Spring Football: Big XII Question Marks
New coaches, Heisman candidates, and points aplenty await
For many football fans, the sports calendar is made up of two seasons; football and spring football season. Early entries into the NFL Draft and graduations force a roster turnover in college football, but that is what makes the game so fascinating. Every team in the Big 12 is facing some questions as we approach the summer months, and the spring football period is a chance to examine some of those questions.
Tom Herman brings to Texas some much needed excitement, but the Longhorns have a number of questions that they are facing in the spring. The main question revolves around quarterback Shane Buechele. Can Buechele limit the turnovers, which seemed to plague the Longhorns last season? Buechele threw 21 touchdowns but had 11 interceptions and cutting that number down a bit could give the Longhorns a dangerous offense. Texas fans should see the big play be prevalent once again, with Chris Warren and Shane Buechele providing a much needed punch for the offense.
The major question facing Dana Holgorsen and his West Virginia Mountaineers is who is going to step in the secondary? The Mountaineers have one returning in the secondary as they to enter the 2017 season. Holgorsen will be expecting Elijah Battle to step up and cement a starting role in the secondary. Dravon Askew-Henry is returning from injury and should be ready to go during spring practices. Once the secondary starts to sort itself out, West Virginia could have a dangerous football team going into the season.
The Oklahoma Sooners have not had a quiet offseason off the field. The chief questions Sooners’ fans have concerning on the field work is who is going to get the carries at the running back position. With both Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon moving to play on Sunday, the Sooners will need to find some reliable running backs to carry the load and help take pressure off of Baker Mayfield. Two players likely to see some time at the tailback spot are Trey Sermon and Marcelias Sutton. Sermon carried the ball for 73 yards on 13 carries in the spring game and Sutton tacked on 63 yards on 10 carries and a touchdown. The running back question for the Sooners may have been answered.
For Coach Bill Snyder and the Kansas State Wildcats the spring football season brings in something else to focus on other than Coach Snyder’s health. Snyder has completed treatments for cancer and that he is once again working full days in preparation for the upcoming season. The major concern for the Kansas State Wildcats will be whether or not Jesse Ertz will be ready to go by the start of fall practice. Sophomore Alex Delton will get some chances to show the coaching staff and fans what all he can do. The Wildcats have plenty of time to hammer out any problems with the offense, but having a capable backup will certainly make Wildcats’ fans feel more at ease.
The Baylor Bears have had a chaotic couple of years and are looking for the spring season to rejuvenate the football program. Matt Rhule takes over a program that is looking to move away from the past and simply focus on football. The biggest mark that is concerning the Bears is what kind of offense will Rhule run? Over the past few seasons, Baylor has had an explosive offense and a switch to more of a pro style look should not limit the offense. Baylor fans should look for Terence Williams and Abram Smith to get some looks at the running back position.
The TCU Horned Frogs had a difficult season in 2016. An early season loss to Arkansas made it clear that consistency would be a problem with the Horned Frogs. Key drops by the wide receivers during the course of the season have made finding a receiver who can hang on to the football a priority. TCU fans should look for Isaiah Graham to continue to develop at the receiver position. Graham has the speed and size to develop into a threat at the wide receiver position. Horned Frogs’ fans should look for Graham to continue to develop during the off season.
Oklahoma State is coming into the spring, with what looks to be a very solid football team. One area of concern is in the secondary for the Cowboys. The Cowboys have lost cornerback Ashton Lampkin and safety Jordan Sterns to graduation. Look for Madre Harper and Clayton Johnson to both get some looks during the spring to fill some holes in the secondary. Oklahoma State has a talented roster and folks should be in for a show at the spring game on April 15th.
Over the past two seasons, the focus for Texas Tech fans has been on the defensive side of the ball. The defense has not looked good over the course of two seasons for the Red Raiders and any improvement on that side of the ball could mean the difference in increasing the win total. Look for Octavious Morgan and Vaughnte Dorsey to continue to see time in the secondary as Tech looks to shut down some potent Big 12 offenses. Coach Kliff Kinsbury and the Red Raiders need the defense to force turnovers and get some stops on the defensive side of the ball, or Red Raiders’ fans could be looking at a carbon copy of last season.
The rebuilding project enters year two for Matt Campbell and his staff in Ames. The worry for the Cyclones is the offensive line heading into the 2017 season. Iowa State does have some guys that have experience returning on the offensive line in the forms of Jake Campos and Julian Good-Jones but will the line be able to gel and keep aggressive Big 12 defenses at bay. The offensive line has taken steps in the right direction, but the question remains will the play improve enough to pick up a bowl bid this season.
Unless you were really paying attention or a Kansas Jayhawks football fan, you may not have noticed that they improved during the course of the 2016 season. The Jayhawks rushing game needs a back to carry some of the load to replace Ke’aun Kinner. Kinner carried much of the workload for the Jayhawks over the past two seasons. Kansas fans should look for Octavius Matthews to see some snaps during the spring and during the course of fall practices. Kansas is looking to make another step forward and having a solid spring will get the 2017 season off on the right foot.
Every Big 12 team is facing questions coming into the spring. How quickly those questions are resolved by the fall will be an important factor on the type of season each team. The 2017 season should not have a problem being exciting if the spring football season is any indicator.