Geno Smith

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

West Virginia bursted onto the Big 12 scene last year.

Behind a dazzling crop of seniors, the Mountaineers danced on the sidelines after having knocked off the No. 11 Longhorns. They watched as their ranking rocketed to No. 5.

They were confident Morgantown was going to be home to the Heisman winner and a Big 12 championship.

But when the Mountaineers take on the Longhorns this time around, the expectations won’t be as high and they won’t be dependent on hopeful first-round draft picks.

Geno Smith is no longer there.

Tavon Austin is no longer there.

Without the centerpieces of last year’s team, there were questions on offense. Through spring and the early season, those questions remained. A few months later, those questions are finally answered.

Two transfers came in and took over the offense—junior quarterback Clint Trickett and senior running back Charles Sims. And because both are transferring as graduate students, they were able to start immediately.

 

The quarterback

Like Kansas State’s Jake Waters, Ole Miss’ Bo Wallace and Kansas’ Jake Heaps, all of whom have faced Texas this year, Trickett transferred to the school he’s at right now.

But, unlike them, Trickett didn’t start at a junior college. He didn’t struggle at his first school. He was just unfortunate.

He was unfortunate to be behind two (maybe three) first-round picks. As a redshirt freshman, Trickett watched as Christian Ponder snuck his way into the first round. He spent the next two years learning how E.J Manuel played his way into being the top quarterback taken in the 2013 draft. And when current Heisman hopeful Jameis Winston soared past him on the depth chart, he decided he had enough.

So Trickett packed up and moved north to the team he grew up watching as his dad was their offensive line coach from 2001-2006.

“It’s official, I will finish my academic/athletic career at WVU,” Trickett tweeted in May. “This is a dream come true to be playin for the state I love.”  

He wasn’t immediately thrust into the starting role, though, beginning the season third on the depth chart. But after junior Paul Millard and freshman Ford Childress struggled in early-season losses, head coach Dana Holgerson turned to the transfer.

Trickett carried West Virginia to a shocking upset of then-Big 12 favorite Oklahoma State. And he hasn’t looked back as he has started every game for the Mountaineers since. But he is still a far cry from Geno and Holgorsen expresses his concern.

“He needs to sit in a room and study it, then go outside and work on that for a couple months,” Holgorsen said. “He’s going to need that downtime and offseason time in order to grasp what we are asking of him.”

 

The running back

Unlike Trickett, Sims didn’t transfer because a lack of playing time. At Houston, he started all three years. And at 6-foot-1, 213 pounds, he is a promising NFL prospect that ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. ranks as the sixth-best running back prospect for the upcoming NFL Draft.

But shockingly, at the end of his redshirt junior year, he announced he was moving on.

“I don’t know what my next step will be,” Sims said. “I may look to play one more year of college football or I may enter the NFL Supplemental Draft later this year.”

But why not stay at Houston? He didn’t give an answer besides it was time to move on.

After Houston restricted him from joining any team that played Houston, was in the AAC or was a Division I school in Texas, Sims opted to run for the coach that recruited him at Houston.

“We’re extremely fortunate to have his services for one year,” said Holgorsen, who was Houston’s offensive line coach when Sims was recruited. “He’s a tremendous football player..”

And his one year under Holgorsen was his best.

“I had him for the first year there in 2009,” Holgorsen said. “That was probably his best year statistically.”

And Texas head coach Mack Brown knows that Sims is the biggest threat on the Mountaineer offense.

“He’s a top pro prospect and a really good football player and that’s where it all starts for him,” Brown said.

West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, should he slip, would be an intriguing fit in Minnesota. 

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

My 2013 mock draft, version 1.0. Like I had anything better to do. 

1. Kansas City - Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M - Why bet against group-think?

2. Jacksonville - Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan - The Jags haven't spent a first-round pick on an offensive lineman in five years. If you're going to give Chad Henne and Blaine Gabbert continued chances, might as well protect them while giving Maurice Jones-Drew some room to run.

3. Oakland - Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida - An interior building block as a new regime tries to get off the ground in Oakland. 

4. Philadelphia - Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon - Reunite Jordan with college college Chip Kelly. If the Aldon Smith comparisons pan out, then this is a home run, even though the 6-foot-6 underproduced in college. Jordan fits perfectly in the NFC East. He can disrupt the quarterback (Eli Manning, Tony Romo) and he is quick enough to chase them down (Robert Griffin III).

5. Detroit - Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma - Probably a stretch, but with offensive tackles flying off the board, Detroit can't pass up a chance to fortify the line. 

6. Cleveland - Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama - A rush-end like Ziggy Ansah would be nice, but the Browns just spent big bucks on Paul Kruger. Here's Warmack, perhaps the best overall player in the draft — and best guard in quite some time. He should feel right at home opening up running lanes for old college teammate, Trent Richardson. 

7. Arizona - D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama - Same situation as Detroit. Probably a stretch, but the Cardinals have to scoop up the last of the elite offensive tackles. Doesn't matter who's quarterback (and I think Geno Smith would be a reach here), the offensive line has to get incrementally better if Arizona is to compete in the NFC West. 

