job in Evanston, but this team just can't get over the postseason hump.
THAT WAS CRAZY. Texas A&M had a double-digit lead at halftime and didn't lose the game!
GRADE: B-. This was not a great game. In fact, for the first three quarters, it was pretty damn boring. The Wildcats couldn't do anything on offense, and A&M looked like it was going to blow them out. Thankfully the fourth quarter happened, allowing all of us to wonder if the Aggies could do it one more time. So since it was interesting in the final frame, I'm giving this game a B, but the minus is there to remind us how average the rest of it was.
Posted on: December 7, 2011 2:57 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2011 2:58 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
The season has wrapped, the bowl games are set and it's time to hand out some awards. As part ofCBSSports.com's look at the regular season, here is the best of the Big 12 conference.
AwardsOFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Robert Griffin, quarterback, Baylor
When it comes to choosing only one person to be the Offensive Player of the Year in a conference that features so many potent offenses as the Big 12, it's not easy. Or at least, it shouldn't be. Still, despite all the amazing offensive players in the Big 12 this season, the choice here was pretty clear for me. Robert Griffin set an NCAA record with his 192.3 efficiency rating this season, all while throwing for 3,998 yards and 36 touchdowns compared to only 6 interceptions. No one player was more important to his team this season than Griffin was, and he'll likely be adding a Heisman Trophy to his collection soon enough.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Frank Alexander, defensive line, Oklahoma
There were a few other players I considered for this like Iowa State's A.J. Klein and Texas A&M's Sean Porter, but in the end I went with Alexander. He was a force on the defensive line for one of the conference's best defenses all season long. Alexander finished the season leading the Big 12 in tackles for loss with 18, and was tied with Porter for most sacks in the conference with 8.5.
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
Quandre Diggs, defensive back, Texas
This was between Diggs and Kansas State's Tyler Lockett for me, but I went with Diggs since Lockett missed the final three weeks of the season. I also went with Diggs because he deserves the honor, picking off 3 passes and breaking up another 13 while making 46 tackles for the Longhorns in 2011.
COACH OF THE YEAR
Bill Snyder, Kansas State
This was extremely tough, as I mulled between Snyder, Mike Gundy and Art Briles for a while. In the end I went with Snyder because I'm still amazed by what he's now done twice in Manhattan. I had a feeling before the season began that Kansas State would be better than we thought, but I didn't see a 10-2 season and a near berth in a BCS bowl being possible. So because of that I have to give the nod to Snyder.
All-Big 12 OffenseQUARTERBACK
Robert Griffin, Baylor
He was my offensive player of the year, so he's my selection for quarterback here as well. Though I'd be remiss if I didn't give a tip of my non-existent cap to Brandon Weeden and Collin Klein.
Terrance Ganaway, Baylor and Henry Josey, Missouri
When it comes to the Baylor offense, Griffin and the passing game get a lot of credit, but Ganaway is what helps make that passing attack even more dangerous. When you have a running back who rushes for a Big 12-best 1,347 yards and 16 touchdowns, defenses can't just drop back into coverage and take away your passing game. Ganaway's presence gives Baylor its balance. As for Henry Josey, he finished the season averaging more yards per game than any other Big 12 running back and would have led the conference in rushing yards if not for a knee injury against Texas that cost him the last few weeks of the season. Still, 1,168 yards in 10 games and over 8 yards a carry will get you here injury or not.
Kendall Wright, Baylor and Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
Too many deserving receivers to choose from, but I went with Wright and Blackmon. Somebody had to be on the receiving end of all those Robert Griffin passes, and Wright was the most popular target. He led the conference with 1,572 receiving yards and had 13 touchdowns. Only one receiver finished the year with more receptions and touchdowns than Wright, and that was Oklahoma State's Blackmon. He came into the season with enormous expectations considering what he did in 2010, and though he didn't match those numbers, 113 receptions for 1,336 yards and 15 touchdowns is one hell of a letdown. Also, honorable mention to Ryan Broyles who had his senior season cut short and Texas A&M's Ryan Swope.
