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2018 Big XII Football Preview

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Big XII Media Days have wrapped up, depth charts have been released and head coaches from around the Big XII met with the media for the last time before fall camps start.

There doesn’t look to be a clear-cut favorite to win the conference this year. Six teams have yet to name a starter at quarterback.

We take a glance at the programs around the league in order of the preseason Big XII Media Poll.

  1. Oklahoma Sooners

2017 Result: 12-2, 8-1 (Big XII Champs)

Bowl: Rose/ Playoff Semi-Final – Lost to Georgia in Double overtime 54-48

The Sooners were expected to be the preseason favorite to win the Big XII despite graduating Heisman winner Baker Mayfield. Oklahoma has won three straight Big XII titles and they have plenty of talent returning.

Kyler Murray is expected to take over under center for the Sooners, but head coach Lincoln Riley says he must earn the spot. “Kyler is not the quarterback yet,” Riley said. “There is good competition going on and Kyler is going to have to fight like crazy to win this job.”

In what should be considered a rebuilding year after losing so much offensive firepower, programs like Oklahoma don’t rebuild, they reload.

They return leading rusher and preseason All Big XII running back Rodney Anderson (1,161 yards, 13 touchdowns) along with two of their top receivers from 2017 in Marquise Brown (1,095 yards, 7 touchdowns) and CeeDee Lamb (807 yards, 7 touchdowns).

Oklahoma returns seven lettermen along the offensive line two of which are preseason All Big XII in Bobby Evans and Ben Powers but will have to rely on some freshmen to add depth.

The Sooners defense will have to replace six starters and currently have three seniors on their depth chart. Middle Linebacker Kenneth Murray and defensive back Parnell Motley highlight the group.

  1. West Virginia Mountaineers

2017 results: 7-6, 5-4 6th in the Big XII

Bowl: Heart of Dallas Bowl – Lost to Utah 30-14

The Mountaineers haven’t had a lot of success in the first six seasons inside the conference. Quarterback Will Grier looks to give West Virginia their first Big XII Championship with a slew of offensive Weapons at his disposal.

Grier has three of his top four receivers returning in 2018. Gary Jennings, Marcus Simms and Biletnikoff finalist David Sill combined for 76.8% of Griers completions, 2,739 yards and 24 touchdowns.

Kennedy Mckoy and Martell Petteway look to be the one two punch in the running game. They will have to find lanes in the defense behind an offensive line that only has 51 starts among the current starters.

On the defensive side of the ball, West Virginia must replace two of their top three tacklers from a defense that ranked 106th in total defense last season. The Mountaineers return linebacker David Long who had 15.5 tackles for loss in nine games in 2017.

Head coach Dana Holgorsen is embracing the expectations, “We welcome expectations. We want you guys to talk about us. I think we got a good group coming back.”

  1. Texas Christian Horned Frogs

2017 Result: 11-3, 7-2 2nd in the Big XII

Bowl: Alamo Bowl – Won against Stanford 39-37

TCU is known for their defense. They were the best defense in the Big XII in 2017 and with 19 lettermen returning and behind the preseason defensive player of the year, defensive lineman Ben Banogu the Horned Frogs could repeat as the best defense in the conference again this season.

“We were thought of, last year, as being young on defense and we were able to grow up. And this year we’re going to be younger on offense, as far as starts, and all those kind of things so how do we grow up?” said head coach Gary Patterson.

Shawn Robinson will likely start at quarterback and will have a group of talented receivers to compliment the passing game, highlighted by KaVontae Turpin.

Darius Anderson, Sewo Olonilua and Kennedy Snell will lead the rushing attack from the backfield. They will have to run behind an offensive line that only return two linemen with starting experience.

  1. Texas Longhorns

2017 Results: 7-6, 5-4 7th in Big XII

Bowl: Texas Bowl – Beat Missouri 33-16

Quarterback Shane Buechele started the 2017 season under center for the Longhorns but injuries paved the way for freshman Sam Ehlinger to takeover.

“The really good part is they both had great springs. They both really rose to the challenge individually with what we needed them to improve on. So we’ll go in to training camp with that battle locked up, but hopefully a few weeks in someone will emerge.” Said head coach Tom Herman.

As a team, Texas rushed for 1,815 yards on the season and their leading rusher was Ehlinger with 385 yards. It looks like Kyle Porter and Toneil Carter will be the duo in the backfield, but incoming freshman could emerge as their go to back as the season goes along.

The defense was the strength of the Longhorns in 2017 and is highlighted by preseason All-Big 12 cornerback Kris Boyd and defensive lineman Breckyn Hager. The Longhorns are expected to be one of the best defenses in the conference after finishing second last year.

