2013 Big 12 spring practice capsules

Spring practice is almost here. Time to take a look at the Big 12 heading into spring practices with the first day of our spring previews across the blog network.


Spring start: March 1

Spring game: April 6

What to watch:

1. A new man behind center. This will be a theme this spring, I assure you. Baylor has got a likely heir to Nick Florence in Bryce Petty, who'll try to make it three seasons in a row the Bears start a quarterback who breaks the school record for passing yards. He'll have plenty of weapons come fall, but showing an ability to operate the offense and perhaps use his feet like Robert Griffin III and Florence will help him keep Seth Russell from making it a real competition.

2. Emerging receivers. Terrance Williams was obviously ready to grab the title of featured receiver from Kendall Wright, but can Tevin Reese be a complete receiver, or will he need help? Who can emerge this spring? Levi Norwood? Antwan Goodley? Redshirt freshman Corey Coleman? Expect true freshman Robbie Rhodes to make an immediate impact when he arrives for fall camp.

3. The balancing act in practice. Baylor has open practices, and each of the past three years I've made a trip to Waco, I've seen the offense absolutely dominate a defense that looked largely lost. This year's Bears defense brings back a lot of impact players and should have about 7-8 seniors in the starting lineup who have been through the Big 12 grind before. Can the defense look more convincing and get the best of the offense a little more this spring?


Spring start: March 26

Spring game: April 20

What to watch:

1. Richardson's grabbing the reins. This is Sam B. Richardson's team now, barring a charge from Grant Rohach. He looked like a world-beater in a blowout win over Kansas, but KU's defense made a lot of QBs look good last year. In his last two starts, he completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes. That's not good enough to win with any consistency. Can he show some progress and grow up this spring as a sophomore?

2. The new Bash Brothers. No matter what was going on in Iowa State the past three years, you knew you can count on Jake Knott and A.J. Klein to be there for the defense. Those days are over. Iowa State needs new leaders to emerge this spring. Can linebackers Jevohn Miller and Jeremiah George step up?

3. New weapons to play with? Iowa State didn't have a very explosive offense in 2012, but its top three receivers are all gone and Richardson won't get far without help. Don't be shocked if tight end Ernst Brun Jr. becomes the offense's most consistent weapon, but the shifty Jarvis West could be the new Josh Lenz and sophomore Quenton Bundrage showed potential last season.


Spring start: March 5

Spring game: April 13

What to watch:

1. The revolution will not be televised. Well, the practices won't be, anyway. The games this fall will be, but the juco transfer revolution is under way already at KU. Kansas brought in almost 20 juco transfers in its most recent class, and five from the ESPN juco 100, highlighted by defensive linemen Marquel Combs and Chris Martin and receiver Rodriguez Coleman. That says Weis wasn't happy with last year's depth chart, and you can bet the immediate talent upgrades will assure this year's looks very different.

2. A whole Heaps of trouble. Let me start by apologizing for that title, but BYU transfer Jake Heaps is the guy at KU now. Last spring, reviews on Dayne Crist were mixed, but the results in the fall were uninspired. Heaps will have some more talent to develop chemistry with this fall, but getting solid play out of the QB spot is step No. 1 for Kansas' road back to respectability.

3. Replacing important pieces, too. Kansas is losing both starting safeties from last year's team and three offensive linemen. Tackle Tanner Hawkinson and safety Bradley McDougald may have been the two best players on last year's team, and KU has got to find suitable replacements for both. KU is trying to improve, but just like any team this spring, it has to replace some guys who were solid in 2012, too.


Spring start: April 3

Spring game: April 27

What to watch:

1. The quarterback derby is on. Daniel Sams probably has the fan vote for now after breaking a handful of big runs in garbage time throughout 2012 and helping K-State hold on to a late-season win against Oklahoma State to say undefeated. Juco superstar Jake Waters has signed on, though, and other than Oklahoma State, this will probably be the most interesting QB competition in the Big 12 this year.

2. Where's the D? K-State had a case as the Big 12's best defense last year, but it's losing 10 starters from that unit and the team as a whole returns the fewest starters in the Big 12. Nobody has got a tougher rebuilding job this spring than defensive coordinator Tom Hayes. There's no impact transfers waiting like Arthur Brown, but we'll see what he can string together.

3. Supermen up front. K-State locks down its practices tighter than any team in the Big 12, so it'll be hard to get a real gauge on just how this works, but K-State had one of the Big 12's best offensive lines last year … and they all return. They may beat up on that defense we talked about in point No. 2, but if K-State surprises this year, it'll be on the back of that unit, which has a lot of work to do this spring.


Spring start: March 6

Spring game: April 13

What to watch:

1. The quarterback competition. For the first time in six years, OU will have a quarterback derby. Blake Bell, who has starred out of the “Belldozer” package the past two seasons, is the favorite. But watch out for Trevor Knight, who was stellar at quarterbacking the scout team as a redshirt freshman last fall.

2. Brand-new faces: The winds of change have struck Norman. Shortly after signing day, Bob Stoops let go of line coaches James Patton, Bruce Kittle and Jackie Shipp. The Sooners have not been dominant up front lately, and Stoops is hoping their replacements will bring a new attitude to the trenches.