Michael Egnew, Missouri
This wasn't that hard of a decision since Egnew led all Big 12 tight ends in receptions (47), yards (484), and was tied in touchdowns (3). Egnew was a reliable target for James Franklin all season.
Grant Garner, Oklahoma State; Levy Adcock, Oklahoma State; Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma, Kelechi Osemele, Iowa State, Jeremiah Hatch, Kansas
No matter what kind of scheme you use, there are no great offenses without great offensive lines, which means the Big 12 had plenty to choose from. Trying to pare a long list down to five was not easy, but these are the guys who stood out to me the most all season.
All-Big 12 DefenseDEFENSIVE LINE
Frank Alexander, Oklahoma; Ronnell Lewis, Oklahoma; Ray Kibble, Kansas State; Alex Okafor, Texas
If you're an offensive lineman and you look across the line of scrimmage to see these four men in your face, you know you are going to be in for a long day. Whether getting to the quarterback or stuffing the run, all four of these lineman had their names called quite often this season.
Arthur Brown, Kansas State; A.J. Klein, Iowa State; Sean Porter, Texas A&M
While Porter was tied for the Big 12 lead with 8.5 sacks, Klein was a tackling machine for the Cyclones with 101 tackles and also proved useful in coverage. Then there's Arthur Brown who, in my opinion, may be the best all-around linebacker in the conference. Whether stopping the run, in pass coverage, or just being wherever he needs to be to make a big play. Kansas' Steven Johnson and Texas' Emmanuel Acho also deserve a mention here.
Nigel Malone, Kansas State; Jamell Fleming, Oklahoma; Markelle Martin, Oklahoma State, E.J. Gaines, Missouri
If you're a cornerback or a safety at a Big 12 school, you are going to be tested week in and week out. There's no way around it, and some plays you're going to get beat, as it happens to everybody. Still, more often than not, these were the four defensive backs whom I saw making the plays their defenses needed them to make this season.
PK Randy Bullock, Texas A&M; P Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State; Returner Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
I could have gone with Quinn Sharp for both punter and placekicker as he performed both duties for Oklahoma State this season, and performed extremely well in both jobs. I decided to go with Bullock however as he was called on more often than Sharp to put points on the board and did so at the same rate. Then there's Tyler Lockett who was one of the more exciting returners in the conference this season, with two kickoffs returned for touchdowns. He just slightly edged out Texas' Fozzy Whittaker.
Tags: A.J. Klein, Alex Okafor, Art Briles, Arthur Brown, Baylor, Big 12, Bill Snyder, Brandon Weeden, CBSSports.com All-Conference Team, Collin Klein, E.J. Gaines, Emmanuel Acho, Frank Alexander, Gabe Ikard, Grant Garner, Henry Josey, Iowa State, Jamell Fleming, James Franklin, Jeremiah Hatch, Justin Blackmon, Kansas, Kansas State, Kelechi Osemele, Kendall Wright, Levy Adcock, Markelle Martin, Michael Egnew, Mike Gundy, Missouri, Nigel Malone, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Quandre Diggs, Quinn Sharp, Randy Bullock, Ray Kibble, Robert Griffin, Ronnell Lewis, Ryan Broyles, Ryan Swope, Sean Porter, Steven Johnson, Terrance Ganaway, Texas, Texas A&M, Tom Fornelli, Tyler Lockett
Posted on: October 16, 2011 1:38 am
Edited on: October 16, 2011 3:09 am
Posted by Tom Fornelli
A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.
WINNER: Fans of offense
The Big 12 often gets flak for the lack of defense that is played in the conference, and for the most part it's criticism that's deserved. Of course, there's another side to that coin, and it's that the Big 12 is also home to some good offenses as well. Offenses that were fully on display throughout Saturday.
In five games between all ten teams in the conference, there was a total of 355 points scored, 45 touchdowns and 4,658 yards of total offense. That's 71 points, 9 touchdowns and 931.6 yards of offense per game. That is insane.
