Breaking down the Big 12

Will Oklahoma find the replacements needed at QB and RB to win another South Division and Big 12 title? Or will Texas, Texas A&M or Texas Tech steal the Sooners' thunder in the South? Is it Missouri's time in the North? Or will Nebraska or Kansas State win the North? Take a look at what Big 12 questions were answered this spring and what problems linger heading into the fall.

2006 overall record:
Conference record:

Returning starters
Offense: 4, Defense: 7, Kicker/punter: 0

Top returners
LB Joe Pawelek, LB Nick Moore, S Dwain Crawford, RB Brandon Whitaker, LT Jason Smith, LG Dan Gay
Key losses

P Daniel Sepulveda, WR Trent Shelton, WR Dominique Zeigler, QB Shawn Bell, NT M.T. Robinson, C Will Blaylock, CB Anthony Arline, CB C.J. Wilson

Top newcomer: CB Larry RosebudInsider

2006 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Paul Mosley (499 yds)
Passing: Shawn Bell (2,582 yds)
Receiving: Dominique Zeigler (741 yds)
Tackles: Joe Pawelek* (86)
Sacks: Geoff Nelson* (2.5)
Interceptions: C.J. Wilson (4)

Spring answers: 1. New emphasis on running game: The Bears were so concerned about installing a spread offense last season that they essentially forgot about the running game. The results? Baylor ranked last in Division I-A in rushing with 40.2 yards per game and its defense was dead tired by the end of the season. Even with leading rusher Paul Mosley leaving, the Bears should be better equipped to run in 2007. Senior Brandon Whitaker, who caught 30 passes last season, showed he's ready to carry the load on the ground this fall, running for 47 yards on only four carries in the final spring scrimmage.

2. Improved offensive line: Three starters are back from an offensive line that struggled last season. The linemen should be better the second time around, as they're more comfortable with the nuances of protection in the spread offense. Left tackle Jason Smith, a converted tight end, moves from the right side, along with guard Dan Gay, a former defensive tackle. Arizona State transfer J.D. Walton replaces Will Blaylock at center, and sophomore Thad Boatner takes over at right tackle. Right guard Chad Smith is the lone senior starting up front.

3. Smooth moves in secondary: The Bears moved junior Dwain Crawford from free safety to rover in hopes of bringing more flexibility to the secondary. Sophomore Jordan Lake, who missed all but five games last season because of a broken collarbone, returns to start at free safety. He was a rising star before getting hurt. Senior Brandon Stiggers, who started eight games in 2006, backs up Crawford but will play a lot.

4. Little "Joe Pa" is back: Middle linebacker Joe Pawelek was one of the biggest surprises in the Big 12 Conference last season, with a team-high 86 tackles, four tackles for loss and two sacks as a freshman. Former Georgia Tech transfer Nick Moore returns at weakside linebacker and helps anchor a defense that should improve with better clock management on offense. The Bears allowed 32.6 points per game in 2006, including an average of 47 points in each of their last four losses.

5. Defensive line shows strength: Baylor's defensive line produced most of what little pass rush the Bears had in 2006, and the four starters again showed promise in the spring game. Nose tackle Trey Bryant, who replaces M.T. Robinson, and end Jason Lamb each had two sacks in the spring scrimmage. Returning tackle Vincent Rhodes and end Jameon Hardeman each had one sack.

Fall questions: 1. Starting quarterback: The Bears had dramatically improved last season, until starting quarterback Shawn Bell tore the ACL in his right knee against Texas A&M in the ninth game. Baylor lost that game and its final three with freshman Blake Szymanski starting under center. Szymanski threw for 689 yards with four touchdowns and seven interceptions in Bell's absence. With Bell gone for good, former minor league pitcher Michael Machen, a Kent State transfer, pulled ahead in the competition for the starting job during the spring. He played in only four games last season at Kent State because of a broken collarbone. Szymanski, juco transfer John David Weed, Midwestern State transfer Ryan Roberts and redshirt freshman Tyler Beatty were trying to stay alive in the competition.

