Every Big 12 Team's Strongest, Weakest Position Groups Heading into 2014 Season

Sean Frye@Sean_E_FryeFeatured ColumnistMay 27, 2014

Every Big 12 Team's Strongest, Weakest Position Groups Heading into 2014 Season

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    With the spring season behind us, each Big 12 team knows its strengths and weaknesses. 

    For example, Baylor may very well have the best quarterback in the country, but a gutted offensive line is a huge concern for head coach Art Briles. 

    Let's checkout each Big 12 team's strongest and weakest positional unit heading into summer camp. 


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    Strongest: Quarterback 

    When you have the best signal-caller in the country, your quarterback position is bound to be the strongest on your team. 

    Bryce Petty electrified the conference last year, as he led the country's most prolific offense. Last year, he threw for 4,200 yards and 32 touchdowns en route to a Big 12 title. 

    Petty's backup, Seth Russell, saw plenty of action in garbage time last year, throwing for over 400 yards and three touchdowns. So should something happen to Petty, the Bears should still be in capable hands. 


    Weakest: Offensive Line

    Baylor's offensive line was decimated this offseason by a slew of departures. Cyril Richardson, Stefan Huber and Kevin Palmer are all gone. That leaves plenty of new faces to fill the holes, which is always a liability up front. 

    The Bears' best bet will be left tackle Spencer Drango, who missed the spring after having surgery. But for Baylor to put up the same type of offensive numbers that they did last year, the replacements on the offensive line will have to be able to protect Petty. 

Iowa State

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    Strongest: Secondary

    Iowa State has plenty of holes to fill across the board. But where the Cyclones can feel secure is their secondary, which features rising sophomore Nigel Tribune and JUCO transfer Devron Moore. 

    Tribune got thrust into the starting lineup last year, racking up 30 tackles and an interception as a freshman. 

    As for Moore, there was uncertainty as to whether or not he would be part of the team after leaving Ames due to "homesickness." But according to Tommy Birch of The Des Moines Register, Moore is back on the squad and is poised to join the team this fall. 

    Moore was one of the top JUCO defensive backs in the country and should provide a big boost for the Cyclones defense. 


    Weakest: Quarterback 

    Quick, name two people in the hunt to be the starting quarterback in Ames. 

    Can't? It's likely because head coach Paul Rhoads and Co. don't really have any viable options at signal-caller. 

    Grant Rohach and Sam Richardson split starts last year, but neither had much success. Now, Joel Lanning is in the race as well. 

    Nobody took command of the job in the spring, and it doesn't look like new offensive coordinator Mark Mangino will have much to work with this fall. 


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    Strongest: Wide Receiver

    While it's hard to find many strengths for the Kansas Jayhawks, they do have a strong receiving corps.

    Tony Pierson is one of the best playmakers in the Big 12, and he's poised for a big year after missing most of 2013 with concussion-related issues. 

    Rodriguez Coleman showed flashes last year by averaging 26 yards per catch (albeit on just eight catches) and has a chance to burst onto the scene in 2014. His 208 receiving yards was third on the team.


    Weakest: Quarterback

    Jake Heaps was supposed to be the savior of KU football. The BYU transfer was supposed to come in and revitalize a failing program. 

    Two season later, Heaps is set to transfer from Lawrence, and Montell Cozart, who saw action last year and was ineffective, is ready to start this season.

    The Jayhawks have struggled to find a good signal-caller for years, and it doesn't look like salvation is anywhere on the horizon in that department. 

Kansas State

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    Strongest: Wide Receiver

    Tyler Lockett is hands down the best receiver in the Big 12. He totaled 1,262 yards and 11 touchdowns last year, including six scores over the team's last three games. 

    But Lockett has a great supporting cast around him, including Curry Sexton, Kyle Klein and highly touted JUCO transfer Andre Davis. 

    With Daniel Sams transferring, returning quarterback Jake Waters is in full command of the offense, and it looks like he'll have plenty of weapons with which to work.


    Weakest: Running Back

    Finding a solid replacement for John Hubert may be head coach Bill Snyder's toughest task this offseason.

    The team's top candidate, DeMarcus Robinson, missed the spring game with an injury. Charles Jones led all backs in rushing yards that game, but it's still unclear who's the frontrunner to replace Hubert. 

    Kansas State has always been most successful when its offense boasts a strong running game (think Darren Sproles in 2003 and Collin Klein in 2012). So it'll be imperative for the Wildcats to bolster the ground attack this offseason. 


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    Strongest: Linebacker

    Eric Striker is arguably the best returning player on the Sooners roster. Racking up 50 tackles and 6.5 sacks last season, Striker is set to be one of the nation's best pass-rushers in 2014.

    Devante Bond, the seventh-best outside linebacker in his class, who finally joined the team officially this spring, impressed Bob Stoops and could be paired with Striker to provide one of the best pass-rushing tandems in the conference. 


    Weakest: Running Back

    The Sooners don't appear to have any viable options to replace Roy Finch and Brennan Clay. 

