It's every college football player's dream to one day make it on to an NFL roster. That dream will become reality for many next week with the NFL draft slated to be held k in New York City starting on May 8th. Many more will also be a step closer as they sign as free agents in the days following.
While it may not be that dream coming to reality just yet, it still has to be a surreal experience to see your face donning the cover an actual football card. So was the case for Oklahoma State receiver Tracy Moore who is part of the Upper Deck Star Rookie Series released prior to the upcoming draft.
"It's funny how something as small as a trading card can be motivation to keep pushing, since I feel like I'm so close," said Moore of the trading card release. It's a really good feeling when you see your work pays off!"
Moore is coming off a senior season in Stillwater that saw him finish second on the team in receptions (51) while leading the Cowboys in touchdown receptions with six. The season was a solid rebound performance following 2012 when he missed the final eight games of the year with an ankle injury.
Anyone that's watched Moore play throughout his tenure at Oklahoma State knows the guy has the skills to play at the next level. He has the speed to go along with a 6'2" frame not to mention, it certainly won't hurt him that's he's played in an up-tempo offenses coordinated by Dana Holgorsen, Todd Monken, and most recently by Mike Yurcich.
Now, all he needs is a chance which he will undoubtedly get very soon. "Whether it's in the first round of later, I will get a chance to make a team and I'll be prepared to take full advantage of that opportunity," Moore said. "You know never know when you'll get another one."
With spring practice officially in the books for all 10 teams in the Big 12, it's time to start looking towards the fall.
On the road to the Big 12 opener, we'll start with a series of player rankings brought to you by Can-Am Spyder, a collection and analysis of the best players at each of the skill positions on offense and a group ranking by position on defense.
Today, what better place to start than by looking at the Big 12's quarterbacks. With the season still four months away, there are several quarterback battles yet to be settled, but it's clear as day who's at the top heading into the 2014 season.
Let me know in the comments section below what you think; where I got it right and where I may have erred in my ways. And while you're at it, please take a moment to check out and support our sponsor, Can-Am Spyder.
Big 12 quarterback rankings brought to you by Can-Am Spyder
1. Bryce Petty - Baylor
There's little doubt who is the top quarterback in the Big 12 heading into 2014. Baylor's Bryce Petty was phenomenal in his first year as a starter guiding the Bears to a 11-2 record and their first ever Big 12 title last season.
Petty threw for 4200 yards and tossed 32 touchdowns against a ridiculously low three interceptions in 2013.
So what can he do for an encore? It'll be tough to top those numbers but if there's any blemish on last year's resume it's the performance against Oklahoma State that saw Baylor score just 17 points in a loss the nearly cost the Bears their Big 12 title.
That loss doesn't entirely fall on Petty, but he did complete less than 60% of his throws in six of Baylor's nine Big 12 games. That's a bit of nitpicking considering it was his first season as a college starting quarterback, but there simply isn't much else not to like about his game.
Can Petty get Baylor into this year's college football playoff? That's the goal and would indeed be an encore that would top last year's unbelievable season.
2. Jake Waters - Kansas State
Waters started the 2013 season as the starter but was splitting reps with Daniel Sams. He finished the year by taking nearly every snap over the final three games of the season.
Outside of Petty and maybe J.W. Walsh at Oklahoma State, he's now one of the most experienced quarterback in the Big 12. After completing 62.1% of his passes as a junior, big things are expected for K-State's offense heading into 2014. It won't hurt to have Tyler Lockett, one of the country's most dangerous receivers, running routes for the Wildcats, either.
"The country has a show coming in watching Jake," wide receiver Deante Burton said. "I think he is going to do real big things and make a name for himself. He is going to put K-State in a big light. I think we are going to get rolling. We are going to follow him and ride his coattails."
3. Trevor Knight - Oklahoma
Entering last season's Sugar Bowl against Alabama, the jury was still out on Knight after and up and down freshman season in which he missed time during the middle of the year with a knee injury.
But it's not how you start, but rather how you finish. And Knight finished the season with an out-of-this-world performance against Alabama that saw him throw for 348 yards and four touchdowns against one of the SEC's best defenses.