8. Buffalo - Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU - The offseason signing of Mario Williams did little to help Buffalo get after the quarterback; the Bills finished with a middle-of-the-road 36 sacks. Add the freakish Ansah, who’d play outside lienbacker in the Bills’ 3-4 scheme, and you’ve got the makings of a dynamic front-seven. With two games per year against Tom Brady, Buffalo, which signed OLB Manny Lawson in the offseason, can afford to get greedy with pass-rushers.

9. New York Jets - Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia - How do you satiate an angry fanbase? Draft a slick, explosive receiver — that’s how. With questions at quarterback, taking Austin ensures that whoever lines up under center will have something to work with.

10. Tennessee Titans - Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama - The best defensive back in the draft is slipping because of injury concerns, but Milliner is a nice fit for a team that prides itself in its ability to defend the pass.

11. San Diego Chargers - Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah - The Chargers used a second-round pick on a defensive tackle last season and a first-rounder there in 2011, so this isn't a "need" pick, but rather one based on value. 

12. Miami Dolphins - Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame - Offense is the priority here, and without reaching to take a tackle to replace Jake Long, the Dolphins get Ryan Tannehill the next-best thing: a versatile weapon in the passing game.

13. New York Jets - Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU - Just the guy the Jets wanted to get at No. 9. How Mingo's career pans out will be analyzed for years, as this is the pick New York got from Tamp Bay in the Revis deal. 

14. Carolina - Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri - Richardson is a mountain of a defensive tackle, with potential to get a lot better. 

15. New Orleans - Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas - The second-worst passing defense would benefit from the addition of the draft's best safety. Vaccaro would come in and make an impact right away. His ability to cover outside and slot receivers, as well as step up and make plays in the running game, are highly valued. 

16. St. Louis - Alec Ogletree, ILB, Georgia - Ogeltree is the opposite of Dion Jordan: poor measurables, but great college results. Also, his character concerns aren't likely to sway Rams coach Jeff Fisher, who has a history of brushing those issues aside. 

17. Pittsburgh - Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington - The once-rugged AFC North is opening up, what with Joe Flacco and Andy Dalton emerging as super-productive quarterbacks. The Steelers' LCB, Keenan Lewis, started 16 games last season but did not record an interception.

18. Dallas - Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina - The Cowboys already locked up their left tackle for the next 10 years with the Tyron Smith selection two years ago. Time to get him a long-term pal on the interior. Don't be surprised if Jerry Jones trades up — even if it's to get Cooper, who some have going in the first 10 selections. 

19. New York Giants - Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State - This has been a cursed position for the Giants in recent years. Aaron Ross is back on the team after failing to meet big expectations in his first go-round. Terrell Thomas can't stay healthy, while results have been mixed for Prince Amukamara in two seasons.

20. Chicago - Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame - The perfect replacement for Brian Urlacher in the middle of the Bears' defense. A slow 40-time isn't a biggie. 

21. Cincinnati - Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama - Somebody's going to take a running back, and why not the Bengals? BenJarvus Green-Ellis finished with over 1,000 yards last year in his Bengals debut, but he only picked up around 68 per game. Lacy provides an upgrade. It's a two-back league, anyway. 

22. St. Louis - Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee - Again, Fisher isn't afraid to pull the trigger on a player with character red-flags. Patterson isn't Tavon Austin, who's likely the No. 1 option in St. Louis, but he's still very dynamic (16.9 yards per reception, 12.3 yards per carry in one year at Tennessee).  

23. Minnesota - Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia - Yes, the Vikings spent a first-rounder two years ago on Christian Ponder, but Smith here is too good to pass up. Why waste the prime of Adrian Peterson’s and Greg Jennings’s careers with Ponder, who has completed only 59 percent of his passes last season in his career? 

24. Indianapolis - Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia - An edge-rusher to replace Dwight Freeney, and a major steal at No. 24. Jones drops because of chronic spinal stenosis, which didn't seem to bother him too much at Georgia (12.5 sacks last season).

25. Minnesota - Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina - Minnesota took a luxury pick at No. 23, but now it's time to upgrade at a position of immediate need. 

26. Green Bay - Margus Hunt, DE, SMU - A physical specimen at 6-foot-8, Hunt could be the second coming of Jason Taylor. With his size and speed (4.6 40-yard dash), Hunt can fill a variety of holes for Green Bay — a five-technique in the 3-4 defense, or a stand-up pass-rusher opposite Clay Matthews. 

27. Houston - Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee - Like everybody else, I think the Texans have to take a wideout with the No. 27 pick. With Austin and Patterson off the board, the 6-foot-4 Hunter is the next-best candidate. He's got a 39-inch vertical and ran a 4.4 40-yard dash at the combine. He's not just some workout wonder, though. Hunter had 1,083 yards receiving and nine touchdowns last season.

28. Denver - D.J. Hayden, CB, Houston - The Broncos badly need a cornerback to pair with Champ Bailey. You saw the AFC Championship game, right? 