2. New coaching staff: One year after installing a new offense, coach Guy Morriss gutted his coaching staff with five new hires. Larry Hoefer, the only holdover from Morriss' original Baylor staff, was promoted to defensive coordinator, after Bill Bradley left to become the San Diego Chargers' secondary coach. Inside receivers coach Jason Phillips and cornerbacks coach Clay Jennings were hired from Houston. Former Arizona running backs coach Kasey Dunn will coach outside receivers and special teams, and Cornell Jackson was hired from New Mexico to coach running backs. Eric Schnupp, from West Texas A&M, will coach tight ends and help Morriss with the offensive line.

3. Cornerback replacements: The Bears lost starting cornerbacks C.J. Wilson and Anthony Arline, who combined to start 58 games in the secondary. Two seniors -- Josh Bell and Alton Widemon -- are in line to replace them. Bell saw plenty of action last season with 314 snaps, and Widemon played all three positions in the secondary. There is very little depth behind them, though, as former starter Braelon Davis missed the spring because of academic problems, and Antareis Bryan was recovering from a dislocated knee cap.

4. Wide receiver rotation: The Bears start as many as five receivers in the spread formation, and two of the best in school history are gone. Trent Shelton and Dominique Zeigler, who combined for more than 1,500 yards receiving and 100 catches in 2006, have both exhausted their eligibility. The top returning receiver is junior Thomas White, who caught 26 passes last season, and he moves from inside to outside. Speedster David Gettis didn't participate in spring practice because of mononucleosis and track, and six of the Bears' top 12 receivers are sophomores or younger.

5. Special teams: Besides Bell and the departed receivers, Baylor's biggest loss was punter Daniel Sepulveda, a two-time Ray Guy Award winner and consensus All-American last season. Ryan Havens, who made 11 of 14 field goals and handled kickoffs in 2006, also is gone. Junior Caleb Allen handled most of the kicking duties in spring practice, but incoming freshman kicker Shea Brewster and punter Derek Epperson might be factors this fall.

2006 overall record:
Conference record:

Returning starters
Offense: 9, Defense: 7, Kicker/punter: 0

Top returners
QB/WR Bernard Jackson, LB Jordon Dizon, TB Hugh Charles, C/G Daniel Sanders, DT George Hypolite, NT Brandon Nicolas, TE Riar Geer, T Tyler Polumbus, SS Lionel Harris, WR Alvin Barnett
Key losses

K Mason Crosby, DE Abraham Wright, G Brian Daniels, C Mark Fenton, SS J.J. Billingsley, DE Walter Boye-Doe, ILB Thaddeus Washington

Top newcomer: OT Ryan MillerInsider

2006 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Hugh Charles* (779 yds)
Passing: Bernard Jackson* (1,298 yds)
Receiving: Riar Greer* (261 yds)
Tackles: Jordon Dizon* (80)
Sacks: Abraham Wright (11.5)
Interceptions: Terrence Wheatley* (5)

Spring answers: 1. It's not intramural football any more: Dan Hawkins nearly lost his mind during his first season at Colorado, after his offense sputtered throughout the year. After a second spring, his players have a better understanding of his spread attack and practiced with more rhythm. Hawkins also saw the commitment he was seeking from his players.

2. Big-time playmaker: Bernard Jackson struggled at quarterback last season, but Hawkins still wants the football in the senior's hands as much as possible. Jackson is being called an "offensive specialist" and will line up at tailback, receiver and quarterback, where he will run on designed plays. The early results are very encouraging; Jackson ran nine times for 82 yards in the spring game and returned three kickoffs for 96 yards. He also might return punts.

3. Sanders shines at tight end: Converted linebacker Joe Sanders was one of the biggest surprises in spring camp after moving to tight end. He gives the Buffaloes another legitimate pass catcher, along with returning tight end Riar Geer, who led the team with 24 catches as a freshman. Receivers Patrick Williams and Alvin Barnett also were improved during spring practice.

4. Solid linebackers: Strong-side linebacker Jordon Dizon is the heart and soul of Colorado's defense. The four-year starter had a team-high 137 tackles last season. Sophomore Michael Sipili played well at middle linebacker, where he replaces departed starter Thaddeus Washington. Junior Brad Jones is back at weak-side linebacker.