LOSER: The Baylor defense
Okay, and there's just genuinely bad defense too. There is little doubt what the strengths and weaknesses are with Baylor this season. The strength is Robert Griffin and the Baylor offense. The weakness is the other side of the ball, and it was evident on Saturday. Texas A&M racked up 681 yards of offense on Saturday, and Ryan Tannehill threw for 415 yards and 6 touchdowns. Robert Griffin, despite evidence to the contrary, is not perfect, and in order for Baylor to beat the best teams in the Big 12, Griffin can't do it all on his own. He's going to need his defense to step up and make plays from time to time, and it just didn't do that on Saturday. The result? A 55-28 blowout in College Station.
WINNER: Ryan Swope
Somebody had to benefit from all those yards that Baylor was giving to Ryan Tannehill and it was Ryan Swope. Swope finished the day with 11 catches for 206 yards and a school record 4 touchdowns. Swope is one of the most underrated receivers in the Big 12, and he's often overshadowed on his own team by Jeff Fuller, but he showed everybody why he deserves a lot more attention this weekend.
LOSER: David Ash's hold on the Texas quarterback job
For the first time since the Longhorns replaced Garrett Gilbert, Mack Brown and Bryan Harsin handed the reins to David Ash for a full 60 minutes on Saturday and got some mediocre results. Ash completed only 22 of his 40 passes for 139 yards with no touchdowns. More importantly, he turned the ball over three times. There's no guarantee that Case McCoy will see time next week because of it, but you can bet at the very least Malcolm Brown and Fozzy Whittaker will get a lot more than the 28 carries they split on Saturday.
WINNER: Missouri offensive coordinator David Yost
Coming into Saturday, Missouri's offense hadn't exactly been lighting up scoreboards the same way it has the last few seasons. Obviously, a lot of this had to do with breaking in a new quarterback in James Franklin. Coming into Saturday the Tigers were averaging 32.2 points per game, but if you took out the 69 points Mizzou scored against Western Illinois, that average dropped to 23 points per game. Against Iowa State Yost's offense blew up for 52 points and 583 yards of offense, with James Franklin totaling 5 touchdowns. No doubt Yost is hoping that becomes a trend for the last half of the season.
LOSER: Brandon Weeden's Heisman stock
I put Robert Griffin in this spot last week following a Baylor victory, and now Brandon Weeden finds himself in the same situation. Sure, Oklahoma State scored more points (38) than it ever had before during a trip to Austin, but Weeden's numbers on Saturday weren't very Weeden-esque. He finished the day with only 218 yards and a touchdown. Compare that to last week when he threw 288 yards and 5 touchdowns in less than a full half. The good news for Weeden is he has plenty of time to help people forget this performance.
WINNER: Believers in Bill Snyder
Let's be honest, nobody expected Kansas State to be 6-0 at this point in the season. A lot of people didn't expect the Wildcats to be 6-0 even after they started the season 5-0, as Kansas State opened the week as 3 1/2-point underdogs on the road against Texas Tech. Yeah, well, Bill Snyder doesn't care. The style of offense he runs may seem a bit old fashioned, but it works, and Kansas State is a contender to win the Big 12 whether you're willing to believe it or not.
WINNER: Ryan Broyles
It was just another night for the Oklahoma receiver, as he caught 13 passes for 217 yards and 2 touchdowns. His first touchdown catch of the night was the reception number 317 for Broyles in his career, and it moved him past Taylor Stubblefield for the most receptions by any player in NCAA history. Broyles finished the night with 326 career receptions, and he's still got seven games to go. He could pass 400 by the time he's done.