29. New England - Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State - Werner had an ACC-best 13 sacks last season, while New England was 15th in the NFL with 37. An outside receiver could work here, but this fits a need for the Patriots. 

30. Atlanta - Kyle Long, OL, Oregon - Quickly-rising up the draft boards, Long would be a nice right tackle for the Falcons, who signed left tackle Sam Baker to a six-year deal this offseason. Atlanta really doesn't have many weaknesses. 

31. San Francisco - Jonathan Cyprien, S, FIU - The 49ers need to replace departed safety Dashon Goldson. Cyprien or Florida's Matt Elam are the likely candidates for the job. 

32. Baltimore - Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU - Ray Lewis and Dannell Ellerbe have both moved on. It's time for the Ravens to find a new heart of the defense. Minter was an All-SEC player in 2012. 

See Daily Texan Sports Editor Christian Corona's mock draft here.

Former Longhorns defensive end Alex Okafor tries to make a tackle against the TCU Horned Frogs on Thanksgiving Day last season. Okafor, who is expected to be drafted in the early rounds of the NFL draft, had eight tackles and 4.5 sacks in the 2012 Valero Alamo Bowl last December. 

Photo Credit: Andrew Torrey | Daily Texan Staff

At the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Philadelphia in 1936, professional football teams selected their chosen players for the first-ever NFL draft.

Seventy-seven years later, teams are still doing it, with a few more rounds and slightly more advanced technology. The 2013 NFL draft will commence Thursday evening at New York City’s Radio Music Hall, bringing with it a cluster of Longhorns ready to sport the caps of their new teams.

Former Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro has earned buzz from scouts and coaches for his speed, strength and hard-hitting abilities. Vaccaro is considered by analysts to be one of the top safety prospects in the draft and will most likely go in the first round. Vaccaro was included in a small group of players invited to New York City for the draft.

“It is an experience he should enjoy,” head coach Mack Brown said of Vaccaro’s invitation. “It is a great compliment to not only Kenny and not only [assistant head coach/defensive backs coach] Duane Akina, but to our entire program.”

Rumors of teams thinking about drafting Vaccaro have included the Rams, Saints, Cowboys and Titans after had private workouts with the latter two. But Vaccaro is keeping an open mind in terms of rosters.

“I’m fired up to go anywhere,” Vaccaro said. “This has been a dream my whole life. Wherever I go, I’ll excel at that team.”

Defensive end Alex Okafor is also projected to be drafted in the early rounds, thanks to his power, fundamentally-sound hand usage and production as a pass rusher. Sporting his Texas jersey for the final time against Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl, Okafor tallied eight tackles and an Alamo Bowl record of 4.5 sacks. 

“Alex Okafor is a guy I like,” NFL analyst Mike Mayock said. “I love the way he sacked Geno Smith in the end zone [during the West Virginia game.] He has some burst off the edge. He does everything really well. He’s got good hustle.”   

Speedy wide receiver Marquise Goodwin wowed scouts and fans alike with a 4.27 second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, the fastest in history by a wide receiver. Goodwin, who is an Olympic long jumper, is projected by some to go sometime during the fourth round. Despite the praise he’s earned for his quickness on the field, Goodwin said his speed often overshadows the other abilities he has to offer an NFL team.

“I definitely have a lot more to me than just my speed,” he said. “I’m physical, I block and I can catch, I can run routes, I can get open.”

Goodwin’s impressive performance at the senior bowl also grabbed the attention of scouts and analysts.

“I came out of the Senior Bowl going, ‘This kid’s a legitimate football player,’” Mayock said. “[He has] potential return skills [and] runs as fast as anybody in the NFL runs.”

Defensive tackle Brandon Moore surprised some with his announcement to enter the draft after just one season at Texas. Moore contributed including 18 tackles and two sacks this past season, alternating between inside and outside.

Moore’s size makes him a notable candidate, but lack of tapes could mean Moore will go in the mid-to-later rounds of the draft, CBSSports.com analyst Rob Rang noted. 

Wide receiver D.J. Monroe could earn a spot on a team as a late draft pick. Monroe spent five years with the Longhorns but only started twice last season.

“I’m just ready to see who is interested and who is not,” Monroe said. “I’m ready for another step, another chapter to open. This is my last goal in life. I feel like I accomplished the rest, and now I’m about to show them I can play in the NFL.”

RELATED

Christian Corona and Trey Scott muse their mock drafts. Corona has Vaccaro to the Rams at No. 16, while Scott has him going a pick earlier, to the Saints at No. 15.

Seth Doege: The Big 12 may be ruled by big names like Geno Smith and Collin Klein, but there’s a quarterback in Lubbock making big waves. Seth Doege has compiled top-tier numbers through nine weeks of the season. He has passed for 2,540 yards and 30 touchdowns to only eight interceptions. Completing an impressive 70 percent of his passes has made Doege a consistently reliable captain for the No. 3 passing attack in the country. As a senior, Doege makes up for his 5-foot-11 frame with excellent experience. Doege has passed for over 200 yards and compiled at least a 120 passer rating in all but one game this season. His statistics are proof that despite his team’s disappointing performances against Oklahoma and Kansas State, Doege can hurt just about any defense with his arm. The Longhorns should look to pressure Doege and add to his sack total — which stands at 11 so far — if they want to slow down this prolific offense.