How good does OU coaching staff feel about Knight going forward? Kendall Thompson saw the writing on the wall and decided to transfer to Utah while Blake Bell is moving to tight end so that he has a better chance at playing time during his senior season.
The Sooners have high hopes heading into 2014 and Knight's performance against the Crimson Tide is a big reason why.
4. Davis Webb - Texas Tech
Davis Webb was the last man standing in Lubbock following the transfers of Michael Brewer and Baker Mayfield this offseason. The transfers raised a red flag to some but the thing to keep in mind, the best of the bunch is the guy still on campus.
Coming off a Holiday Bowl victory over Arizona State that saw Webb throw for 403 yards and four touchdowns, there's plenty of momentum building behind the former walk on turned lone quarterback on the roster.
Running Kliff Kingsbury's offense, Webb should be in for a huge sophomore campaign. Texas Tech fans should probably keep their fingers crossed, however, that Webb stays healthy throughout the season. If Webb is unable to play for any reason, there's a whole bunch of unknowns coming in behind him.
That being said, it's worth noting that nobody knew who either Mayfield and Webb were at this time last season, either, and both turned out to be fine options.
5. J.W. Walsh - Oklahoma State
If we're going to put J.W. Walsh at number five, it's worth noting that he still has to beat out Daxx Garman and Mason Rudolph for the starting job, but coming out of spring practice, Walsh appears to be the odds on favorite to be under center in the Cowboys opener against Florida State.
Walsh is by far the most experienced starter on the Pokes roster and despite some inconsistencies in his performance, he's had plenty of big games from which to build on. Walsh is the most mobile of the quarterbacks and considering there are plenty of holes to fill on the Cowboys offensive line, Walsh's mobility will pay dividends.
6. Clint Trickett - West Virginia
Trickett didn't take a snap this spring while recovering from shoulder surgery but the Florida State transfer remains on top of the depth chart heading into summer workouts.
Like Walsh at Oklahoma State, Trickett still has to earn the starting job but given the inexperience behind him, Trickett remains the odds on favorite to open the season as the starter.
Trickett will benefit from playing in the same offense for the second straight season which should help the communication problems he experienced at times in 2013. If he can stay healthy behind a revamped offensive line, Trickett has the potential to have a breakout senior season leading the Mountaineers.
7. David Ash/Tyrone Swoopes - Texas
While Walsh and Trickett look to be the starters in Stillwater and Morgantown, the status of the Texas quarterback position is much more up in the air.
Ash suffered a stress fracture in his foot during spring practice and given his injury history, his status remains questionable at best. If healthy, he likely gives the Longhorns and new coach Charlie Strong the best chance to win now.
Swoopes took the starting role in the spring game and struggled to an extent but should still see considerable action if Ash isn't able to return to health for any reason. Whether or not that's a good thing for Texas remains to be seen because all we saw last season was a very small sample size from the freshman in 2013.
Both players have the potential to have big seasons in UT's new offense but the simple fact is there are far more questions than answers at the position heading into 2014.
8. Montell Cozart - Kansas
Following a solid 15 practices this spring, Charlie Weis named Cozart his starting quarterback heading into the fall.
Cozart struggled last season throwing the ball in Weis' offense, but the new offense under John Reagan is a much better match for his skill set as he proved throughout the spring. Expect to see Cozart toting the rock plenty in 2014 which will help to open the passing lines to an improved core of receivers.
Cozart still has much to prove as a starting quarterback in the Big 12, but don't be surprised if he has breakout season in Lawrence this fall.
9. Matt Joeckel - TCU
There is plenty of excitement in Fort Worth following Joeckel's transfer to TCU from Texas A&M. In the Horned Frogs new offense, the ball will be in the air much more than in the past and Joeckel should be the perfect fit to run the offense following two seasons backing up Johnny Manziel.
Joeckel has the potential to move way up this list, but the simple fact remains he has just one career start under his belt so the jury is still how on how he will perform as a full time starter should he indeed win the job.
However it turns out, simply having Joeckel on the roster gives Gary Patterson some much needed depth at the position and options that he didn't have prior to his arrival.
