August 13, 2009

Big 12 preseason unit rankings

MORE: Big 12 preview

OFFENSIVE BACKFIELD

1. Oklahoma: A Heisman-winning quarterback and two 1,000-yard running backs is tough to beat.

2. Oklahoma State: Kendall Hunter is the conference's best running back, and QB Zac Robinson isn't bad, either.

3. Texas: Heisman candidate Colt McCoy puts Texas high on the list by himself, but there are some solid running backs, too.

4. Kansas: Todd Reesing is a playmaker at quarterback, and Jake Sharp is a solid running back.

5. Baylor: One name: Robert Griffin.

6. Missouri: RB Derrick Washington rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season, but there's a new quarterback.

7. Texas Tech: Baron Batch and Harrison Jeffers are exciting running backs, while QB Taylor Potts will post huge passing numbers.

8. Colorado: RBs Rodney Stewart and Darrell Scott potentially are a lethal one-two punch.

9. Nebraska: RB Roy Helu is coming off a strong season, but QB Zac Lee enters his first season as a starter.

10. Iowa State: The Cyclones averaged 138.4 rushing yards per game in'08.

11. Texas A&M: QB Jerrod Johnson is mobile and RB Cyrus Gray has great speed.

12. Kansas State: There's a new offense and a new quarterback. Plus, the Wildcats' leading rusher from '08 now is playing wide receiver.

RECEIVERS

1. Texas: WR Jordan Shipley had 89 catches last season, and sophomore Malcolm Williams is a potential star.

2. Texas Tech: Even without Michael Crabtree, the Red Raiders have plenty of capable targets, most notably Detron Lewis.

3. Kansas: Big-play threat Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier form one of the country's most productive tandems.

4. Oklahoma: TE Jermaine Gresham is the best in the country at his position, and Ryan Broyles is a deep threat.

5. Oklahoma State: Dez Bryant is arguably the best receiver in the nation. The Cowboys need a No. 2 and a No. 3 receiver, though.

6. Texas A&M: Once a problem, this has become an area of strength with WRs Jeff Fuller and Ryan Tannehill and TE Jamie McCoy.

7. Nebraska: The Huskers need a go-to receiver, but there is a lot of talent on hand. Mike McNeill heads a deep group at tight end.

8. Kansas State: Brandon Banks is a serious deep threat, and TE Jeron Mastrud is a huge target.

9. Missouri: Jared Perry and Danario Alexander are solid, but the Tigers need a big-play threat to replace Jeremy Maclin.

10. Iowa State: The Cyclones return the bulk of their receiving crew from last season, but they need a go-to guy to emerge.

11. Baylor: The Bears have great speed at receiver. They need more production, though.

12. Colorado: The Buffs need junior college transfer Andre Simmons to produce immediately. Josh Smith's transfer hurts.

OFFENSIVE LINE

1. Texas: The Longhorns are experienced and deep, and T Adam Ulatoski and C Chris Hall are the headliners.

2. Oklahoma State: T Russell Okung could be the nation's best at his position.

3. Oklahoma: The Sooners are replacing four starters, but many of the new starters have had a lot of playing time. T Trent Williams is a big-timer.

4. Texas Tech: Guys such as Mickey Okafor, who provided excellent depth in '08, will be solid starters in '09.

5. Missouri: All-Big 12 G Kurtis Gregory and freshman All-America T Elvis Fisher are among three returning starters.

6. Nebraska: It's getting like the old days when the Huskers were always strong up front.

7. Kansas: Redshirt freshman T Tanner Hawkinson is a guy to watch. Coaches moved '08 freshman All-America T Jeremiah Hatch to center.

8. Colorado: The Buffs should get a boost with Ryan Miller back from injury and moving from tackle to guard.

9. Kansas State: Three starters return, headed by T Nick Stringer.

10. Baylor: The Bears hope junior college transfer Danny Watkins can adequately replace Jason Smith at tackle.

11. Iowa State: Four starters are back for the Cyclones, but they were a mediocre running team last season.

12. Texas A&M: Last season, the Aggies ranked 114th in the nation in rushing offense and 115th in sacks allowed.

DEFENSIVE LINE

1. Oklahoma: Junior T Gerald McCoy heads what is arguably the nation's best defensive front.

2. Nebraska: Senior Ndamukong Suh is a stalwart at tackle, but the Huskers need a consistent pass rush.

3. Kansas: The Jayhawks were tough against the run in '08, and three starters return up front.

4. Texas: Sergio Kindle's move from linebacker to end bolsters a unit looking for three new starters.

5. Texas Tech: Colby Whitlock and Rajon Henley are underrated tackles.

6. Baylor: Penn State transfer Phil Taylor is a major upgrade at tackle.

7. Missouri: The Tigers were good against the run last season, but the line has three new starters.

8. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys are counting on a resurgence under new coordinator Bill Young.