Tags: Baylor, Big 12, Bill Snyder, Brandon Weeden, Bryan Harsin, Case McCoy, David Ash, David Yost, Fozzy Whittaker, Garrett Gilbert, Iowa State, James Franklin, Jeff Fuller, Kansas State, Mack Brown, Malcolm Brown, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Robert Griffin, Ryan Broyles, Ryan Swope, Ryan Tannehill, Taylor Stubblefield, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Tom Fornelli, Western Illinois, Winners And Losers
Posted on: October 15, 2011 3:38 pm
Edited on: October 15, 2011 3:38 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
TEXAS A&M WON. The Aggies put together their best game in weeks. Yes, the A&M defense gave up quite a few yards, but most teams do when going against this Baylor offense. The biggest difference was that the A&M offense put its foot on the gas pedal in the second quarter and never took it off. Ryan Tannehill finished the day with 415 yards and 6 touchdown passes and Ryan Swope was by far his favorite target. Swope had 11 receptions for 206 yards and a school record of 4 touchdowns. Texas A&M's offense would finish with 679 yards of total offense.
WHY TEXAS A&M WON. While Texas A&M's defense didn't have a strong performance, it was still better than that of Baylor's. The Aggies were able to get pressure on Robert Griffin throughout the day, and also made some key stops, none bigger than on a 4th and goal in the fourth quarter. Texas A&M even managed to intercept a pass, which was only the second time Griffin had been picked off all season, and A&M's first interception in a span of 23 quarters. Combine that with an offense that refused to be stopped, and the Aggies proved to be too much to handle.
WHEN TEXAS A&M WON. The aforementioned stop on fourth and goal. At the time Baylor was trailing 41-28 and looking to cut A&M's lead, but the Aggies blitzed and got to Griffin, causing him to heave up a prayer as he was being dragged down. It landed incomplete, and seven plays later Tannehill was throwing his sixth score of the day to Uzoma Nwachukwu to seal it.
WHAT TEXAS A&M WON. First and foremost, the Aggies won a conference game that it needed after losing to Oklahoma State three weeks ago and is back to 2-1 in Big 12 play. What the Aggies also got was a bit of revenge on Baylor. You'll remember that when the Aggies announced they were leaving for the SEC, it was Baylor that through a wrench in the process by threatening litigation. So this one had to taste a bit sweeter because of it.
WHAT BAYLOR LOST. For all intents and purposes, Baylor's chance to win the Big 12 this season has been erased. The Bears now fall to 1-2 in Big 12 play, and will have to be resigned to the chance to play spoiler down the stretch.
THAT WAS CRAZY. After both Baylor and Texas A&M combined for only 10 points through the first 21 minutes of the game, both teams managed to put up 21 points while taking less than 2 minutes off the game clock about halfway through the second quarter. In that span, both offenses ran 11 plays for 230 yards.
Posted on: September 4, 2011 11:20 pm
Edited on: September 4, 2011 11:21 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
TEXAS A&M WON. This game was a rather interesting one for Texas A&M as SMU was an opponent capable of giving the Aggies a headache to start the season. Well, Texas A&M won't be needing any Tylenol tonight. While the Mustangs hung around in the first half despite two turnovers that resulted in 14 Texas A&M points, the Aggies dominated the final 30 minutes. The Aggies used a balanced attack on offense and racked up 458 yards of total offense (212 rushing, 246 passing) while cruising to an easy victory. Ryan Tannehill looked very good, completing 21 of his 26 passes for 246 yards and 2 touchdowns, while Cyrus Gray rushed for 132 yards and 2 touchdowns of his own. Ryan Swope had a nice opener as well, catching 8 passes for 109 yards and a score.
WHY TEXAS A&M WON. While the offense had itself a strong night, Texas A&M's defense was the true deciding factor. The Aggies were facing an SMU offense that returned its entire offensive line, its quarterback and it's top rusher and receiver from a team that averaged nearly 30 points a game last season and held it to 14 points. The Aggies also forced two turnovers early that got Kyle Padron pulled from the game, and had 7 sacks on the evening, including 3 from defensive end Tony Jerod-Eddie. So much for dealing with the loss of Von Miller.