5. Experienced secondary: Three starters are back: cornerback Terrence Wheatley, strong safety Lionel Harris and free safety Ryan Walters. Junior Ben Burney, who made two starts at safety in 2006, left spring as the other starting cornerback. He replaces Lorenzo Sims and Terry Washington, who split 12 starts last season.

Fall questions: 1. Starting quarterback: The Buffaloes haven't decided between redshirt freshman Cody Hawkins or juco transfer Nick Nelson. Hawkins, the coach's son, probably had the edge coming out of spring practice, but Dan Hawkins says he'll leave the decision to offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich. Hawkins completed 12 of 20 passes for 119 yards with one interception and one touchdown in the spring game (he was 15-for-23 for 192 yards and two touchdowns in the seven-on-seven portion). Nelson completed three of 10 passes for 30 yards with one interception (21-for-28 for 256 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in seven-on-seven).

2. Offensive line shuffle: Colorado lost left guard Brian Daniels and Mark Fenton and Bryce MacMartin, who shared snaps at center. New offensive line coach Jeff Grimes, lured from Brigham Young during the offseason, had only six healthy scholarship players to work with during the spring. Daniel Sanders should start at center, and seniors Edwin Harrison and Tyler Polumbus were the only tackles on the roster in the spring. The rest of the line seems unsettled until the fall. Incoming freshman Ryan Miller, who is 6-8 and weighs 310 pounds, could push for immediate playing time.

3. No pass rush: The Buffaloes had only one sack during the spring game, after losing ends Abraham Wright (11½ sacks in 2006) and Walter Boye-Doe. Junior Maurice Lucas and senior Alonzo Barrett left spring as the starters at end, but they'll continue to be pushed by juco transfer Drew Hudgins and redshirt freshman Marquez Herrod.

4. Place kicker: Kicker Mason Crosby was the Buffaloes' best scoring chance, as he seemed to be in range once the offense crossed midfield. Crosby, a two-time All-American, made 75 percent of his field goal tries. Senior Kevin Eberhart has a strong leg and has handled kickoffs in the past.

5. Help for Charles: The Buffaloes had three players gain more than 500 rushing yards last season, but there was plenty of room for improvement in short-yardage situations. Returning starter Hugh Charles didn't run the ball exceptionally well during the spring, but the uncertainty on the offensive line had a lot to do with it. Senior Byron Ellis returns, and redshirt freshman Demetrius Sumler could provide help in the fall.

2006 overall record:
Conference record:

Returning starters
Offense: 5, Defense: 5, Kicker/punter: 2

Top returners
QB Bret Meyer, WR Todd Blythe, LB Alvin Bowen, G Tom Schmeling, LB Jon Banks, SS Caleb Berg, CB Chris Singleton, K Bret Culbertson
Key losses

DT Brent Curvey, OT Aaron Brant, C Scott Stephenson, RB Stevie Hicks, WR Jon Davis, DE Shawn Moorhead

Top newcomer: QB Phillip BatesInsider

2006 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Stevie Hicks (547 yds)
Passing: Bret Meyer* (2,546 yds)
Receiving: Jon Davis (508 yds)
Tackles: Alvin Bowen* (92)
Sacks: Shawn Moorehead (8.5)
Interceptions: Chris Singleton* (2)

Spring answers: 1. Meyer's still standing, at least for now: Senior quarterback Bret Meyer is the only Division I-A quarterback with more than 7,000 passing yards and 400 rushing yards in his career. He also has started 36 games in a row. That's quite an accomplishment when you consider Meyer has been sacked 111 times the last three seasons, or about three times per game. He continues to stand tall in the pocket and has never been seriously injured, despite playing behind suspect lines throughout his career. He'll need to be nimble again this fall.

2. Big-play weapons: Senior Todd Blythe has been Meyer's favorite target and that shouldn't change this fall. Blythe has 26 career touchdown catches, the most in school history, and averaged 18.7 yards per catch in 2006. He missed three games last season with a virus and was held out of the spring scrimmage with an undisclosed injury, but new Cylclones coach Gene Chizik said it wasn't anything serious. Iowa State lost Jon Davis, its No. 2 receiver last season. Senior Milan Moses, who has courageously battled Chron's Disease the last two seasons, is capable of filling that role. He was held out of spring drills with a foot injury. Junior R.J. Sumrall, a standout hurdler on the school's track team, was the most impressive receiver during the spring, with six receptions for 134 yards and one touchdown in the spring game.

