Ranking the Best Core of Returning Starters in the Big 12 in 2013
Looking ahead to this season, many Big 12 teams lost some star power to graduation or the NFL draft. Some teams won't see a huge drop off—but frankly, there aren't a lot of those teams in the Big 12—while others will be under major reconstruction for the next seven months.
We've gone ahead and figured out the core returning starters for each team and ranked them from the team with the least amount of returning starters to the team with the best core of returning starters.
If your team is ranked low, don't hit the panic button yet—national signing day is coming up and an influx of help could be on its way. And who knows, an emerging star could turn your head at spring practices.
No. 10 Kansas State
Head coach Bill Snyder
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There's a reason why Kansas State won the Big 12—it had a lot of veteran experience on its 2012 squad. But 2013 is quite a different story, and the Wildcats are now under major reconstruction.
The good news is that no underclassmen declared for the draft, but the bad news is that Kansas State lost a lot of skill positions on both sides of the ball.
The Wildcats return one player from its front seven—linebacker Tre Walker—but he missed the last half of the season (knee). Kansas State also returns defensive backs Dante Barnett and Ty Zimmerman.
The offense looks solid with tons of experience on the line but the only skilled positions returning are running back John Hubert and receivers Tramaine Thompson and Tyler Lockett.
In short, the offense has a solid foundation, but the defense is decimated.
No. 9 Oklahoma
Head coach Bob Stoops
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Oklahoma's defense is going to be very young this season. Except for linebacker Corey Nelson and cornerback Aaron Colvin, all the starters are gone.
On the offensive side, Oklahoma fared a lot better. Gabe Ikard will move to center and Daryl Williams will return to the tackle position. The Sooners also return receivers Jalen Saunders, Jaz Reynolds and Trey Metoyer, plus very underused tight end Brannon Green. Running back Damien Williams is also back.
The weapons are there, but who's going to pull the trigger?
No. 8 West Virginia
Head coach Dana Holgorsen
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Defensively, West Virginia didn't lose a lot of starters, but of all the units that needed to improve, it was the defense. So what we have here is a defense returning mostly intact that didn't do a very good job last season and ended up costing cornerback coach Daron Roberts his job. Former ECU defensive coordinator Brian Mitchell will be coaching the corners.
The Mountaineers return two of their three D-linemen in Will Clark and Shaq Rowell, plus two of their linebackers, so the front seven is in decent shape with no reason to panic.
The offense is where there is cause to panic. Receivers J.D. Woods, Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin are gone. So is quarterback Geno Smith. The O-line has some holes to fill, but the missing passing attack weapons are just too difficult to ignore.
No. 7 Iowa State
Head coach Paul Rhoads
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Iowa State loses quarterback Steele Jantz but returns quarterbacks Jared Barnett and Sam Richardson—both returning quarterbacks had significant playing time last year because of Jantz's struggles.
The receiving corps takes a big hit with all starters gone, but tight end Ernst Brun Jr. returns. The O-line loses both tackles but returns center Tom Farniok and both guards. Running back James White also returns.
Defensively is where the core units take big hits and the Cyclones defense had been a strength last season. The linebacker unit is going to miss Jake Knott and A.J. Klein—these guys are a huge loss. So are the losses in the secondary: Safety Durrell Givens and cornerback Jeremy Reeves.
The D-line will also have to replace both tackles and a defensive end.
No. 6 Kansas
Head coach Charlie Weis
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Kansas is still under the rebuilding process under head coach Charlie Weis, who is now in his second year. The Jayhawks lose a lot of starters on the offense, including three receivers, but they've also got some players coming back, who have a lot of experience, in Andrew Turzilli and Jacorey Shepherd—Kansas isn't a passing offense anyway, so the loss of receivers isn't a dagger.
The good news is that running back James Sims returns—he had over 1,000 yards last season and Weis will no doubt depend on him to carry the load again this season. The offense will have to replace quarterback Dayne Crist and three linemen.
