In this week's Big 12 roundtable, we're sticking with the topic of experience and making a few predictions about which Big 12 offenses and defenses will thrive thanks to returning veterans.
Which Big 12 team has the most experienced offense?
Brandon Chatmon: Baylor’s experience on offense is one of the main reasons I’m a believer in the Bears' Big 12 title hopes despite replacing quarterback Bryce Petty. Baylor’s starting offensive line features four seniors and one junior, with senior Desmine Hilliard serving as a sixth underclassman with experience returning up front. On the outside Baylor features running back Shock Linwood and receivers KD Cannon and Corey Coleman, who are among the conference’s best at their positions. Coach Art Briles' offense is full of proven playmakers and guys who know what it is like to win a Big 12 title. I expect that to pay dividends in the fall and make quarterback Seth Russell's new life as the starter a lot easier.
Max Olson: One of the best things about TCU's record-setting 2014 offense is almost nobody departed. The Horned Frogs lost a total of 53 starts from a starting tackle, a backup running back and a rarely used tight end. Everyone else is back and, presumably, better. Trevone Boykin is the Big 12's most experienced quarterback (29 starts), his offensive line is more than steady and his skill weapons have another offseason to master the scheme. In all, they have nearly 200 starts returning. Opposing defenses will have a better plan for stopping TCU, but the Frogs will combat that with a whole lot of experience.
Which team has the most experienced defense?
Chatmon: This should be the season West Virginia finally sees the lumps it took while playing underclassmen during 2012 and 2013 paying off. Coach Dana Holgorsen’s defense has a unit full of seniors including Nick Kwiatkoski, Karl Joseph, Kyle Rose and K.J. Dillon. And the younger players on the defense, namely Daryl Worley and Dravon Henry, have plenty of experience. Just as important, those experienced players will be playing the exact same defensive system for the first time in their careers. The combination of experience and familiarity should make WVU’s defense one of the Big 12’s best in 2015.
Olson: The numbers don't lie when it comes to West Virginia, a team that features 16 defenders with starting experience and 10 who have double-digit career starts. As long as those guys stay healthy, I think they can be a force in this conference and make WVU a very tough out. You would also have to look at Baylor as another defense stacked with returning upperclassmen. It's possible the Bears' 2015 defense will only feature one or two new starters. That kind of continuity is invaluable in this conference.
Which Big 12 unit is going to surprise?
Chatmon: I have a feeling Texas’ inexperienced defense will play better than people expect this fall. Early enrollee Malik Jefferson has zero Big 12 experience, but he looks like a potential impact true freshman linebacker. As coach Charlie Strong gets his first full recruiting class -- which was full of talented defenders -- on campus, I think there’s a legitimate chance the Longhorns defense ends up in the top third of the Big 12 despite losing an NFL first-round pick in Malcolm Brown and a ton of veteran playmakers.
Olson: Is it crazy to think Texas Tech could be be pretty feisty on offense? I know the indecision at quarterback might make that harder to envision right now, but I do think Patrick Mahomes takes over and gives Tech a real, enduring spark. They are loaded at running back, they have a few burners at receiver and four experienced starters on the offensive line. Their 177 career starts as a unit ranks second-best in the Big 12. Cut down on the turnovers and you would get a group that can hurt opposing defenses in a lot of ways.