With spring ball a month away, we'll be ranking the position groups in the Big 12 over the next two weeks. These evaluations will be based on past performance, future potential and quality depth of the entire group. Our outlooks will probably look different after the spring. But this is how we see them at the moment.
We begin this series with the quarterbacks:
1. Oklahoma: With Cody Thomas at least temporarily giving up football and Trevor Knight transferring to Texas A&M, immediate depth is a concern for the Sooners. But they still boast the reigning Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year in Baker Mayfield, who had a fabulous season in his first as a full-time starter. In Austin Kendall, the Sooners also reeled in the top-rated Big 12 QB signee (No. 162 in the ESPN 300). They have former ESPN 300 QB Kyler Murray waiting in the wings for 2017, as well.
2. Baylor: Seth Russell's health will be the primary storyline on the field for the Bears this spring. He was one of the top QBs in the country through two months last year before suffering the season-ending neck injury. If he continues to progress toward a full bill of health, Baylor could feature the strongest QB duo in college football. Jarrett Stidham was also limited by injury last year. But the former ESPN 300 signee flashed his big arm and enormous potential in Baylor's win at K-State. The Bears added another ESPN 300 talent to the mix last week in Zach Smith.
3. Texas Tech: You have to go back to Brandon Weeden in 2011 to find a Big 12 QB who threw for more yards than the 4,653 Pat Mahomes put up as a sophomore last season. If that weren't impressive enough, Mahomes rushed for another 456 yards and 10 touchdowns. He is the total package, and the biggest reason why Tech bounced back with a bowl campaign in 2015. The Red Raiders are hoping Iowa transfer Nic Shimonek can prove to be a reliable backup. That would allow Kliff Kingsbury to redshirt a QB (incoming freshman Jett Duffey) for the first time since taking over in Lubbock.
4. Oklahoma State: With J.W. Walsh now a graduate assistant at TCU, the QB helm will be all Mason Rudolph's. Despite deferring to Walsh on short yardage, Rudolph quietly had a terrific sophomore season, trailing only Mahomes with 59 completions of at least 20 yards despite attempting 149 fewer passes. The Cowboys should feel confident in former ESPN 300 prospect John Kolar as the backup after he redshirted.
5. West Virginia: Was Skyler Howard's performance in the Motel 6 Cactus Bowl an aberration or a sign of more to come? Howard had an uneven junior year with a sub-55 completion percentage to go along with 14 interceptions. But he was terrific in the bowl win over Arizona State with 532 yards and five touchdowns. Howard will have the receiving corps in place for a big senior season. The battle to be his backup will be interesting. William Crest and Davis Sills both played receiver last year. In addition to redshirt freshman Chris Chugunov, the Mountaineers have added four-star signee Cody Saunders to the fray, as well.
6. TCU: Can Texas A&M transfer Kenny Hill be the QB that torched South Carolina and broke school records in his first career start two years ago? Hill has the talent to thrive and the benefit of having learned from Trevone Boykin last season. His upside is tremendous. Even so, the Horned Frogs have a pair of former four-star recruits who will push Hill for the job in Foster Sawyer and Grayson Muehlstein.
7. Texas: The Longhorns have labored to find the answer at QB ever since Colt McCoy graduated six years ago. ESPN 300 signee Shane Buechele, who enrolled early, will be given every opportunity to challenge Jerrod Heard, Tyrone Swoopes and redshirt freshman Kai Locksley for the starting position.
8. Iowa State: Joel Lanning had his moments after taking over for Sam B. Richardson midway through last year, though he'll have to prove himself again to the new coaching staff. The Cyclones have other options with Dominic De Lira, juco transfer Jacob Park, transfer walk-on Kyle Kempt and incoming freshman Zeb Noland.
9. Kansas State: The Wildcats were a mess here last season, but with the talent they've piled up, that should change in the not-too distant future. 2015 projected starter Jesse Ertz is back after missing all of last year with injury. So too is Alex Delton, whom Bill Snyder compared to Ell Roberson as an early enrollee last spring. The Wildcats also inked four-star QB Skylar Thompson. It might take a year to hash out, but K-State figures to be on the rise at QB.
10. Kansas: Ryan Willis showed that he could be David Beaty's long-term QB with a decent true freshman showing. He'll have to fend off classmate Carter Stanley, who redshirted last year. Montell Cozart will give Beaty experience, though he could move to another position, since the Jayhawks should have depth with Deondre Ford and incoming freshmen Tyriek Starks and Dagan Haehn.