Eric Ward: The leading receiver for the solid Tech offense is junior Eric Ward. Ward has caught 41 passes for a team leading 517 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. He is coming off his best performance against No. 2 Kansas State in which he caught 11 passes for 161 yards. Ward should be a dangerous option for Doege to look for after coming off a career day against the best team in the Big 12. Ward is an average-sized receiver at 6-foot-1, 204 pounds, but his 12.6 yards per catch indicate that he has elite speed. Texas continued to have problems tackling even against a vastly inferior Kansas team and Ward could create many of the same problems.

Darrin Moore: The senior is the second leading receiver on this Red Raider offense, having amassed 440 yards and eight touchdowns with a team-leading 43 catches on the season. Moore is not the first option in the passing game, but his size seems intriguing given what Texas’ game plan will likely be in this game. The Longhorns have had problems tackling and stopping big plays and will look to marginalize the speed of Texas Tech’s receivers to slow them down. Moore is a guy who stands a tall 6-foot-4 which makes him a matchup nightmare for the small Texas defensive backs. Moore is averaging 10 yards per reception which shows he can pick up yards after the catch. If the Red Raiders can establish their passing attack early on, look for Moore to show up big especially in the red zone. Wearing down their speed will leave open long passes down the field for Moore to go up and get over smaller defenders.

Cody Davis: Although Texas Tech is known mostly for its offense, players like Cody Davis bring recognition to the defensive unit of the Red Raiders. The senior safety is clearly the leader of this defense as he currently leads the team with 64 tackles and three interceptions. These numbers demonstrate his ability to wrap up ball-carriers in addition to covering receivers when needed. At 6-foot-2, 202 pounds Davis is a bigger safety who can make things hard for the speedy receivers of the Longhorns. If Texas is looking to establish its offense on the ground or through the air, Davis is a guy who must be accounted for in both scenarios. 

Kerry Hyder: Texas is a team with perhaps the best defensive line core in the country and all eyes are on them every game. A man on the Texas Tech defensive line should have at least one eye kept on him at all times in this game however, Kerry Hyder passes the eye test, coming in at 6-foot-2, 281 pounds. He is a big defensive tackle who plugs up the running lanes well and causes trouble for quarterbacks when he gets into the backfield. The junior leads the team with four sacks and nine and a half tackles for loss this season. The Longhorns garner much of their success from their solid running game, so Hyder should be a guy they need to keep out of the backfield. With the quarterback situation a bit unclear for Texas at the moment, Hyder could complicate things even more with the pressure he will bring. Texas needs to keep its eyes upon him at all times.

Top Tier
Collin Klein
Senior QB, Kansas State
Last Week: 19-for-21 (91 percent) passing for 323 yards and three touchdowns, 12 rushes for 41 yards (3.4 yards per carry) and four TDS
Season: 98-for-139 (70.5 percent) passing for 1,397 yards for 10 touchdowns and two interceptions, 110 rushes for 551 yards (5 yards per carry) and 14 TDS

Klein passed another test this weekend against former Heisman frontrunner Geno Smith. Following West Virginia’s win over Baylor, people were ready to hand the award to Smith, but Klein has taken over the top spot with his physical brand of football. He has made a name for himself as a runner, but it was his arm that beat the Mountaineers. He had a career day last week in one of the defining moments of the season for Kansas State.
 

Manti Te’o
Senior LB, Notre Dame
Last Week: 10 tackles.
Season: 69 tackles and
four interceptions

Te’o recorded his third consecutive ten-tackle game in the win over BYU. His tackle numbers may not be as high as some other players in the country, but his impact on the game is much more significant than some others who get tackles in bulk. His 69 tackles are good for 23rd in the nation, but he leads a Notre Dame defensive unit that is second in the nation in scoring defense. He leads the way in run defense and will have another major opportunity this weekend. Notre Dame travels to Norman, Okla. to play a confident Oklahoma team that is firing on all cylinders since its bye week after the Kansas State loss. If he can shut down the Oklahoma rushing attack and force the Sooners into difficult situations, Te’o has a chance to make plays against Landry Jones, who will be leading the best offense the Irish has seen this season. Te’o cannot afford a loss if his goal is to take home the Heisman. Unfortunately, the Irish offense is nowhere near as effective as the Sooners’, which may cost him this weekend.


