I am eager to take a look at the offenses the Big 12 will trot out in the next few months.
I have rooted through the league with a grading system that awards 1-5 points for 1) Skill position talent, 2) QB play, 3) OL quality, and 4) Coordination, defined as the offensive plan for the season combined with that program’s track record of production. Or you can just say I’m grading the OC’s in anticipation of what they will do.
12). Kansas: 8
Skill positions: 2 QB: 2 OL: 2.5 OC: 1.5
Chuck (3rd and) Long is taking over where Mangino has worked magic the last several seasons. They are replacing Todd Reesing, returning a 6th year tailback Mangino evidently hated, and placing him behind an OL that is experienced in sucking. To top it off, they have several receivers that may be far less talented than Briscoe and Meier.
11). Colorado: 8.5
Skill: 2 QB: 2 OL: 2.5 OC: 2
They’re lucky their best receiver, McKnight, didn’t apply Hawkin’s exhortation to abandon the team for fraternity intramural stardom as he is a walk-on. Fortunately, they aren’t starting little Hawk again. As far as we know, They have rid themselves of Mack Curse and Scott in favor of Rodney Stewart, who has looked great against all the worst competition.
Left Tackle Nate Solder is the only distinguishing mark of this unit other than its putridity.
10). Iowa St.: 9.5
Skill: 2.5 QB: 3 OL: 2 OC: 2
The difficulty for programs like these is in finding guys in the trenches who can hold open a gap or manage a Von Miller well enough to avoid calamity on a regular basis. They return 1,000 yard back Robinson and quarterback Arnauld, but the line sets the ceiling below that of even North Division contender.
9). Kansas St.: 9.5
Skill: 2.5 QB: 2 OL: 3 OC: 2.5
I believe in Snyder and his option offense. I believe there is a place for that offense in this league. However, they have a front runner for starting quarterback who doesn’t call to mind images of Michael Bishop juking defenders in the terrified minds of Longhorn fans. Instead, they have a guy who threw 50 passes in the spring game.
Daniel Thomas is a fine back and there is a lot returning on the OL, but I don’t think they know how to apply those weapons in a manner that can yield better results than the 23 ppg they produced last year.
If Texas loses this game again…
8). Oklahoma St.: 11
Skill: 3 QB: 2.5 OL: 2.5 OC: 2.5
I think Josh Wheedon has potential along with the new “basketball on grass” offense that Pickens bought in Houston . However, the pieces don’t really fit this season. with no known weapons in the skill position arsenal save for Kendall Hunter, who will be navigating defenses from 4-wide offenses. All of this is coming in between no-gain rushes, where he takes dirty hits at the bottom of the pile-maybe he can ask the Texas backs how that worked for them the last two seasons. He can swap injury stories with Fozzy Whittaker.
They’ve done a good job of developing OL in "Pokelahoma," but their only returning starter is moving to center from guard. Maybe they’ll score points in bunches against overwhelmed foes at a higher rate than teams I’m ranking ahead of them, but against the real defenses I foresee stalls and identity crisis.
On a side note, I don’t think there is a dumber term for a passing offense than “basketball on grass,” as the example of the fast-break in basketball completely fails to apply in this sport. In the fast break, dribbling is a killer that allows the defense to catch up, whereas success stems from quick passes up the court. The forward lateral has long been illegal in futbol de Americana.
7). Nebraska: 11.5
Skill: 3.5 QB: 2.5 OL: 3 OC: 2.5
Between all their backs and Niles Paul, there are some resources to be put to use, and the offensive lines returns some strength from last year’s unit. I’ll believe Farmer Ted and co. that Zac Lee is better with a healthy arm, but I’m still unafraid of him and the overall strategy from Lincoln for this group.
The power-running/throw it deep offense is all fine and well if you can impose your will on a defense in the trenches, have a strong-armed quarterback, and a deep threat WR, but Nebraska isn’t really there yet. This still doesn’t look like a running game that can open things up enough for the likes of Lee and Paul to really punish teams.
If they would resort to a spread-option look with one of the younger and more athletic signal-callers, maybe they would be on to something. It’s easy to hit a guy on play-action when there is no one around him. Ask Eric Crouch or Tim Tebow.
6). OU: 12.5
Skill: 3.5 QB: 2.5 OL: 3 OC: 3.5
I’m buying Broyles, Murray, and the rumors of a TE on their campus, and I’m buying Wilson’s overall system and no-huddle pace. With superior talent the more matchups you create over the course of a game the more likely it is that the stronger team will prevail. Slowing a game down has always been the approach of the underdog.
