With spring ball having come and gone, we'll be updating our Big 12 position-group rankings over the next two weeks.
We kick off this series with the quarterbacks:
1. Oklahoma (pre-spring ranking: 1): True freshman Austin Kendall performed coolly all spring, including in the spring game, suggesting he might in fact be ready to take on the role as Baker Mayfield's primary backup. Kendall was especially impressive in taking care of the ball, which will be paramount for Oklahoma if he’s forced onto the field in spots this season.
2. Texas Tech (3): Patrick Mahomes gave up baseball this spring, which has already helped turn his arm slot more consistent. That’s one example of how Mahomes has yet to reach his full potential, which should be a scary proposition for the rest of the league.
3. Baylor (2): Coming off neck surgery, Seth Russell didn’t go through contact this spring. Then he strained his pectoral, which forced him to sit out the final few practices. Coach Art Briles recently said he expects Russell to be completely cleared somewhere around the first of June. But the true test won’t come until August, when Russell will have to show that his neck can still take a hit.
4. Oklahoma State (4): With J.W. Walsh now a graduate assistant with TCU, the Cowboys needed somebody to step up to back up Mason Rudolph. All signs pointed to that being former ESPN 300 recruit John Kolar. Instead, it was walk-on Taylor Cornelius, who was the star of the spring game.
5. West Virginia (5): Skyler Howard seemed to build off his strong bowl performance in West Virginia’s spring game, where he completed 18 of 26 passes for 270 yards and three touchdowns. If Howard can limit the turnovers and be more accurate than he was at times last season, West Virginia’s passing attack could be a load with the firepower coming back at wide receiver.
6. TCU (6): TCU curiously held off naming Kenny Hill the starter following the end of spring ball. Is this ongoing battle mere formality? Or is Foster Sawyer truly making a push to win the starting job? It won’t take long in the fall to find out.
7. Texas (7): Due to the emergence of true freshman Shane Buechele, Texas is a much stronger No. 7 than it was before the spring. Coach Charlie Strong has already indicated that Buechele will play this season; the only question is, will he also start the opener against Notre Dame? Uneven quarterbacking has been Texas’ downfall the past several seasons. If Buechele proves to be special, the Longhorns could make a rapid rise given the talented supporting cast.
8. Iowa State (8): The new regime in Ames couldn’t have been more impressed this spring with Joel Lanning, who finally took over as Iowa State’s starting quarterback midway through last season. Iowa State hasn’t ranked outside the bottom three in the Big 12 in scoring since 2005. If Lanning continues to develop, that could change in 2016, especially with running back Mike Warren and wideout Allen Lazard flanking him.
9. Kansas State (9): Jesse Ertz was named a team captain this spring despite having never attempted a pass in his career; that underscores what the rest of the locker room thinks of of the junior signal-caller. By all accounts, Ertz picked up where he left off last August, when he won the job out of fall camp before suffering a season-ending knee injury. Meanwhile, athletic redshirt freshman Alex Delton, who also missed last season with a knee injury, continues to have his moments, and could carve out a role similar to Daniel Sams in 2013 as a chance-of-pace option off the bench.
10. Kansas (10): With Ryan Willis entrenched as the starter despite missing a good chunk of spring ball with a wrist injury, it will be interesting to watch what the Jayhawks do with one-time starter Montell Cozart. They could leave him to be a veteran backup at quarterback. Or, they could channel former Jayhawk standout Kerry Meier and swing Cozart over to wideout to see if he can find a success at a second position the way Meier once did.