Rising
Kenjon Barner
Senior RB, Oregon
Last Week: 16 rushes for 143 yards (8.9 yards per carry)
Season: 132 rushes for 870 yards (6.6 yards per carry) and 12 TDs

Barner has picked up some momentum in recent weeks after a slow start to the season. He is coming off his third consecutive 100-yard rushing game, complete with a 71-yard touchdown run against Arizona State. Barner may not quite have the raw explosiveness as teammate De’Anthony Thomas, but he is a much more complete back and has the ability to run between the tackles. As Oregon continues to spread the field, lots of running lanes open for Barner in the middle of the field, which he can hit as fast as anyone in the country. He’ll face Colorado team that is allowing over 170 yards on the ground this season.

Matt Barkley
Senior QB, USC
Last Week: 19-for-20 (95 percent) for 298 yards and six TDs
Season: 140-for-213 (65 percent) for 1773 yards, 22 TDs and six interceptions
 

Barkley has put himself back in contention with a stellar performance against Colorado. He became the all-time leader for touchdown passes in the Pac 12 conference, passing Matt Leinart. Now USC is getting back to business. The Trojans are in the Top 10 and a win over Oregon would vault them right back in the national title discussion as the leader of the one-loss group. He has had a strong run over the past few weeks with 10 touchdown passes to just one interception. Barkley may have lost some momentum, but as USC gets back into spotlight games, he will start to get more attention. Wins over Oregon and Notre Dame would put Barkley right up near the top of the Heisman ranks. Fortunately for him, he likely gets two shots at Oregon. Even if USC doesn’t win both of the matchups, if Barkley performs well enough he will be back among the favorites to take home the Heisman.

AJ McCarron
Junior QB, Alabama
Last Week: 17-for-22 (77 percent) for 306 yards and four TDs
Season: 106-for-154 (69 percent) for 1,476 yards and 16 TDs

McCarron wasn’t used as the playmaker last season, but he is leading a very efficient offense this time around. He has yet to throw an interception through seven games which is unheard of, especially in the land of vaunted SEC defenses. Actually, Alabama hasn’t really played anyone who is particularly good. It crushed Michigan in the first game of the season, but hasn’t played anyone with a pulse since. But the Tide does begin a three game stretch against ranked teams this week with Mississippi State traveling to Tuscaloosa, but that isn’t the game that will give him Heisman credit. That game comes next week against LSU. That is where McCarron needs to make a name for himself.

Printed on Friday, October 26, 2012 as: Heisman watch

Mike Gillislee - Senior Running Back, Florida Gators

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

1. Collin Klein - Senior QB, Kansas State
Last Week: 16-24 (67 percent) for 187 yards. 25 rushes for 105 yards (4.2 yards per carry) and three TDs.
Season: 79-118 (67 percent) for 1074 yards for seven TDs and two INTs. 98 rushes for 510 yards (5.2 yards per carry) and 10 TDs.

With West Virginia falling on its face against Texas Tech last week, Klein has vaulted to the top of the Heisman rankings. Again, his numbers aren’t off the wall, but he simply continues to get things done. He had just his second game without a passing touchdown, but he made up for it with his rushing performance. He rushed for over 100 yards for the second straight game and had three touchdowns for the first time since Kansas State’s crushing of Miami. Klein’s consistency will be put to the test this weekend against the explosiveness of the West Virginia offense. Fortunately for Klein, he should have no problem moving the ball against the Mountaineers. A win could cement Klein as the Heisman frontrunner with a little over a month to play.

2. Manti Te’o - Senior LB, Notre Dame
Last Week: 11 tackles.
Season: 57 tackles and three INTs.

Notre Dame has held its last five opponents under 20 points and last week Stanford’s only touchdown came on a defensive score. Stanford’s 148 yards rushing are the seconded highest total given up by the Irish defense this season, which has yet to allow over 200 yards on the ground. Te’o continues to be the primary defender for Notre Dame and had his nose in the middle of the goal line stand that kept the Irish undefeated for at least another week. It’s not enough for Notre Dame to keep winning, but it has to keep shutting teams down and dominating up front. The Irish offense isn’t exactly dynamic and explosive, but its defense is allowing only nine points per game, second only to Alabama. The Irish have played much more explosive teams than the Tide and will continue to with Oklahoma and USC still to come. If Notre Dame can lock down those offenses, Te’o will have the strongest resume for a defensive player since Ndamukong Suh in 2009.

3. Geno Smith - Senior QB, West Virginia
Last Week: 29-55 (53 percent) for 275 yards and one TD.
Season: 195-259 (75 percent) for 2271 yards and 25 TDs.

It finally happened. West Virginia’s offense hit a bump in the road, stalling out against the Red Raiders. This was an offensive system the folks in Lubbock were familiar with and it showed as Tech had an answer for everything the Mountaineers did on offense. West Virginia’s 14 points were a season low, but not by a huge margin. It was held to 31 by Maryland, and going back to last season, has been held in check more times than it probably should be. But Smith still has a chance to recover and become the front-runner for the Heisman again. First, a matchup against the toughest team in the Big 12 awaits in Morgantown this weekend. That’s if he can light up Kansas State, something no one has been able to do since Texas A&M did last season. But if he continues to struggle, his campaign will suffer a monumental setback.