WHEN TEXAS A&M WON. The Mustangs were hanging tough despite turnovers and having their backup quarterback in the game, but when Christine Michael scored his second touchdown of the night a minute before halftime to make the score 33-14 it put an end to any realistic hopes that SMU might have had. It was the proverbial foot on the throat moment.
WHAT TEXAS A&M WON. Well, if the SWC were still around, the Aggies would have won a conference game. Instead the Aggies got to show everyone why they deserved to be ranked at #8 to start the season. It was exactly the type of performance you expect to see from a top ten team that is considered a candidate to win the Big 12.
WHAT SMU LOST. Stability at the quarterback position. Kyle Padron threw for 3,828 yards, 31 touchdowns and 14 interceptions for the Mustangs last season. He only threw 4 passes and had 2 interceptions before June Jones gave him the hook for J.J. McDermott, who played pretty well in his stead. Now the Mustangs have a question mark at a key position they thought they already had an answer to going into the night.
THAT WAS CRAZY. Nothing out of the ordinary really happened in this one, though I suppose the fact we had an entire game played this weekend without a lightning delay could be considered a bit of a novelty. Of course, the irony there is that the state of Texas is in the midst of a terrible drought and would more than welcome the rain that hit the midwest and east coast this weekend.
Posted on: August 16, 2011 12:10 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
As part of the CBSSports.com season preview, here are my choices for the Preseason All-Big 12 team.
Landry Jones, Junior, Oklahoma
This is the rather obvious choice, as while there are some good quarterbacks in the Big 12, there's only one who plays for the team many see as a favorite to win the national title, and one whose name comes up in the Heisman Trophy discussion. That would be Landry Jones, and he deserves the hype. In his first two seasons with the Sooners, Jones has thrown for 7,916 yards, 64 touchdowns and only 26 interceptions.
Also watch for: Though he didn't claim the starting job until half the season had passed, Ryan Tannehill was a big part of Texas A&M's strong finish in 2010. There's also the supremely talented Robert Griffin III at Baylor, and you can't forget about Brandon Weeden at Oklahoma State.
Cyrus Gray, Senior, Texas A&M
While the Aggies deployed a two-headed monster at running back last season, Cyrus Gray was the most productive of the bunch. Gray rushed for 1,133 yards in 2010 and had 12 touchdowns. I wouldn't count on seeing Gray's production drop off at all as he enters his final season in College Station.
Roy Finch, Sophomore, Oklahoma
Finch didn't get a lot of playing time last season, but now that DeMarco Murray has moved on, the speedy back is going to see a lot of action this season, and in an offense as potent as Oklahoma's, that means we're likely to see some big numbers from the little man.
Also watch for: Christine Michael was part of Texas A&M's dynamic duo with Cyrus Gray last season, and he's going to have a big role in 2011 as well. There's also Eric Stephens at Texas Tech who could open some eyes with Tommy Tuberville implementing a more balanced attack and five returning starters on the offensive line. There's also Bryce Brown at Kansas State, and if Brown can live up to all the hype he had coming out of high school, then he may end up being the best back in the entire conference. Texas will be hoping that Malcolm Brown can be the feature back it's been looking for as well.
Justin Blackmon, Junior, Oklahoma State
It's going to be hard for Justin Blackmon to match his 2010 numbers in 2011, but the fact is that his production was so insane last year, that he won't have to. Take away 500 yards and 5 touchdowns from his total last year and Blackmon still finishes with 1,282 yards and 15 touchdowns. The craziest thing of all, however, is if he surpasses last year's numbers, nobody will be all that surprised either.
Ryan Broyles, Senior, Oklahoma
Broyles could have left for the NFL last year, but he decided to return for another season in Norman and Landry Jones couldn't be happier about it. Broyles is coming off his second consecutive 1,000-yard season with at least 14 touchdowns, and a third straight year with those numbers is likely on its way.
