Spring football is starting to heat up with Texas Tech already under way and Texas getting started on Thursday. That must mean it's time to start looking ahead to the 2012.
Earlier in the year, Phil Steele took a look ahead at the returning starters for every school in the country entering 2012 and here are how the numbers shake out for the teams that will make up the Big 12 this fall.
A couple items worth noting:
**Texas Tech leads the conference in the number of players returning - tied for second most in the entire country - including 10 on defense alone. Of course that can be a bit of a double-edge sword. Texas Tech gave up 39.2 points a game in 2011 so the Red Raiders defense is obviously in need of some major retooling. Is doing that retooling with the same players a good thing? In this case, maybe so since injuries played a big part in their downfall while a lot of players were seeing the field for the first time in their careers.
It's worth nothing, however, that Tech recruited seven defensive junior college players who will be given every opportunity to earn starting jobs. And not to forget, Texas Tech has another new defensive coordinator, so the experience returning won't be so experienced in its third system in as many years..
**TCU will be playing their first season in the Big 12 and will be doing so with the fewest number of returning starters in the league. At the time they were released, the totals also included a couple of the starters that have since been suspended from the team. The number returning now looks more like 10 or 11 depending on if Mr. Steele included Tanner Brock as a starter since he missed almost the entire year with an injury.
**The Big 12 no doubt loses two great quarterbacks in Brandon Weeden and Robert Griffin to the NFL, but there is still some great talent returning at the position in 2012. Kansas is the only other school besides Oklahoma State and Baylor replacing their signal caller. It would be easy to call Kansas' guy a returning starter, as well, since it figures to be Notre Dame transfer Dayne Crist who has starting experience and will be running Charlie Weis' offense which he obviously already knows.
**The Big 12 will also have a nice stable of running backs returning. Baylor lost Terrance Ganaway to graduation, but outside of that, every team will return its leading rusher assuming Dom Whaley at Oklahoma and Eric Stephens at Texas Tech return healthy from season ending injuries.
**Texas, Baylor, and Iowa State are the only three teams that will be auditioning new field goal kickers this spring into the fall. The other seven teams should be set at the position.