I’m selling this OL putting it together this year for the kind of rushing attack Wilson needs, and I’m selling Landry Jones without a strong running game to carry him. OU has had some spectacular success in the past with quarterbacks that would shrink into oblivion if faced with Colt McCoy’s '08 and '09 responsibilities because they were enjoying highly successful rushing attacks and consistently great defenses. I think the OU running game is still a year away.
5). Baylor: 13
Skill: 2.5 QB: 4 OL: 2.5 OC: 4
All that really needs to be said here is that Robert Griffin III is back and Art Briles knows how to maximize Griffin in such a way that it should be nearly impossible to completely hold down the Bears. I’m sure the defense will be horrendous, and a return to the Nick Florence Experience would bring on multiple conference losses, but as long as Griffin III is healthy, this team is dangerous.
4). Missouri: 13.5
Skill: 3 QB: 3.5 OL: 3.5 OC: 3.5
Blaine Gabbert gutted out a very strong season last year, and his supporting cast is essentially a year better since Missouri was relying on a lot of underclassmen in '09. The OL is deep, experienced, and actually filled with quality players.
Washington returns at running back while his successors have already seen the field. They don’t have a known playmaker like Rucker, Coffman, Maclin, or Alexander, but their TE and WR depth chart is filled with guys that may end up having that potential.
I’m not sure I watched a team make better tactical adjustments against the Texas D last year, and their passing game is one of the better systems in the league. I think the return of Gabbert and his big guys makes this group a good bet to be one of the stronger units and maybe even give Nebraska a scare in their chase for a CCG rematch.
3). Texas: 14.5
Skill: 3.5 QB: 4 OL: 3.5 OC: 3.5
I’ve already stated that I like the offensive plan for next season. I’ve calculated Gilbert’s likely early season struggles into the formula of the Texas QB rating. I foresee something like Earl Thomas’ freshman season, where he was very solid to start the season and one of the conference’s best safeties by the end of the year. Except Gilbert already received the equivalent of the Texas pre-conference schedule in the National Championship game.
Malcolm Williams starting regularly is a bombshell waiting to explode. Newton and Fozzy aren’t too far behind what most of the league is trotting out at RB, and this interior OL could be one of the most overlooked strengths of the team. Snow is returning to a position where he could excel even as a freshman, and Huey has always flashed abilities, but struggled with the scheme. Allen is a gifted athlete finally in the right place and being pushed hard by Ashcraft, who sounds like a difference maker in 2011-12.
This should be a very good group by season’s end.
2). Texas Tech: 14.5
Skill: 4 QB: 3.5 OL: 3.5 OC: 3.5
Taylor Potts looked very impressive to me in all of his outings that I watched with my own eyes, while many of Tech’s faithful believe Sheffield has the greater potential. Either way, I think they are better off than most of the conference.
If Dedfischer is to be believed (and he usually is), this OL has some serious talent and the potential to really break things open for Batch should the coordinator be so inclined as to actually run the ball.
They say they will.
The approach for this season makes a great deal of sense to me. They are maintaining the wide-open passing game that matches the recruited talent, but with a greater emphasis on the running game that matches their strengths in the interior OL and at RB. On the other hand, they seem to be installing the zone-running game, which requires some special coaching and personnel to pull off at the college level.
1). Texas A&M
Skill: 4.5 QB: 4 OL: 3 OC: 3.5
Yeah alright, I’m making the same call as Beergut. They are so loaded in every department, deep in the trenches, and the production they managed to squeeze out of what they fielded last year on the line was pretty impressive. It makes me think that Sherman only has to make it two years to taste redemption when his newest class of OL ripens.
I held off from giving them a five at the skill positions because I don’t see a Dez Bryant or a Jamaal Charles in the group that can break a game open at any point on a regular basis. Ultimately, if Jerrod Johnson plays every game like thanksgiving day last year, it’s all over. That is, until their defense takes the field.
What worries me the most about this group is that I haven’t seen Muschamp take down a strong offense that relies on a dual-threat QB yet, and I suspect this has to do with Texas’ back seven being more comfortable in man-coverage than zone.
Anyone who has played NCAA College Football can attest that it’s easier to corral those guys if the defenders are not vacating the flats and keeping their eyes on number one.
Then again, who wants to bet against Muschamp having a stronger strategy for Johnson than what he fielded last season? There are several candidates to play spy on Johnson at linebacker and safety. I’m sure Vaccarro would relish the opportunity to lay a hit on a quarterback like he did to Fig Newton in the spring game.
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