Also watch for: The Big 12 is not hurting for strong wide receivers. While Broyles and Blackmon will get the most attention, Kenny Stills and Josh Cooper are excellent second options for their respective squads. Then there's Kendall Wright at Baylor, Ryan Swope and Jeff Fuller at Texas A&M, T.J. Moe at Missouri, and don't forget about Mike Davis at Texas.
Michael Egnew, Senior, Missouri
Egnew is listed as a tight end, but realistically, he plays more like a wide receiver. Egnew caught 90 passes for 762 yards last year with five touchdowns, and he should see plenty of balls coming his way again this year as James Franklin looks to fill Blaine Gabbert's shoes.
Also watch for: While wide receiver catch most of the balls in the Big 12, there are some solid tight ends. Keep an eye on Oklahoma's James Hanna, Nehemiah Nicks with Texas A&M and Tim Biere at Kansas.
Center Ben Habern, Junior, Oklahoma
After redshirting in 2008, Habern has started 24 games at center for the Sooners over the last two seasons. He led Oklahoma with 123 knockdowns in 2010, including 16 against Colorado and was an honorable mention on the All-Big 12 team last season.
Guard, Lonnie Edwards, Senior, Texas Tech
Edwards is a key part of the Texas Tech offensive line that returns every starter this season. He'll play an even larger role this season as Texas Tech will likely run more than we've seen in the past. The 6-foot-4 320 pounder has started 23 games in Lubbock and was an All-Big 12 second team selection in 2010.
Guard, Lane Taylor, Junior, Oklahoma State
Taylor is the most experience member of the Oklahoma State offensive line, as he was the only returning starter in 2010. He's made 24 consecutive starts for the Cowboys, and aside from keeping Brandon Weeden off his back, Taylor was an first team academic Big 12 selection as well.
Tackle, Levy Adcock, Senior, Oklahoma State
They don't come much bigger than Adcock, and the 6-foot-6 322-pound tackle used his size awfully well in 2010. Adcock was a first-team All-Big 12 selection by both the coaches and the AP last season (a unanimous selection by the AP) after winning the starting job in August last year and never letting it go.
Tackle, Kelechi Osemele, Senior, Iowa State
Oh wait, they do come bigger than Adcock. Osemele checks in at 6-foot-6 and 347 pounds. Osemele got his start playing both guard and tackle in 2008 but moved to left tackle full time in 2009 and hasn't moved since, starting 30 straight games. This will be a name you hear called early in the NFL draft next spring.
Also watch for: Offensive lineman may spend most of their time living in anonymity and working as a unit, but Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel and Oklahoma State's Grant Garner are a couple other names you should get familiar with. Missouri's Elvis Fisher definitely would have made the list if not for his season-ending knee injury.
DE Frank Alexander, Senior, Oklahoma
Alexander only started in nine games for the Sooners last season, but still managed to finish second on the team in tackles for loss (13) and sacks (7). In other words, he spends a lot of his time in backfields disrupting plays before they even get a chance to start.
DE Brad Madison, Junior, Missouri
Madison had a break out season in 2010 and proved to be one of the top playmakers on Missouri's defensive line. Madison ended the season leading the Tigers defense in sacks (7.5) and tackles for loss (11). He was named to the All-Big 12 second team for his efforts, and now that he'll be replacing Aldon Smith his name is one that many opposing quarterbacks will have drilled into their brains as they prepare to face Missouri.
DT Kheeston Randall, Senior, Texas
An anchor on the defensive line for the Longhorns, Randall was an honorable mention for the All-Big 12 last season. This year I believe he'll be moving up the ladder and having an even bigger impact. Randall finished second on the team with 13 tackles for loss in 2010, and also had a big impact on special teams, blocking two kicks.
DT Tony Jerod-Eddie, Senior, Texas A&M
In Texas A&M's 3-4 defense, Jerod-Eddie sees a lot of time at defensive end, but he's a defensive tackle in purpose. Think of Marcell Dareus at Alabama last season. While Jerod-Eddie doesn't spend a lot of time in the backfield blowing up plays, he uses his size and strength to stuff the run at the point of attack and allow Aggie linebackers to flow freely to the ball.