10. Grant Rohach, Sam Richardson - Iowa State
Iowa State's quarterbacks may be at the bottom of the list right now but given Mark Mangino's arrival as the new offensive coordinator, expect to see a much improved Cyclone offense this fall.
That's good news for the ISU QB's who have struggled with consistency over the past several seasons. Richardson and Rohach split the starting duties last season and will battle into the fall for the starting spot. Whoever wins the job is going to the guy that proves he can distribute the ball while limiting turnovers.
The Cyclones have talent at the receiver position led by wide receiver Quenton Bundrage and tight end E.J. Bibbs. That combined with new offensive schemes under Mangino means Iowa State should be putting more points on the scoreboard which will be a welcome site in Ames.
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Coming off a week that saw only three games involving Big 12 teams, conference action starts to heat up with three Big 12 games on the slate in week five highlighted by Tech's trip to Stillwater to take on Oklahoma State.
Following week five's action, TCU will be the only team in the league yet to have played a Big 12 game.
Here's a complete look at what's in store over the fifth weekend of the season followed by what the Big 12 standings could look like heading into week six when every team in the league will begin conference play in earnest.
Big 12 schedule: week five:
|Thurs. 9/25||Texas Tech @ Oklahoma State||OSU win|
|Sat. 9/27||Baylor @ Iowa State||BU win|
|Sat. 9/27||UTEP @ Kansas State||KSU win|
|Sat. 9/27||TCU @ SMU||TCU win|
|Sat. 9/27||Texas @ Kansas||TX win|
Game of the Week
Texas Tech @ Oklahoma State
For the second straight week, the Big 12 will have its best game of the weekend featured on Thursday night football. It will be the first conference game of the season for both Texas Tech and Oklahoma State.
Both teams will come in off bye-weeks which is often times the case for Thursday night games. Will J.W. Walsh and Davis Webb be quarterbacking their respective teams? Webb is a lock to start the season for the Red Raiders but keep in mind, Tech is one high ankle sprain away from once again being forced to play a true freshman quarterback.
Walsh appears to be the odds-on starter for the Cowboys but depending on how things go early in the season, it wouldn't be shocking to see either Daxx Garman or Mason Rudolph get a chance at some point.
Sitting here in April, this looks like an even matchup on paper but given the game is in Boone Pickens Stadium, let's give the early edge to the Pokes, for now.
Baylor back in Ames
Baylor @ Iowa State
Baylor completely dismantled Iowa State last season in Waco putting 71 points on the Cyclones. You can bet that nobody on Paul Rhoads' squad is happy about the way they played last year and they'll be out to prove they are a much better team than they were that day.
It won't hurt that this year's matchup is in Ames. The last time Baylor headed north to play ISU the final scoreboard read: Iowa State 35 Baylor 21. The Cyclones might not make it two in a row over Baylor at home, but it wouldn't be shocking to see ISU make this a four quarter game.
Big 12 action continues
Texas @ Kansas
For as bad as the Jayhawks have been the past two seasons, they've actually held their own against the Longhorns. That may say more about where the Longhorns were than KU, but either way, Kansas has proved to be anything but a pushover against big, bad, Texas.
This will be UT's first true road test of the season which comes after a bye week following their game against UCLA in Arlington.
We all know about Charlie Strong, but Kansas also will be sporting a new offense under offensive coordinator, John Reagan. After three nonconference games to get it tuned up, the Jayhawks will get to test their mettle against what figures to be one of the Big 12's best defenses.
Hit the Snooze Button
Projected Big 12 standings: week five
TCU picked up some much needed depth at quarterback on Thursday night with former Texas A&M signal caller Matt Joeckel announcing on Twitter that he's headed to TCU.
I am now TCU Horned Frog. Go Frogs!— Matt Joeckel (@MattJoeckel) April 17, 2014
Joeckel will be a fifth year senior with one year of eligibility remaining following his graduation from Texas A&M this past December.
At the very least, Joeckel will provide a much need insurance policy at the position with Trevone Boykin being the lone quarterback on the roster with any playing experience. Tyler Matthews - Casey Pachall and Boykin's backup last season, announced earlier on Thursday that he was transferring, as well, a move which likely wasn't a coincidence given the pending arrival of Joeckel.