  1. Oklahoma State Cowboys

2017 Results: 10-3, 6-3 3rd in the Big XII

Bowl: Camping World Bowl – Beat Virginia Tech 30-21

Head coach Mike Gundy announced Taylor Cornelius as the starting quarterback during Big XII Media Days. As a redshirt senior, he backed up Mason Rudolph the past two years and is familiar with the system.

The Cowboys lose their top two receivers from 2017, but Jalen McClesy, Dillon Stoner, and Tyron Johnson can fill the void.

Running back Justice Hill returns after rushing for 1,467 yards and 15 touchdowns. He will be running behind an offensive line that Gundy said OSU should have experience at four positions. That means Marcus Keyes and Larry Williams at guard, Johnny Wilson at center and Teven Jenkins at one tackle spot.

The defense will have a new look under first year defensive coordinator Jim Knowles and will have to replace nine starters from last season.

  1. Kansas State Wildcats

2017 Results: 8-5, 5-4 5th in Big XII

Bowl: Cactus Bowl – Won over UCLA 35-17

K-State returns seven players on offense and five on defense that started in at least half of the games in 2017.

It’s an open competition at quarterback going into fall camp for the Wildcats. Alex Delton and Skyler Thompson both put up similar numbers in the passing game but Delton had the edge running the ball. Head coach Bill Snyder says, “Both of them are very, very capable young guys, very competitive and are still extreme competition for the starting position.”

First year offensive coordinator Andre Coleman has leading rusher Alex Barnes returning to the backfield. Barnes will have an experience offensive line with all five starters coming back.

The defense will have some rebuilding to do losing six starters and four all conference players but return all Big XII DB Kendall Adams along with DT Trey Dishon, DB Denzel Goolsby, DB Duke Shelley, DE Reggie Walker.

  1. Iowa State Cyclones

2017 Results: 8-5, 5-4 4th in the Big XII

Bowl: Liberty Bowl – Beat Memphis 21-20

The strength of this teams seems to be the offensive line “This is the most concrete of an offensive line that we’ve had since I’ve been here.” Said head coach Matt Campbell.

With a solid offensive line, preseason All Big XII running back David Montgomery looks to improve upon his 1,146 yards and 11 touchdown performance a year ago.

Starting quarterback Kempt will need that “go to” guy after wide receiver Allen Lazards graduation and Hakeem Butler might be that guy along with speedy sophomore Deshaunte Jones.

The defense will be led by Marcel Spears after accumulating 107 tackles in 2017 along with preseason All Big XII selections Defensive lineman Jaquan Bailey and defensive back Brian Peavy.

  1. Texas Tech Red Raiders

2017 Results: 6-7, 3-6 8th in the Big XII

Bowl: Birmingham Bowl – Lost to South Florida 38-34

The Red Raiders lost a lot of talent at the skill possessions following the 2017 season but do return their entire offensive line and have two running backs capable of going over 1,000 rushing yards this season in Tre King and Damarcus Felton.

There is an open competition at quarterback and there seems to be three guys that can win the starting role. “We have three guys. All very talented. Their inexperience players but all very talented. Mclane Carter, Jett Duffy and Alan Bowman. Each athletic. Can extend plays.” Said head coach Kliff Kingsbury.

They lost most of their talent on the outside but receivers TJ Vasher, Jadeion High, and De’Quan Bowman might be the next group of great receivers at Texas Tech.

Going into the season the defense looks to be more talented than the offense. They return 10 starters and the only Big XII program with three preseason conference players on the defensive side of the ball in LB Dakota Allen and DB’s Jah’Shawn Johnson and Justus Parker.

  1. Baylor Bears

2017 Results: 1-11, 1-8 9th in the Big XII

Quarterback Charlie Brewer is going into fall camp as the starter after starting the last five games of the season. Brewer threw for 1,412 yards, nine touchdowns and three interceptions during that span.

1,000-yard receiver Denzel Mims highlights the receiving core that also feature Tennessee transfer Jalen Hurd at the slot and Chris Platt who played in the first four games before sustaining a knee injury.

The defense has some pieces coming back including the teams second leading tackler Clay Johnston. The Bears had one of the nations worst defenses last year but have added some depth that should help them improve.

“I think we have a team that if we stay healthy, we’re going to be pretty good,” said head coach Matt Rhule.

  1. Kansas Jayhawks

2017 Results: 1-11, 0-9 10th in the Big XII

Peyton Bender, Carter Stanley and junior college transfer Miles Kendrick are competing for starting quarterback. Bender started the 2017 season but after seven games Carter Stanley took over as the offense steadily declined.

Team leading receiver Steve Sims Jr and rusher Khalil Herbert return this season.

The Jayhawks have two preseason All Big XII Players in defensive lineman Daniel Wise and linebacker Joe Dineen Jr

Head coach David Beaty has a bit of optimism for the upcoming season with eight returning starters on offense and nine on defense, “One of the things we think that gives us optimism is the amount of experience we have coming back.” Said Beaty.

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