Also watch for: Oklahoma's Ronnell Lewis only started the final four games for the Sooners last season, but he was incredibly productive in those four games. Starting all season could see him put up some ridiculous numbers. Jacqueis Smith of Missouri combines with Madison to give the Tigers a big push on the edges.
Jake Knott, Junior, Iowa State
There weren't many plays run against the Iowa State defense last season in which Jake Knott wasn't in on the tackle. He led the conference with 130 tackles last season and was a first-team All-Big 12 selection because of it. He'll be bringing that same nose for the football back to the Iowa State defense this season, and though he broke his arm in spring camp, he should be good to go when the season starts.
Garrick Williams, Senior, Texas A&M
Williams tallied 112 tackles in 2010, and now that Michael Hodges and Von Miller are no longer in College Station, he'll be playing an even larger role in 2011. I'm not sure Williams will be able to completely fill Von Miller's shoes in the Aggie defense, but he may end up being just as important to the defense as Miller was.
Keenan Robinson, Senior, Texas
Robinson was all over the place for the Longhorns in 2010. He finished the season with 113 tackles, 2 for a loss, and also had 2 sacks, 2 interceptions, 2 fumble recoveries and a touchdown. Oh, and he's also a standout on special teams. He is literally all over the field on defense, and he's poised for another big season in 2011.
Also watch for: It was hard to pick just three linebackers in this conference, as there are plenty of other good options. Names like A.J. Klein (Iowa State), Arthur Brown (Kansas State), Caleb Lavey (Oklahoma State), Emmanuel Acho (Texas), Sean Porter (Texas A&M), Zaviar Gooden (Missouri) and Huldon Tharp (Kansas) are some of those options. Also, if it weren't for an injury that is going to keep him out for eight weeks, Oklahoma's Travis Lewis would have been an easy selection to the team. However, due to that injury, Lewis' replacement Corey Nelson is another name to watch out for.
CB Jamell Fleming, Senior, Oklahoma
Big 12 quarterbacks will test Jamell Fleming at their own risk in 2011. In his first full season as a starter last year Fleming had 5 interceptions, and proved himself quite the playmaker in the Oklahoma secondary. He's also not afraid to create some contact, tallying 71 tackles with 8.5 for a loss. He's a very good player in what may be the best secondary the Big 12 has.
CB Coryell Judie, Senior, Texas A&M
Judie finished second in the Big 12 in interceptions last season behind Fleming with 4. He also broke up 4 passes and made 57 tackles for the Aggies. His impact is also felt on special teams, as he proved to be one of the most explosive kick returners in the conference last season, averaging over 30 yards a return with 2 touchdowns.
S Markelle Martin, Senior, Oklahoma State
This is not a man that wide receivers want to have a rendevous with over the middle of the football field, as Martin can bring the wood with the best of them. What makes Martin more dangerous, though, is that he improved his coverage skills in 2010 and picked off three passes. He's the type of safety that can separate you from the ball physically, or just take it away from you in the air.
S Tony Jefferson, Sophomore, Oklahoma
2010 may have been Jefferson's first season of college ball, but you couldn't tell by watching him play. The Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year started 9 games for the Sooners in 2010 and finished the season with 65 tackles (7 for a loss) with 2 sacks, 2 interceptions and 7 passes broken up. I expect those numbers to improve in 2011 as this kid is only beginning to tap into his potential.
Also watch for: Oklahoma's Demontre Hurst could have been on my first team and given the Sooners secondary three of the four spots, but just because he didn't doesn't mean he's somebody quarterbacks should test too often. Keep your eyes on Blake Gideon (Texas), Trent Hunter (Texas A&M), Leonard Johnson (Iowa State) and Prince Kent (Baylor) too.
K Grant Ressel, Senior, Missouri
P Quinn Sharp, Junior, Oklahoma State
KR Coryell Judie, Senior, Texas A&M
PR Ryan Broyles, Senior, Oklahoma
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