4. Braxton Miller - Sophomore QB, Ohio State
Last Week: 13-24 (54 percent) for 211 yards and two TDs. 23 rushes for 149 yards (6.5 yards per carry) and one TD.
Season: 96-159 (60 percent) for 1271 yards, 11 TDs and four INTs. 129 rushes for 912 yards (7 yards per carry) and nine TDs.

Miller is a one-man wrecking crew for Ohio State. He had to be last week as the Buckeye defense could not stop two-win Indiana. He is always dangerous with the ball in his hands, but it’s a different story once it leaves his hands. Though he has only thrown four interceptions, he has completed less than 60 percent of his passes in four of his seven games this season. The schedule continues to help Ohio State as it faces two of the worst teams in the Big Ten over the next three weeks. But Penn State can be dangerous on the road, and games against Wisconsin and Michigan wait to close out the season. What will hurt Miller is that he will not play during the final week of the season, due to NCAA sanctions.

5. Mike Gillislee - Senior RB, Florida
Last Week: 17 rushes for 67 yards (3.9 yards per carry).
Season: 120 rushes for 615 yards (5.1 yards per carry) and seven TDs.

Not a stellar game last week for Gillislee, but it didn’t really matter. Florida is riding high right now off of its home win against LSU and against Vanderbilt, Gillislee wasn’t needed as his quarterback stole the show. His campaign was hurt slightly with his poor showing against the Commodores, but it wasn’t going to build much either. That comes over the next two weeks. Florida plays South Carolina and Georgia in games that will decide who wins the SEC East. If Florida is going to get back to the SEC title game, it will do it on the legs of Gillislee. Quarterback Jeff Driskel is getting better, but Gillislee is the senior who will need to come up with big plays if Florida is to stay in the national spotlight. South Carolina is giving up just 108 yards per game on the ground, and if it can bottle up Gillislee, consider his Heisman run over. But if he carries the Gators through a stout Gamecocks defense, look for his stock to rise significantly.

6. Kenjon Barner - Senior RB, Oregon
Last Week: 20 rushes for 122 yards (6.1 yards per carry).
Season: 116 rushes for 727 yards( 6.3 yards per carry) and nine TDs.

Forget De’Anthony Thomas, if an Oregon Duck is going to win the Heisman, it is going to be Barner. He is as explosive as any other player on the Ducks roster and he gets far more looks than his backfield mate. He has 20 rushes in each of the past three games, and with four road games remaining on the schedule, Oregon will need a steady ground game. A steady ground game means Barner will be getting the ball more and more. Oregon is heading into the toughest part of its schedule and its opponents will start to actually play some defense. Barner is the No. 12 leading rusher this season and his numbers should only get better as Oregon looks to secure wins and return to the Pac 12 Championship game. While Thomas is a niche back in a niche offense, Barner is a legitimate back in a niche offense. The difference between the two will become apparent as the season wanes.

 

Big 12 Notebook

The West Virginia Mountaineers were sitting pretty after their Week 6 win against Texas. They were No. 5 in the nation and tied for the Big 12 conference lead.

Texas Tech altered their fate.

After being rolled by Oklahoma the previous week, Texas Tech appeared to be in for a similar result against the hot Mountaineers. But a Heisman-worthy performance by quarterback Seth Doege proved more than enough to help Texas Tech down West Virginia, 49-14.

Doege finished the game with 499 passing yards and six touchdowns, which tied his career high. The Red Raiders rank No. 5 in total passing yards this season, which spelled trouble for a Mountaineer defense prone to big plays downfield. A weak pass rush in this game did not help.

“When you don’t have a pass rush, it’s a lot easier to make your reads,” Doege said.

As good as the Tech offense was in this game, the defense accomplished an impressive feat in their containment of Geno Smith. Although he didn’t turn the ball over, Smith was forced into 26 incompletions, finishing the game with only 275 passing yards and a touchdown.

“Those guys did a great job of just attacking us,” Smith said. “They attacked us the entire game.”

Wildcats outlast Cyclones

In a game that was fought tooth and nail the entire way, Kansas State proved why it is at the top of the Big 12 by holding the Iowa State offense to 231 yards and eking out a close 27-21 win to remain the conference leader despite its record entering Week 7. Heisman candidate Collin Klein led the way for the Wildcats, beating the Cyclones on the ground and through the air. It was no secret the Cyclones are a solid football team capable of beating anyone in the Big 12. Although the Cyclones couldn’t hold off the No. 6 Kansas State Wildcats, they made the Wildcats earn their stripes.

Klein finished the game with 187 passing and 105 rushing yards, including three rushing touchdowns. The statistic that tells the most of his impact, however, is the time of possession, which shows the Wildcats held the ball more than twice as long as Iowa State.

“It’s an honor,” Klein said. “It’s a team game, though. It’s about all 11 of us out there, it’s about all 11 of us out there to execute, be calm in a high-pressure situation. We were able to get some big, big
first downs.”

After Week 7, Kansas State remains the only unbeaten team in the Big 12 and appears poised for a national title run behind its Heisman-worthy signal caller.