Joeckel's move to Fort Worth is good news for TCU fans. Although he only started one game during his four seasons in College Station, he brings a veteran presence and will likely have every opportunity to win the starting job when fall camp opens in August.
Although Boykin is atop the QB depth chart currently, his best position may be at receiver and having Joeckel on campus may open the door for him to move back to the position.
Joeckel's arrival could also give incoming freshmen Grayson Muehlstein and Foster Sawyer a chance to get their feet wet at the college level without having the pressure of being forced into a starting role right off the bat.
With TCU moving to quick paced passing offense in 2014, Joeckel looks to be a perfect fit after playing in Kevin Sumlin's offense the past two seasons even if most of his time was spent on the sidelines watching Johnny Manziel do his thing.
Whatever route TCU decides to take, he'll give Gary Patterson some much needed flexibility at the position. His only options previously were to leave Boykin running an offense that didn't necessarily fit his skill set or turning over the offense to a true freshman straight out of high school.
The timing couldn't be better for TCU.
Charlie Weis has seen enough.
Just a week after contemplating playing two quarterbacks this fall, KU's head man saw enough in Saturday's spring game and throughout the Jayhawks's 15 spring practices to name sophomore Montell Cozart Kansas' starting quarterback.
"After the completion of post spring ball evaluations and individual player meetings, I met with the offensive staff and we have decided to name Montell Cozart our starting quarterback," Weis said.
The move isn't a huge surprise given the direction the Kansas offense is headed under new offensive coordinator, John Reagan. It's no secret Reagan likes to use the quarterback in the run game and including the other candidates - senior Jake Heaps and sophomore T. J. Millweard - Cozart is the most efficient runner of the group.
In the past two seasons with Reagan calling plays at Rice, the Owls' quarterback, Taylor McHargue, carried the ball 321 times (including sacks) so it stands to reason we'll see more of the same this season with Cozart under center.
The biggest question mark surrounding Cozart is his ability to throw the ball after completing just 36.5% last season which included three starts while he played in seven games overall. But Weis apparently saw enough improvement throughout the spring to hand the offense over to Cozart full time.
"I wish we were done with summer workouts and all that,” Cozart said. “I wish it was September and we were getting ready to play our first game. But it's been a great process and I've definitely been able to learn and get better and I needed it.”
The past two seasons, KU's offense has finished last in the Big 12 averaging just 15.3 (2013) and 18.2 (2012) using a mixture of quarterbacks including transfers Dayne Crist and Jake Heaps.
Now it's Cozart's turn with a new coordinator calling the plays. Combine his ability with some new receivers including Miami (OH) transfer Nick Harwell, and KU's offense has the chance to be much improved in 2014.
After a week loaded with intriguing matchups, the Big 12 takes a breather in week number four with only three games on the schedule. Even so, Kansas State's matchup with Auburn on Thursday night qualifies at must see TV and we have our second Big 12 game of the season to get us through until the six other Big 12 schools return to action the following weekend.
Big 12 schedule: week four
|Thurs. 9/18||Auburn @ Kansas State||KSU loss|
|Sat. 9/20||Central Michigan @ Kansas||KU win|
|Sat. 9/20||Oklahoma @ West Virginia||OU win|
Game of the week:
Auburn @ Kansas State (Thurs.)
Is there a better way to get the weekend started early than a Thursday night tilt in Manhattan? If there is, I can think of it.
Auburn will likely come to town sporting a top five ranking after falling to Florida State in the national title game to end last season. Kansas State, on the other hand, will be trying to make an early season statement that they are indeed a team to fear in the Big 12.
The Tigers return 14 starters including quarterback Nick Marshall and will give a relatively inexperienced Kansas State defense all they can handle. If the Wildcats can keep a potent Tiger offense under wraps, they'll have to feel good about moving forward - win or lose - because they might not see a better offense all season.
Big 12 action, game two:
Oklahoma @ West Virginia
After K-State and Iowa State kicked off Big 12 play in week two, Oklahoma and West Virginia get the ball rolling again in the second conference game of the season.
Despite finishing last season with a 4-8 record, the Mountaineers hung tough with the Sooners losing 16-7 in Norman. This will be a different OU team, however, and one looking to make a big statement in their first conference game of the season.