3. Defensive change: The Sooners return only four starters defensively, and Mike Stoops faces the task of revamping the secondary with Tony Jefferson, Javon Harris and Demontre Hurst all gone. OU has an anchor to rebuild around in cornerback Aaron Colvin, but the remaining spots are wide open going into spring ball.

-- Jake Trotter, ESPN SoonerNation


Spring start: March 11

Spring game: April 20

What to watch:

1. The Big 12's best QB competition. Oklahoma State knows it can win games with Wes Lunt, J.W. Walsh and Clint Chelf. They all proved that last year. It just doesn't know who it will try to win games with full-time in 2013. My bet is on Lunt, but all three are capable and this will be the league's most interesting and highest-quality competition this year.

2. Another one is on board: Todd Monken learned Dana Holgorsen's offense and tweaked it a bit on the way to a head-coaching job at Southern Miss. Now, long-time Division II offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich is on board to learn the system and help Oklahoma State continue its run as one of the nation's best offenses. I'm betting this transition goes very well.

3. Finding a new defensive identity: Oklahoma State earned a reputation as a turnover-happy defense under Bill Young, finishing in the top 15 every year he was in charge … until last year. Now, Young is out after not having his contract renewed in a bit of an awkward transition. Glenn Spencer is in, and we'll get an idea of what his vision for the defense is this spring.


Spring start: Feb. 21

Spring game: March 30

What to watch

1. Offensive changes: Texas will be implementing a new spread offense under Major Applewhite. The Longhorns displayed just a smidge of that offense against Oregon State as they went no-huddle and rolled up 21 second-half points. Applewhite wants to go with four wide receivers and press the pace without having to substitute at any position during a drive.

2. Quarterback: It’s Texas, so eyes will always be on the quarterback situations. But it appears as if David Ash has nailed down the starting job. The real intrigue is with the backup positions Case McCoy is the senior and was the backup last year. But he does not appear well suited physically to make the throws Applewhite’s new offense requires.

3. Defensive holes: Texas lost only two players on defense, Alex Okafor and Kenny Vaccaro. And while the Longhorns should be able to plug the hole left by Okafor at defensive end, there is major concern about the safety position. Texas, which missed more tackles than any other Big 12 team in 2012, does not have a proven hitter or tackler at that stop. The Longhorns could experiment with moving cornerback Quandre Diggs to the safety spot this spring.

-- Carter Strickland, ESPN HornsNation


Spring start: March 1

Spring game: TBD, may not host one because stadium turf is being replaced.

What to watch:

1. Guess who's back? TCU's offense was shaky without Casey Pachall calling the shots, but the prototype passer is back on the team after leaving to attend drug and alcohol addiction treatment following an October DUI arrest. Is he the same player? He'll have to beat out Trevone Boykin and win his job back this spring.

2. Picking its spots: Besides Pachall's return, a defense that returns nine starters will be the main attraction this spring. Linebacker Kenny Cain is gone and so is defensive end Stansly Maponga, but Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Devonte Fields is just a sophomore and will be fun to watch in his first spring practice in Fort Worth.

3. The revamped running game: Injuries made life hard on TCU's running game last year, but this spring will be intriguing after losing two of the team's best linemen in center James Fry and guard Blaize Foltz. Waymon James is back, though Matthew Tucker and Aundre Dean are gone, but expect Nebraska transfer Aaron Green, a one-time blue-chip recruit from San Antonio, to earn a lot of attention this spring.


Spring start: March 24

Spring game: April 20

What to watch:

1. It's the shades. The spring is all about The King in Lubbock. Tech has a talented, experienced team coming back that could make some noise, but program legend Kliff Kingsbury is taking the reins and already moved spring practice's start a month from where Tommy Tuberville had it. How many other differences will there be between the two programs? More wins would be the place fans would like Kingsbury to start.

2. Another year, another DC: At this point, it's hard not to be impressed with Texas Tech's streak. Every year, it finds a way. Matt Wallerstedt is now Texas Tech's fifth defensive coordinator in five seasons. Art Kauman in 2012 did the best job of the bunch, but it'll be a new ball game under Wallerstedt, a K-State alum who followed Kingsbury from Texas A&M.

3. Growing up Brewer: Michael Brewer is the guy for Texas Tech and earned some playing time last season in spots, but how will he handle taking control of the entire offense and being the face of the program? We'll get a taste this spring.


Spring start: March 10

Spring game: April 20

What to watch:

1. Who's next in line? Coach Dana Holgorsen knows quarterbacks, and he has got a couple good ones ready to step in for Geno Smith. I'd say WVU's race between Ford Childress and Paul Millard (both Texas natives, by the way) will be the Big 12's third-best race, but whoever wins could be doing some special things in Morgantown very soon.

2. Are we there yet? West Virginia's defense couldn't have been much worse last season, but after some staff shakeups and giving co-coordinator Keith Patterson the playcalling duties instead of Joe DeForest, Holgorsen made it clear that last year will not be accepted. Will the defense put up a fight in spring and show some promise? Young players such as Karl Joseph and Isaiah Bruce should be fun to watch, but WVU needs to find more pass rushers.

3. Time to make plays: Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey are gone, but so are Ivan McCartney, J.D. Woods and Travares Copeland. All of a sudden, West Virginia needs to find receivers and fast. The position is wide open, but if you can show you have consistent hands, run solid routes and make plays with the ball in your hand, you're going to earn playing time fast in this system.