Printed on Tuesday, October 16, 2012 as: West Virginia upset by potent Red Raider attack

Geno Smith
Senior QB, West Virginia
Last Week: 25-for-35 (71percent) for 268 yards and four TDs.
Season: 166-for-204 (81 percent) for 1996 yards and 24 TDs.

Smith put himself in the Heisman lead early and he sealed his spot last week. Against a Texas defense that was trying to hit him and get to him the entire game, Smith still coordinated the West Virginia offense flawlessly. He was always able to make a big play when the Mountaineers needed it and had big passes that had to be on target. There were times when the Texas coverage was good, but his throws were just better. Barring a miracle from another source, Smith should not be passed as long as West Virginia keeps winning. It will take a loss to dethrone Smith — that might not even be enough. 

Collin Klein
Senior QB, Kansas State
Last Week: 7-for-14 (50 percent) for 129 yards and two TDs, 10 rushes for 116 yards (11.6 yards per carry) and two TDs.
Season: 63-for-94 (67 percent) for 887 yards for seven TDs and two interceptions, 73 rushes for 405 yards (5.5 yards per carry) and seven TDs.

Klein continues be as solid and consistent as any player in the country. His numbers cannot compare to Smith’s, and 20 years ago, he would not have had a chance to win the Heisman. But with all of Kansas State’s games on television, voters all over the country get to watch him and see him play. He’s not flashy, and he doesn’t make the precision throws that Smith does, but Klein gets it done unlike anyone else in the game right now. He is tough as nails and will physically wear down any defense. Klein and running back John Hubert make up the most physical backfield in the country and Klein may have the best chance at passing Smith when they square off in two weeks.

Manti Te’o
Senior LB, Notre Dame
Last Week: 10 tackles.
Season: 46 tackles, three interceptions.

Notre Dame played Miami in a thriller — in 1988. Last week’s game, a 41-3 Fighting Irish win, was not a thriller. Te’o recorded his third double-digit tackle game of the season against the Hurricanes. With Florida State and Georgia both falling last week, the field in front of Te’o continues to shrink. As long as Notre Dame keeps winning, he will continue to receive Heisman consideration. With games against Stanford, Oklahoma, and Southern California still to come, Notre Dame will continue to be in high profile games. . Working in Te’o’s favor is that as long as he and the defense continue to play well his Heisman campaign can survive a loss or two.

Braxton Miller
Sophomore QB, Ohio State
Last Week: 7-for-14 (50 percent) for 127 yards and one TD, 16 rushes for 186 yards (11.6 yards per carry) and one TD.
Season: 83-for-135 (61 percent) for 1060 yards, nine TDs and three interceptions, 106 rushes for 763 yards (7.2 yards per carry) and eight TDs.

Miller is having a breakout season and is the primary reason that Ohio State is already bowl eligible. Or, it would be, were it not on probation with a bowl ban. But he’s still playing well and the Buckeyes are undefeated at this point and a Top 10 team in the AP poll (still ineligible in the Coaches’ poll). However, Miller’s passing stats leave something to be desired. In order for him to become a real Heisman threat, he will have to get a lot sharper on his passes, which he may need another offseason to tighten up. But his ground game has made him one of the most dangerous players in the Big Ten. The queston still remains that with Ohio State unable to play in any postseason games, how much consideration will he get?

Matt Barkley
Senior QB, USC
Last Week: 23-for-30 (76 percent) for 303 yards and three TDs.
Season: 111-for-173 (64 percent) for 1308 yards, 15 TDs and five interceptions.

Ever since the one-possession loss at Stanford in mid-September, people have fallen asleep on USC. Are the Trojans National Championship contenders? That remains to be seen. After USC lines up against Oregon in early November, we will know how good both teams are, as well as how good Barkley is. But he is still in the Heisman race. His October schedule is fairly pedestrian and USC should be hot heading into the titanic matchup against Oregon. The Trojans dashed Oregon’s National Title hopes in Eugene last season and they could do the same this season at home.

Mike Gillislee
Senior RB, Florida
Last Week: 34 rushes for 148 yards (6.2 yards per carry) and two TDs.
Season: 103 rushes for 548 yards (5.3 yards per carry) and seven TDs.

Fresh off the huge win over LSU, Florida is now one of the leaders for the National Title discussion. Gillislee is the main reason why. He is averaging 110 rushing yards per game, just a few behind the pace set by Mark Ingram when he won the Heisman in 2009. For the Gators to keep winning, they will need to rely on the legs of Gillislee, so he will have plenty of opportunities to add to his resume.

Defensive Line

After being relatively quiet in its first four games, the Texas defensive line made some serious noise in a breakout performance against Geno Smith and the Mountaineers last Saturday. Defensive ends Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat provided constant pressure throughout the game, and the Longhorns were able to force Smith to fumble twice inside his own red zone. Okafor has six sacks this season, Jeffcoat has 3 1/2. The Longhorns as a whole have five more sacks than Oklahoma this season (13) and shouldn’t have a problem getting around an OU offensive line decimated by injuries.