After already playing Alabama and Maryland in nonconference games, it goes without saying this is a rather important game for the Mountaineers. Not only because it's a conference game, but WVU could be looking to avoid a 1-3 start depending how they fare in the two previously mentioned games.
That could raise the temperature on Dana Holgorsen's seat to lukewarm status, but on the other hand, a win over the Big 12 favorite would be a gigantic statement win for a program looking to return to its winning ways.
Hit the Snooze Button
Central Michigan @ Kansas
Projected Big 12 standings: week four
Well, after having a one year hiatus of prime time games, Nebraska will be back in the spotlight at least twice in 2014.
On Tuesday, ABC and ESPN announced its six preseason picks for prime-time games on either network and the Huskers made the list twice.
Nebraska will kick off in Lincoln against Miami at 7:00 (CST) on September 20th and again when they travel to East Lansing to play Michigan State on October 4th.
Hey, twice in three weeks, not bad. It beats the heck out of any more 11AM kick-offs.
The Big Ten Network will announce its prime time picks sometime next week so there could be more to come.
If you want to believe what Charlie Weis said prior to spring practice, then Kansas doesn't have a starting quarterback, at least not yet. He said then:
"It's never a good thing of it goes deep into August because it means you don't have (a quarterback). Any time there's a quarterback competition that goes to the end - I had one, trust me - it means you don't have one."
That's contrary to what Weis said on Tuesday as the Jayhawks get set for their spring game Saturday in Lawrence.
“I think if you intend to use them both in the same way, then you’re in trouble,” Weis said. “But if we were playing both of those guys — which right now, if we played this week, we would — we wouldn’t use them the same way.”
The both guys he's referring to are senior Jake Heaps and sophomore Montell Cozart who have, for the time being at least, separated themselves from sophomore T. J. Millweard and junior Michael Cummings in the race to be the Jayhawks signal caller.
The good news for Weis is that KU doesn't have to play this week. They'll have Saturday's scrimmage, summer workouts, and fall camp before they have make a decision about who's going to be under center.
With the uncertainty still lingering through the bulk of spring practices, should Kansas fans be worried about the quarterback position? Maybe, but they'd be probably be worried even if Weis had already named a starter. That's just the nature of the beast.
But the simple fact is, if both Heaps and Cozart have performed well, there's probably no damage being done by waiting until fall camp to name the guy who will start the opener.
As for two quarterback systems, we all know how that usually turns out - i.e. see Weis' comment from early March. But Kansas State made a work last season with Jake Waters and Daniel Sams.
It's probably worth noting, however, that K-State won six of their final seven games after Waters started to assert himself and received the majority of the playing time.
That's no knock on Sams, but rather an indication that maybe one is better than two, after all.
It's good to have goals, right? Well don't fault Kansas' defense from shying away from setting some pretty lofty goals for next season.
According to the Topeka-Capital Journal, the Jayhawks are setting out to have the best defense in the Big 12 next season.
“From the outside, I bet people will hear that and be like, ‘Ha,’ ” D-Lineman Keon Stowers said. “But all they see is wins and losses, score of the game. They’ve got fan goggles — I call it fan goggles. They don’t really see what’s going on.”
He can call them fan goggles if he'd like, but last season there's no escaping the fact that KU's defense gave up more than 30 points seven different times and more than 50 points in two of those games.
That's not to say KU's defense can't or won't be much improved in 2014. They return nine starters from last year's team including second team All-Big 12 linebacker Ben Heeney and all their starters from a good secondary.
A bigger concern - even with defensive improvement - is an offense that failed to score more than 20 points in 10 of their 12 games a season ago. Holding Big 12 offenses under 20 points a game on average is something no Big 12 defense did a season ago. Oklahoma State led the Big 12 in 2013 allowing 22.1 points per game in nine conference games.
Of course, Kansas is already attempting to jumpstart that side of the ball with the hiring of John Reagan to run the offense. But if Kansas wants to improve it's won-loss record - and what else really matters - scoring more points is a necessity no matter how much improvement the defense makes.