    Keith Ford is a possible option, but in limited playing last season he struggled with ball security, so he's unproven. However, Ford is still a terrific athlete with tremendous potential. The Sooners will need him to learn how to hang on to the ball if they want to have any success on the ground. 

    But for now, the search to replace two guys who racked up over 4,400 career yards continues. 

Oklahoma State

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    Strongest: Wide Receiver

    Jhajuan Seales may be the next heir to the throne that Justin Blackmon and Josh Stewart occupied in Stillwater. 

    The Big 12 leader in receiving yards for freshmen last season, Seales has a chance to breakout in 2014. 

    He'll be accompanied by prospect Ra'Shaad Samples, a major recruit who turned down the likes of Notre Dame, Ohio State and USC to join the Cowboys. Samples and Seales could be the best one-two punch at receiver in the conference. 


    Weakest: Secondary

    With the loss of Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State will have to rely on widely inexperienced players to fill the void left by the departure of cornerback Justin Gilbert.

    Ashton Lampkin, who backed up Gilbert the last two years for the Cowboys, is set to be the primary replacement for the eighth overall pick in 2014 NFL draft. 

    But when you lose a player like Gilbert, it's hard to maintain continuity, and the Oklahoma State secondary is a huge question mark as a result.



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    Strongest: Defensive End

    Devonte Fields is poised to return to his freshman-year form after missing nearly all of 2013 due to injury. 

    And with a depleted secondary and no real strength at linebacker, the TCU Horned Frogs' best unit is sure to be its defensive ends. 

    Along with Terrell Lathan and James McFarland, Fields and line mates should wreak havoc this fall. 


    Weakest: Wide Receiver

    TCU is transitioning to a more uptempo offense, meaning they need a number of receiving targets for presumed starting quarterback Trevone Boykin. However, David Porter seems to be the only viable receiving threat for now. 

    The Horned Frogs also return Josh Doctson, but neither he nor Porter totaled even 500 receiving yards last year. 

    If TCU wants to finally feel like they belong in the Big 12, it'll need to develop a passing game. But with no quality receivers, that could prove to be a big challenge. 


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    Strongest: Running Back

    Texas' best strength lies in the three-headed running back monster that is Johnathan Gray, Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown. This tandem may very well provide the best rushing attack in the Big 12, and is far and away the Longhorns' best strength. 

    Brown led the team last year with 904 yards, but that was mainly because Gray missed the end of last season due to a torn Achilles. 

    New head coach Charlie Strong will likely rely on this group to be at the forefront of a new era in Austin. And providing the three backs stay healthy, it'll be tough for any defense in the league to hold them back. 


    Weakest: Quarterback

    Let's face it, the Longhorns don't have a quality signal-caller on their roster. 

    David Ash has been wildly inconsistent in his career. Tyronne Swoopes looked mediocre in the spring game. And nobody knows how the Max Wittek saga will end. 

    For any team to be successful, it has to have a good quarterback. The fact that Texas doesn't spells trouble for Charlie Strong's first year at the helm. 

Texas Tech

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    Strongest: Quarterback

    There may be only one experienced quarterback on the roster in Lubbock, but Davis Webb is one of the best gunslingers in the league. 

    With the transfers of fellow QBs Michael Brewer and Baker Mayfield, the job of starting quarterback in Kliff Kingsbury's high-octane offense solely belongs to Webb now.

    After splitting starts for most of last year, Webb finally took control of his future in the Holiday Bowl by tossing four touchdowns and racking up 403 passing yards. 

    Now Kingsbury has solidified the quarterback position, as he tries to turn Texas Tech into a contender.


    Weakest: Defensive Line

    The Red Raiders have never really had an elite defensive line. Having to replace second-team All-Big 12 defensive tackle Kerry Hyder will be difficult. Until that happens, this unit is the least talented on the team. 

    JUCO transfer Rike Levi could provide some depth up front, but there is still plenty of inexperience along this unit. 

    Texas Tech hasn't had a good defense for quite a while, and their issues have largely been on the line. And it doesn't look as though things will improve in that department in 2014. 

West Virginia

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    Strongest: Safety

    Led by Karl Joseph, the safeties at West Virginia make up the best position on what is a struggling West Virginia Mountaineers team. 

    Joseph, who racked up 68 tackles and an interception last year, is the unquestioned leader of the defense. But many felt that he didn't progress in his sophomore year after having a stellar freshman campaign. 

    But you have to figure that Joseph will finally become an all-Big 12 performer in 2014, which should provide some stability for the Mountaineers. 


    Weakest: Quarterback

    The Mountaineers have yet to find a replacement for Geno Smith. Clint Trickett and Paul Millard are the top two candidates for the job this fall, but both struggled last season. Trickett also missed the spring season with injury. 

    This could be in a do-or-die season for head coach Dana Holgorsen. If he doesn't turn one of these quarterback candidates into a star, he could be facing the boot in Morgantown.