Landry Jones, Junior Quarterback: Jones is the best passer that Texas has faced at this point in the young season. He is throwing for over 360 yards a game so far this season, with a pair of 400+ yard performances in his last two games. He is not particularly mobile, having only three net rushing yards this season, so pressuring him could be key. Half of his touchdown passes for the season came last week against Ball State where he threw five in just over two quarters. Jones is an accurate passer who throws an impressive deep ball. If he is given time to throw, he will connect on a lot of passes down the field, which would really put the Longhorns behind the eight-ball.
Ryan Broyles, Senior Wide Receiver: Oklahoma’s record receiver is on pace for another big season this year, having caught 38 balls for 476 yards this season. The only game that he hasn’t gotten over 100 yards receiving was against Florida State where he ran for 55 yards. His 304 career receptions are tied for the Big 12 record currently held by former Texas Tech running back, Taurean Henderson. He is only 12 catches behind the NCAA career record holder, Taylor Stubblefield of Purdue. He had a 13 catch game against Missouri, and a 14 catch game against Tulsa already this season, so he is more than capable of setting the record against the young Texas secondary.
Travis Lewis, Senior Linebacker: Lewis is the leader of the Oklahoma defense. He suffered a setback in fall practice when he broke his foot before the season started. Projected to be out until next week, Lewis came back earlier than expected two weeks ago against Florida State. Despite missing a game with the injury, he has 23 tackles and overcame the foot injury to lead the team in tackles twice this season, including his first game back against the Seminoles. Lewis, an NFL caliber players, is widely considered one of the top linebackers in the nation.
Dominique Whaley, Junior Running Back: Whaley has been the surprise of the Big 12. A junior college transfer, he has come in and provided the Sooners with a rushing attack that many thought would not be there after Demarco Murray left. He has rushed for 379 yards and seven touchdowns this season on 5.4 yards per carry. The walk-on has given Oklahoma another dimension to its offense to balance out Jones’ passing attack. He was stellar in the two Sooner blowouts at home this season, but had trouble in the pair of ten-point wins they played against Florida State and Missouri. He rushed for 139 yards in those two games combined, compared to 131 from game one against Tulsa. But he has proven that he should not be overlooked, especially against Texas defense that has given up big runs through the tackles.
Here’s how my 2011 Big 12 Conference Media Preseason Football Poll turned out. If you’re a Texas fan, you might not want to look.
But first, two thoughts:
1) Oklahoma is going to be really, really good (duh). The Sooners have the best quarterback in the Big 12 in Landry Jones, the most electric player in Ryan Broyles, and the best defensive player in Travis Lewis.
2) Sorry to say this, but the Longhorns’ offensive talent looks to be depleted. With the exception of freshman running back Malcolm Brown, who I have as my Newcomer of the Year, not one player was in the running for a first-team selection.
On to the selections:
Offensive Player of the Year — Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma
Defensive Player of the Year — Travis Lewis, Oklahoma
Newcomer of the Year — Malcolm Brown, Texas
Preseason Top 10
1. Oklahoma — See above.
2. Texas A&M — Ryan Tannehill, Cyrus Gray and Jeff Fuller make for a pretty dangerous trio. The O-line is raw but talented, Christine Michael would start in the backfield for any other team in the conference, and Ryan Swope and Uzoma ‘EZ’ Nwachukwu team with Fuller to make the most complete receiving corps in the Big 12.
3. Missouri — Blaine Gabbert is gone, but the Tigers usually have a potent offense regardless of the quarterback or the receivers. Four good running backs return and Michael Egnew is a versatile option at tight end.
4. Oklahoma State — It will be interesting to see how things are offensively with Dana Holgorsen now the head coach at West Virginia and the departure of Kendall Hunter — who seemed like he was in Stillwater for forever — but it’s hard not to like the combination of Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon. The two teamed up for a ridiculous 20 touchdowns in 2010.
5. Kansas State — The loss of Daniel Thomas hurts the Wildcats, but the addition of 2009 top recruit Bryce Brown should help. And Texas fans remember Collin Klein, don’t they?
6. Baylor — Look, anytime you’ve got Robert Griffin on your team, you have a chance to win any game. I’m not huge on the Bears’ stable of running backs, or either line — though they always seem to have somebody jump out of oblivion to be a first-round draft pick — but Griffin makes stuff happen when the play breaks down. He has Kendall Wright to throw to, also.
7. Texas — This might look stupid come November, but after a 5-7 season, it’s hard to think that the Longhorns are going to drastically improve. Plus, Texas lost to five of the six teams above them on this list last season, and Missouri wasn’t on the schedule. If it’s any consolation, the defense should be leaps and bounds better than last year.
8. Texas Tech — In the days of Mike Leach, Tech could plug in any old quarterback in its Air Raid offense and get huge numbers. Seth Doege is the first “new” quarterback in the Tommy Tuberville era, as Taylor Potts was the starter during the Leach regime. We’ll see how Tuberville — and a new 4-2-5 defense — fares in his second year on the plains. Expectations should be pretty low.
9. Iowa State — Head coach Paul Rhoads is doing something remarkable in Ames: the Cyclones are finally not awful. They beat Texas and Texas Tech last year, and lost to Nebraska by one point in overtime. They still got beat 52-0 by Oklahoma though. Some things never change. (Keep an eye on quarterback Jerome Tiller; a big, athletic quarterback who was the hero of the 9-7 2009 win over Nebraska.)
10. Kansas — Last year was a train wreck for new head coach Turner Gill. The Jayhawks have 14 starters returning, which can be construed as a good or bad thing. Good, because of the experience. Not so good, because those starters only won three games last year.
Preaseason All-Big 12 Conference Team
QB — Landry Jones, Oklahoma.
RB — Cyrus Gray, Texas A&M.
RB — Bryce Brown, Kansas State
WR – Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma
WR — Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
TE — Michael Egnew, Missouri
OL — Philip Blake, Baylor
OL — Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
OL — Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
OL — Kelechi Osemele, Iowa State
OL — Elvis Fisher, Missouri
PK — Justin Tucker, Texas
PR — Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma
DL — Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas
DL — Brad Madison, Missouri
DL — Kheeston Randall, Texas
DL — Richetti Jones, Oklahoma State
LB — Travis Lewis, Oklahoma
LB — Keenan Robinson, Texas
LB — Emmanuel Acho, Texas
DB — Markelle Martin, Oklahoma State
DB — Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
DB — Coryell Judie, Texas A&M
DB — Dustin Harris, Texas A&M
P — Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
KR — D.J. Monroe, Texas