“It’s not about what (others) think,” Stowers said. “We’re the ones that are going to be out there on fourth-and-1 when we have to make that stop. As long as the 11 guys that’s on the field believe that we can do it, we’ll be able to attain it.”
Hey, fielding a good defense starts with an attitude and it sounds like the Jayhawks have that covered which is a solid starting point. Whether or not that's enough to bring KU out of the Big 12's cellar is another question entirely.
Teams in the Big 12 haven't exactly played daunting nonconference schedules over the past couple seasons. That changes a bit this season, especially this week.
On the docket for the Big 12 in week number three are UCLA, Duke, Tennessee, Iowa, Minnesota, Arkansas, and Maryland. That might not be great, but it could be a heck of a lot worse and keep in mind, Alabama and Florida State have already appeared on the Big 12's schedule so hopefully things to continue to trending in this direction. Thank you college football playoff?
Big 12 schedule: week three
|Fri. 9/12||Baylor @ Buffalo||BU win|
|Sat. 9/13||West Virginia vs. Maryland (at College Park, MD)||WVU win|
|Sat. 9/13||Tennessee @ Oklahoma||OU win|
|Sat. 9/13||Kansas @ Duke||KU loss|
|Sat. 9/13||Arkansas @ Texas Tech||TT win|
|Sat. 9/13||Iowa State @ Iowa||ISU win?|
|Sat. 9/13||UT San Antonio @ Oklahoma State||OSU win|
|Sat. 9/13||Texas vs. UCLA (in Arlington)||TX loss|
|Sat. 9/13||Minnesota @ TCU||TCU win|
Game of the week
Texas vs. UCLA (in Arlington)
The biggest test in Charlie Strong's first season in Austin comes in the form of the UCLA Bruins who - assuming they take care of Virginia and Memphis in the season's first two weeks - very well may head to Arlington sporting a top ten ranking and one of the favorites to capture this year's Pac-12 title.
The Bruins return 15 starters from last year's 9-4 team including quarterback Brett Hundley who figures to be one of the early favorites to win the 2014 Heisman trophy.
Is Texas ready to take out a top 10 team three weeks into Strong's tenure? Maybe, maybe not, but how the Longhorns perform against the Bruins should provide a solid look at how close, or how far away, Texas is to returning to the nation's elite.
The Helmet Game
Tennessee @ Oklahoma
Butch Jones might not have Tennessee back to an elite level just yet, but seeing these two football heavyweights on the field together beats the heck out of an OU matchup against Name Your Score U.
The Volunteers return just 10 starters from last year's 5-7 team and are unsettled at quarterback as they work their way through spring practice. Even so, Tennessee has last year's surprise victory over South Carolina and a top five incoming recruiting class to build upon.
The Sooners should come away with a victory on their home field but this is still one to put a star next to on your viewing calendar.
Kansas @ Duke
Kansas vs. Duke in September? No, it's not basketball season, at least I don't think it is.
Going on the road to play Duke probably didn't sound like a bad idea to the Kansas administration when the game was originally scheduled. Those feelings may have changed with the Blue Devil's resurgence last season as they won the Atlantic Division before falling to Florida State in the ACC championship game.
Duke returns 14 starters from that team and should enter the matchup against KU with a 2-0 record after a relatively easy opening to the season with games against Elon and Troy.
This will only be the Jayhawks second game of the season and picking up a road win in Raleigh will all of sudden by nice win for Charlie Weis as he continues to try and turn around the Kansas program.
The Cy-Hawk Series
The Cyclones and Hawkeyes continue their annual matchup with a return to Iowa City after the Hawkeyes picked up a road victory in Ames last season.
Over the past 15 seasons, the Cyclones hold an 8-7 advantage including winning two of the past three meetings.
Iowa has plenty of holes to fill on a defense that loses seven starters from last year's team while new offensive coordinator Mark Mangino will have 10 returning offensive starters to play with for Iowa State.
The Cyclones will come into the Iowa game already battle tested after opening with North Dakota State and Kansas State. Iowa, on the other hand, should come in 2-0 with expected wins over UNI and Ball State.
Worth Keeping an Eye on
Hit the Snooze Button
Projected Big 12 standings through September 13th