Advantage: Texas

Linebackers

While the defensive line had a strong game against West Virginia, the Texas linebackers continued to struggle against the Mountaineers. Andrew Buie ran for 207 yards and two touchdowns against the Longhorns and he was able to earn huge yardage on many plays once he got past the Texas defensive line. The Longhorns’ linebackers have struggled with tackling and stopping the run all season and the loss of Jordan Hicks has clearly weakened the unit in the past two contests. The Sooners linebackers have been decent this year, allowing 4.5 yards per rush, but they have been able to limit opponents to just four touchdowns on the ground this year. Oklahoma’s ability to limit big runs and stuff opponents in the red zone is due in large part to the play of the linebackers.

Advantage: Oklahoma

Defensive Backs

The Longhorns have a major advantage in forcing turnovers in the secondary, as they have intercepted seven passes while the Oklahoma backs have just four picks. That said, the Sooners have had the more solid unit overall unit, as they have not allowed an opposing quarterback to throw for more than 203 yards in four games and they have only given up one passing touchdown through the air. The Longhorns may have more big-play ability in the secondary, but they have given up considerably more yardage to opponents, allowing an average of 221.8 yards per game through the air.

Advantage: Oklahoma

Special Teams

Both of these teams have been successful on returns this year, with Texas averaging 26.5 yards on kickoffs and 16.2 yards on punts and Oklahoma averaging 28.2 yards on kickoffs and 22 yards on punts. The difference between these two special teams units comes down to field goals. Oklahoma has gone 5-for-6 on field goals and is perfect on attempts under 40 yards. The Longhorns on the other hand are just 4-for-9 on field goal tries and are 0-for-4 on attempts of greater than 40 yards. If this game comes down to a critical field goal attempt, the Sooners should have the edge.

Advantage: Oklahoma

Running back Joe Bergeon ran for 45 yards and four touchdowns against West Virginia on Saturday night.

Photo Credit: Zachary Strain | Daily Texan Staff

The Longhorns held Geno Smith to fewer passing yards than any team this year: 268 yards. But it wasn’t enough and once again, the run game did the Longhorns in.

Running back Andrew Buie accumulated a career-high 207 yards on 31 attempts and averaged 6.7 yards per rush.

“The thing for me that I am having trouble with is we are giving up so many rushing yards, and I’m not used to that,” head coach Mack Brown said. “We’re allowing people to be two dimensional.”

Kenny Vaccaro was surprised at the Mountaineers’ success with the run game.

“They have two great receivers and a great passing quarterback,” Vaccaro said. “The run was supposed to be eliminated, and it is disappointing to see that. The run game basically saved them.”

Some of these issues with stopping the run game can be attributed to linebacker Jordan Hicks’ absence the last two games. But, for a team that led the Big 12 in rushing defense last year, giving up more than 200 to one player won’t be good enough in this high-scoring Big 12.

Fourth downs hurt Horns 

When playing against Smith, a defense has to make big stops. The Longhorns failed to do that and allowed the Mountaineers to go 5-for-5 on fourth down conversions. They only went 3-for-12 on third downs.

The one time Texas did stop the Mountaineers by sacking Smith, Texas called a timeout before the play, forcing a repeat of the fouth down. Smith hit Tavon Austin for a 40-yard touchdown.

In addition, West Virginia went 7-for-7 in the red zone. 

“It’s very frustrating, but a lot of their fourth downs were fourth-and-short, and those are hard to stop,” senior defensive end Alex Okafor said. “I mean, it’s frustrating, but we just have to move on from it and pick it up. We just need to make more plays on defense.”

Bergeron, Gray impress 

Without Malcolm Brown, the other running backs were forced to take a bigger role in the offense. 

Sophomore Joe Bergeron set a career-high four rushing touchdowns in the game and now leads the Longhorns with nine touchdowns this season. His last touchdown of the game gave Texas a 38-34 lead at the end of the third quarter. 

While Johnathan Gray is still looking for his first touchdown as a Longhorn, he led the rushing attack with 87 yards on 14 carries. His 49-yard run in the second quarter put the Longhorns on the one-yard line and Bergeron came on the field and scored a touchdown. 

“Every week he is getting better,” Bergeron said about Gray. “I can see it in his eyes. He has no fear. You need that in a young guy like him. Look at him on the sidelines, he’s so anxious just to get in.”

Special teams struggle 

Anthony Fera finally got his chance to kick for the Longhorns. After missing the first four games of the season with a groin injury, the Penn State transfer failed to make a 41-yard field goal that would have tied the game at 41 with 5:25 left in the fourth quarter. 

Granted, the attempt should have been much closer, but due to a botched snap he was moved back. 

In addition to Fera’s miss, the kickoff coverage team allowed Austin a 44-yard and 67-yard return. With an offense like West Virginia’s, allowing that kind of field position was costly.

Printed on Monday, October 8, 2012 as: Defense struggles once again, WVU goes 7-for-7 in red zone