Defensively, the Jayhawks get back some solid linemen and linebackers but they do lose safety Bradley McDougald. The upside is they return corner Tyler Patmon.
All in all, Kansas loses eight starters on offense, which is a fairly big hit, but the offense wasn't exactly prolific either. The defense loses about half of its starters, so while there is room to grow, it's going to be another rebuilding year in Lawrence.
No. 5 Texas Tech
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury
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There's so much good news and bad news here, it's difficult to address.
The bad news: Texas Tech loses its entire secondary.
The good news: Texas Tech returns its entire front seven.
The bad news: Texas Tech loses everybody on offense, except for receiver Eric Ward and linemen Alfredo Morales and Le'Raven Clark.
The good news: Texas Tech will return approximately half of its returning starters, but that number is deceiving since it's primarily the defensive front seven.
No. 4 Baylor
Head coach Art Briles
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Baylor lost a lot of weapons on the offense, including quarterback Nick Florence and receiver Terrance Williams, but didn't everyone freak out when Heisman winner Robert Griffin III left for the NFL? Baylor will reload at quarterback and there are so many receivers returning (like Levi Norwood and Tevin Reese) that the unit is pretty solid.
The O-line looks pretty good too, especially with the return of guard Cyril Richardson.
The front seven is a question mark, especially at the line where three holes will exist come spring, but the linebacker and secondary units didn't suffer the same losses.
Overall, Baylor should have the same usual losses as they always seem to have, and they'll probably bounce back like they always seem to do under head coach Art Briles.
No. 3 Texas
Head coach Mack Brown
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Texas Longhorn fans should be pretty pumped for 2013 because of all the talent that is returning. On the offensive side of the ball, receiver Marquise Goodwin and tight end D.J. Grant leave. While Goodwin's exit hurts, tight end M.J. McFarland had the same amount of receiving yardage as Grant last season—the tight end hasn't been used much in the receiving capacity.
Defensively, end Alex Okafor and safety Kenny Vaccaro are gone, but that's it. Okafor is a huge loss, but if Jackson Jeffcoat can rehab 100 percent (surgery on pectoral muscle) then the Longhorns are in good shape.
The front four could be really tough if the 2013 recruiting class stays together. My concern is of the linebacker and secondary units—yes, almost everyone returns but the awful tackling techniques displayed by the back seven diminish the Longhorns' overall returning core rating to No. 3.
If head coach Mack Brown can fix the back seven's tackling issues (and over-pursuit of ball carrier) then this team could be very good.
No. 2 Oklahoma State
Head coach Mike Gundy
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Oklahoma State could be the Big 12 champions if it can get past Oklahoma, Texas and TCU this fall. Part of the reason why it looks so good is because of the minimal losses it has taken on both sides of the ball.
At quarterback, the Cowboys are deep with J.W. Walsh and Wes Lunt—both played well and both should be fighting for the starting spot unless head coach Mike Gundy goes for a two-quarterback system. The Cowboys lose stud running back Joseph Randle and two linemen. That's it for the offense.
Defensively, the Cowboys lose both ends, a linebacker and a cornerback.
Looking good, Cowboys. Looking good.
No. 1 TCU
Head coach Gary Patterson
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It was a tough decision between Oklahoma State and TCU in regards to who has the most outstanding core returning starters, but TCU comes out on top because of how strong TCU's defense is and how many defensive starters are returning.
The Horned Frogs did lose defensive end Stansly Maponga, who declared early for the draft, but beside Maponga, TCU only loses linebacker Kenny Cain. Cain is a big loss, but only losing two players on a very good defense is pretty darn good.
Offensively, quarterback Casey Pachall may be back depending on how spring camp goes, but Trevone Boykin added valuable experience under his belt while filling in for Pachall who spent some time away from the team addressing some personal issues.
Receiver Skye Dawson and linemen Blaize Foltz and James Fry are also gone. But again, the number of losses on both sides of the ball are small, which makes TCU the Big 12 team with the most valuable core starters returning.