One key post-spring question each Big 12 team still must address over the course of the offseason:
Baylor: How will Russell progress? Seth Russell was playing at an incredibly high level the week before his season-ending neck injury. Can he get back there? His comeback hit a setback this spring with a pec injury, and Jarrett Stidham is obviously a safe pick to lead this team at QB if necessary. Getting Russell back to 100 percent and playing full-contact in time for August camp will be an important step.
Iowa State: Can the Cyclones scrap together six wins? That might sound overly optimistic after a brutal 3-9 season, but first-year coach Matt Campbell wants to get his guys to a bowl game. That might require going 4-5 in Big 12 play unless the Cyclones can pull off a home upset of Iowa. With a new system and a lot to teach, the process is more important right now, but the Cyclones might have enough offensive talent to win a game or two they shouldn’t this fall.
Kansas: How many games can KU win this year? The Jayhawks enter 2016 on a 15-game losing streak and haven’t won on the road since September 2009. David Beaty, his staff and his players are working tirelessly to get this fixed. When might they be rewarded with a win? ESPN’s FPI projections like Kansas' chances against Rhode Island and Ohio. A 2-0 start would prove this team with a serious confidence boost, but they’ll have to get a lot better between now and September.
Kansas State: Is Ertz the guy at QB? Jesse Ertz won the starting job last fall and went down with a torn ACL on K-State’s season-opening drive. He’s back and ready to win the job again, but his competition with returning starter Joe Hubener (who shined in KSU’s spring game) and the athletic Alex Delton wasn’t resolved this spring. Bill Snyder has an interesting decision on his hands. Whether or not Ertz is the frontrunner, it’s hard to be certain how this will shake out.
Oklahoma: Who leads the way at receiver? The Sooners don’t have too many glaring holes or weaknesses, but Sterling Shepard is an impossible guy -- both in production and leadership -- to replace. There’s plenty of depth, so there’s lots of competition. The trio of Dede Westbrook, Geno Lewis and Mark Andrews could prove to be Baker Mayfield’s top options, but several more wideouts need to emerge over the next few months.
Oklahoma State: Can Sanders solve the run game? The homecoming of Barry Sanders will be one of the Big 12’s most intriguing storylines this fall. The Stanford graduate transfer arrives in June and has a chance to revive an Oklahoma State run game that averaged 3.6 yards per carry last season. The Cowboys will need better play from their interior linemen to get Sanders rolling, but the son of the legend should bring a lot to the table.
TCU: Which QB will step up this summer? Gary Patterson sounds comfortable with either Kenny Hill or Foster Sawyer leading the way at QB. The battle will be decided in August scrimmages, but these situations tend to progress in interesting ways behind the scenes during the summer. Could one of them win over his teammates and rise up as the leader in summer workouts? Trevone Boykin embraced the challenge in 2014. We’ll see who follows in his footsteps.
Texas: How will they show up against Notre Dame? That’s one thing the Longhorns can't answer this spring, not while their new offense is a work in progress and their quarterback situation is unresolved. That Sunday night showdown on Sept. 4 at DKR could totally determine the course of Charlie Strong’s third season. You wonder how the memory of last year’s blowout loss -- and the opportunity for revenge -- will motivate his players this summer.
Texas Tech: How will the receiving corps come together? Kliff Kingsbury’s offense has a lot of weapons to work with at receiver. Derrick Willies is as good as advertised. Dylan Cantrell is back from injury. Reginald Davis is stepping up. Devin Lauderdale might rejoin the team. Ian Sadler was sidelined this spring. A group of sophomores will grow up. So there are a lot of moving parts there. Who will take over as Patrick Mahomes’ top targets?
West Virginia: Can WVU replace all those veterans on D? The NFL draft was a great reminder of how much defensive talent the Mountaineers had last season. Karl Joseph and three other starters were drafted, and four more are heading to NFL camps. Their replacements (and depth) must keep developing and new stars are needed if this team is going to build in a positive direction off an 8-5 season.