9. Kansas State: The Wildcats must improve against the run.

10. Texas A&M: T Tony Jerod-Eddie needs a good year for the run defense to improve.

11. Colorado: The Buffaloes have been rebuilt up front.

12. Iowa State: There are experienced players, but the Cyclones have struggled up front.

LINEBACKERS

1. Oklahoma: The Sooners have fingers crossed that oft-injured Ryan Reynolds stays healthy.

2. Texas: Strong depth and rising young players enabled Texas to move Sergio Kindle to end.

3. Oklahoma State: Andre Sexton has received All-Big 12 acclaim, and Patrick Lavine is nearing the school's tackles record.

4. Missouri: Sean Weatherspoon notched 155 tackles in '08.

5. Colorado: The Buffs are deep at linebacker, so deep that one of last season's starters - senior Shaun Mohler - likely will be a backup this season.

6. Baylor: Joe Pawelek is strong against the run and good in coverage, too.

7. Texas Tech: Three returning starters posted more than 60 stops last season.

8. Nebraska: All three starting linebackers are new, plus depth is iffy at the position.

9. Iowa State: Jesse Smith is active in the middle, but Fred Garrin needs to play up to his potential.

10. Kansas: Angus Quigley moves from running back to bolster this unit. Look for KU to run a lot of 4-2-5 sets, and one reason is a lack of depth at linebacker.

11. Kansas State: Alex Hrebec was good as a freshman and should be better as a sophomore.

12. Texas A&M: Remember when this position used to be an annual point of strength for the Aggies?

SECONDARY

1. Oklahoma: The corners are solid and FS Quinton Carter is a fierce hitter.

2. Texas: What a difference a year makes - those freshmen safeties from last season are sophomores now.

3. Colorado: CB Benjamin Burney's return from injury should give the Buffs a big boost.

4. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders need the new starters at safety to flourish.

5. Nebraska: The Huskers look as if they have four strong corners, and SS Larry Asante has all-league potential.

6. Baylor: Three starters are back, headed by senior FS Jordan Lake.

7. Kansas: SS Darrell Stuckey is tremendous, and big things are expected from sophomore CB Daymond Patterson.

8. Oklahoma State: The hope is that three new starters in the secondary prove to be better than their mediocre predecessors.

9. Texas A&M: Ss Trent Hunter and Jordan Pugh are OK, but the corners are a problem.

10. Kansas State: CB Joshua Moore, who had three picks and 12 pass breakups last season, tops a list of three returning starters.

11. Iowa State: Opponents torched the Cyclones for 31 TD passes a year ago.

12. Missouri: The Tigers were last in the Big 12 in pass defense in '08, and star FS William Moore is gone.

SPECIAL TEAMS

1. Texas: The Longhorns have reliable punters and kickers, and Jordan Shipley is a threat on returns.

2. Nebraska: K Alex Henery is one of the best in the nation.

3. Oklahoma State: With Perrish Cox returning kickoffs and Dez Bryant on punts, the Cowboys are doubly dangerous.

4. Baylor: P Derek Epperson has All-America ability, and K Ben Parks is good, too.

5. Kansas State: Opponents hold their breath when Brandon Banks returns kicks.

6. Oklahoma: Ryan Broyles is electrifying on returns, but the Sooners allowed four kickoffs to be returned for TDs last season.

7. Kansas: K Jacob Branstetter is reliable inside 40 yards, and the return teams are solid.

8. Iowa State: K Grant Mahoney has good range, but he needs to improve his accuracy.

9. Texas A&M: Cyrus Gray gives the Aggies a threat on returns.

10. Colorado: K Aric Goodman had a shaky season in '08.

11. Texas Tech: Field goals did not come easily for the Red Raiders.

12. Missouri: Replacing a reliable kicker and Jeremy Maclin on returns won't be easy.

COACHING STAFFS

1. Oklahoma: Bob Stoops has won six Big 12 championships, including the past three.

2. Texas: Mack Brown has posted at least nine wins in each of his 11 seasons in Austin.

3. Kansas: Mark Mangino has given the Jayhawks cause for excitement before basketball season.

4. Texas Tech: Under Mike Leach, Tech has become a perennial bowl participant.

5. Missouri: Once one of the nation's most underachieving programs, Missouri has reached back-to-back Big 12 championship games under Gary Pinkel.

6. Oklahoma State: Mike Gundy has the Cowboys on the verge of joining the national elite.

7. Nebraska: The Huskers made significant improvement in their first season under Bo Pelini.

8. Kansas State: Bill Snyder transformed K-State into a national power once, and he's trying to do it again.

9. Baylor: Art Briles has opponents respecting the Bears. That's an accomplishment in itself.

10. Colorado: The Buffs are just 13-24 in Dan Hawkins' three seasons in Boulder.

11. Texas A&M: Mike Sherman may prove to be another former NFL coach to struggle at the college level.

12. Iowa State: In his first head-coaching job, Paul Rhoads takes over a team that has won nine games total in the past three seasons.

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.




 

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