The Big 12 entered the 2012 season as a 10-team conference following the losses of Nebraska, Colorado, Texas A&M and Mizzou. The conference was not supposed to succeed. We as fans were not supposed to be hearing about insanely entertaining shootouts in a league that was left for dead only a few months prior to kickoff.
Led by the likes of Heisman finalist Colin Klein, Geno Smith, Nick Florence and Seth Doege, the Big 12 proved it was alive and kicking. While the next generation of passers must now step in to fill the large shoes at several programs, many other teams have returners ready to step into the national spotlight.
Texas, for example, will be trotting out David Ash. As a sophomore, Ash threw for 19 touchdowns, the most among league non-seniors. As a junior, he will be expected to have shaken off the jitters that led him to struggle towards the ends of some games and to dominate for a full 60 minutes.
Blake Bell will finally be handed the reins at Oklahoma for a full 60 minutes himself. Standing at 6-foot-6 and a whopping 254 pounds, Bell is built more like a defensive end, and he was brought in numerous times as a sophomore to ring folks’ bells, so to speak. He rushed for 11 touchdowns and will be taking over the full-time duties for departed, record-setting passer Landry Jones.
Sam Richardson is another youngster who will take over full-time in 2013. Iowa State spent the early portion of 2012 underrated, then ended it as a mess. The ineffective Steele Jantz graduates and the pouty-but-talented Jared Barnett is transferring, leaving Richardson. In four games as a redshirt freshman, Richardson threw eight touchdown passes and only one interception.
Bryce Petty takes over for Nick Florence, who took over for RGIII, at Baylor. Considering coach Art Briles’ previous four quarterbacks coached have been Kevin Kolb and Case Keenum at Houston & RG3 and Florence, the 6-foot-3, 235-pounder should be gold. The extremely mobile Daniel Sams takes over for the greatest to ever don a K-State uniform in Collin Klein. Soon-to-be sophomore Michael Brewer is the most likely candidate to take over for Seth Doege in the first year of the Kliff Kingsbury era at Texas Tech.
Dayne Crist transferred in to play for his former coach at Notre Dame, Charlie Weis. However, both coach and quarterback stunk even worse than in South Bend. Jake Heaps sat out last year after transferring from BYU, but in one and half seasons in Provo, he put up 3,768 yards passing and threw for 24 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. He should be game on for the basketball school hoping for a slam dunk on the football field (whammy!).
Several other schools will have spring practice battles on their hands.
Oklahoma State’s embarrassment of riches literally makes coach Mike Gundy blush. Three guys, Clint Chelf, Wes Lunt and JW Walsh all threw for more than 1,000 yards last season. Should be a fun spring for all involved — except the two guys forced to carry clipboards, that is.
West Virginia missed out on super-stud JUCO transfer Tanner McEvoy, who pulled a Russell Wilson and chose Wisconsin. Thus, the gloves are off for Paul Millard, Ford Childress and Logan Moore. All three will be competing to replace one of the most prolific passers in the nation in 2012, Geno Smith.
Finally, that leaves TCU, the one program (other than WVU) that actually transferred into the Big 12, instead of out of it. The Horned Frogs’ situation is unique. Dominant starter Casey Pachall threw 10 touchdowns in the team’s first four games but dropped out of school to enter alcohol and drug rehab. Athletic young freshman Trevone Boykin played well, but definitely looked like a freshman at times. Pachall is clean and back in school, and it will be interesting to see if he can work himself back up to game speed — or if Boykin straight up beats him out for starter’s duties in 2013.
The Big 12 has become known for prolific, innovative passing attacks, while generally leaving a bit to be desired on the defensive side of the football. Thus, to win the league title and earn a BCS berth, every team must be equipped to win at least one or two shootouts.
That is where these guys come in. Who is going to dominate the headlines and the league in 2013? Will it be a familiar face, or will one of the conference’s several new faces introduce himself to the world?
We’re just going to come right out and ask it …