Big 12 Football: 5 Weakest Depth Charts in the Conference
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In the Big 12, having depth on a roster is so important. In a league where the spread offense gasses defenses, while teams like the Kansas State Wildcats and Texas Longhorns will wear teams down over the course of a ballgame, it's important to have quality, fresh legs coming off the bench.
There are some teams in the conference that have weak depth charts, whether it's a lack of returning players or even a lack of starting experience at certain positions.
The Oklahoma State Cowboys are one team that may struggle with its depth. In a pass-happy league, Clint Chelf has never started a full season, which may prove problematic for the Cowboys.
Then teams like the Wildcats and Oklahoma Sooners lost over half of their starters from last season, leaving plenty of question marks for both teams.
With that, here are the five weakest depth charts in the Big 12 heading into the summer.
5. Oklahoma State Cowboys
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The Oklahoma State Cowboys, who finished 8-5 overall and 5-4 in Big 12 play last season, return only 13 starters following the transfer of former starting QB Wes Lunt. That's tied for third-best in the conference.
However, Clint Chelf is projected to be the starting QB this fall, and he has yet to start a full season in Stillwater. In a pass-friendly offense orchestrated by head coach Mike Gundy, Chelf only surpassed 300 yards passing in one game last year. And that was against the Baylor Bears, who had one of the country's worst defenses.
The Cowboys also lost starting running back Joseph Randle to graduation. He was one of the top offensive players in the entire league for two seasons, and his production was crucial to complementing the air-raid attack of the Cowboys.
Defensively, Oklahoma State returns seven starters. But the Cowboys aren't especially known for having a good defensive unit. Last year, they were 64th in the country in points allowed, averaging over 28 per game.
David Ubben of ESPN had Oklahoma State at the top of his list for the Big 12 power rankings back in January. But the Cowboys will need a lot of new faces to step up, otherwise problems with their depth chart will begin to surface.
4. Kansas State Wildcats
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The reigning Big 12 champion Kansas State Wildcats return the fewest starters in the entire conference (nine). That includes just two starters coming back on defense.
The only reason this team isn't higher on this list is because: 1) They won the conference last season and have Bill Snyder at the helm, and 2) They return four of their five starting offensive linemen from last year.
The depth on the defensive side of the ball is in serious question. The only returning starters are linebacker Tre Walker and safety Ty Zimmerman. Walker is coming back from a torn ACL. However, Zimmerman is expected to be one of the best safeties in the country, as he's on the watch list for the Lott Trophy.
Offensively, the biggest hole to fill for the Wildcats will be at quarterback, as Heisman Trophy finalist Collin Klein graduated in the spring.
Currently, the race to start is deadlocked between returning backup Daniel Sams and junior college transfer Jake Waters. Both looked impressive at the spring game, so the race may not be decided until just a few weeks before the first game. Or even later.
The Wildcats have to replace a ton of starters. However, with Snyder running the show in Manhattan, Kan., expect the team to gel quickly.
3. Kansas Jayhawks
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The Kansas Jayhawks, who haven't won a Big 12 game since 2010, have the third-weakest depth chart in the conference heading into the 2013 season.
The Jayhawks return 11 players in 2013, tied for sixth in the conference. However, none of those players even beat an FBS team last season.
It also doesn't help that nobody on the entire roster has beaten a team currently in the Big 12. The win in 2010 was against Colorado, a team now in the Pac-12. The last time the Jayhawks won a game against a team currently in the league was 2009 against Iowa State.
However, head coach Charlie Weis, who's in his second year now in Lawrence, is slowly, but surely starting to piece together a decent team.
On May 22, the Jayhawks announced that they landed transfer wide receiver Nick Harwell, the NCAA's second-leading receiver in 2011.
Running back James Sims is also returning. He was one of the Big 12's best backs last year and should play a huge role in Weis' scheme in 2013.
However, it's still very much an uphill battle for Kansas, as there is a long way to go before the Jayhawks will be a legitimate team in the Big 12.
2. Iowa State Cyclones
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With just nine returners on a team that went 3-6 in the Big 12 last year, the Iowa State Cyclones are the league's second-weakest depth chart.
The biggest losses for the Cyclones are linebackers A.J. Klein and Jake Knott. Both players were among the most elite linebackers in the country, and the void they leave on a defense that returns only four players will be difficult for coach Paul Rhoads to fill.
Quarterback play has also been a persistent issue in Ames over the past few seasons, as they have yet to find a solidified starter. This season, the Cyclones will roll the dice with QB Sam Richardson, who was unimpressive in two starts last season.
The best offensive returner for the Cyclones is running back James White. However, if he can't be complemented by a decent passing game, his production may become a moot point.
1. West Virginia Mountaineers
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Like the Cyclones, the West Virginia Mountaineers only have nine starters returning in 2013. What separates West Virginia from Iowa State, though, as the worst depth chart in the Big 12 is that the Mountaineers lost virtually every player that made a difference in 2012.
The Mountaineers only return three players on the offensive side of the ball, which was their bread and butter last season. The losses include QB Geno Smith and WRs Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.
West Virginia also loses five starters from a defense that wasn't all that impressive in 2012.
The replacement signal-caller in Morgantown is expected to be either Ford Childress or Paul Millard. They are deadlocked in the quarterback race at this point, according to ESPN's David Ubben.
The best returner offensively for West Virginia is running back Andrew Buie, who led the team last year in rushing with 850 yards.
Simply put, the Mountaineers aren't talented defensively, and they lost nearly every starter on an offense that carried the team in 2012.