3. Experienced linebackers: The Cyclones return two starting linebackers and two other players who had extensive playing time as true freshmen in 2006. Weak-side linebacker Alvin "Ace" Bowen led Division I-A with 12.92 tackles per game last season. The Cyclones need him to do less and others to do more this fall. Strong-side linebacker Jon Banks played well after moving from safety to linebacker midway through last season. He had 57 tackles in the last six games. Sophomore Fred Garrin was ahead of sophomore Jesse Smith at middle linebacker at the end of spring, although both figure to play a lot this fall.

4. Kicking game in good hands: Iowa State's kicking game is one of the few areas with little concern. Senior Bret Culbertson has never missed an extra point in 74 tries and has made 76 percent of his field-goal tries. He doesn't have a particularly strong leg, but he's deadly accurate. Punter Mike Brandtner is back after averaging 41.2 yards as a freshman.

5. Chizik gets defensive: Chizik, the former Texas defensive coordinator, was hired to replace Dan McCarney for a reason. The Cyclones allowed 6.1 yards per snap last season, worst among Big 12 teams. Chizik is trying to install a tougher brand of football at Iowa State. At least the school's fans and alumni are buying into his ideas. The school sold a record 32,000 season tickets this spring.

Fall questions: 1. Rebuilding the offensive line: Protecting Meyer is the offense's top priority, but it will be difficult with only two starters returning. Right guard Tom Schmeling is the most experienced lineman, although Reggie Stephens, a 320-pounder, played more and more at left guard last season. juco transfer Lee Tibbs takes over at right tackle, and Brandon Johnson moves to center. Doug Dedrick, another juco transfer who enrolled in January, is the No. 1 left tackle at 271 pounds.

2. Holes up front: The Cyclones lost All-Big 12 defensive tackle Brent Curvey and end Shawn Moorehead, the school's career leader in sacks. Rush end Reshawn Parker played a lot as a true freshman, but he's only 6 feet. End Kurtis Taylor is coming off knee surgery that caused him to miss all of the 2006 season, so juco transfer Chris Lyle might need to help this fall. Tackle Bryce Braaksma is better suited for end at 254 pounds, but nose guards Ahtyba Rubin and Nate Frere are both 300-pounders and take up a lot of space.

3. Find a running back: Junior Jason Scales, who was one of the most prolific running backs in Iowa high school history, has just never been very productive at Iowa State. He had an unaccomplished spring, with 29 yards on 14 carries in the spring game. Jason Harris, who played running back as a freshman and moved to defense in 2006, had an 81-yard run in the spring game, but otherwise wasn't very productive. The Cyclones are hoping juco transfer Jamicah "J.J." Bass can help this fall.

4. Better coverage in secondary: The Cyclones return two starters in the secondary -- strong safety Caleb Berg and cornerback Chris Singleton. Free safety James Smith also is back after playing in the final five games last season (he broke his ankle in the preseason and missed the first seven). Left cornerback Devin McDowell might be the most talented Iowa State defensive back, but he hasn't seen eye-to-eye with Chizik so far.

5. How many juco players can help: Chizik got a late start in recruiting, but still managed to sign 11 juco players who might provide immediate help in 2007. Dedrick is already penciled in as a starter on the offensive line, and juco transfer Joe Blaes might end up winning one of the guard jobs. Lyle might help on the defensive line, along with tackles Chris Tate and Chris Weir. The Cyclones desperately need Bass to emerge as the No. 1 tailback, and tight end Collin Franklin and receiver Wallace Franklin could be impact players, too.

2006 overall record:
Conference record:

Returning starters
Offense: 6, Defense: 8, Kicker/punter: 2

Top returners
QB Kerry Meier, QB Todd Reesing, WR Marcus Henry, WR Dexton Fields, DT James McClinton, CB Aqib Talib, OT Cesar Rodriguez, OT Anthony Collins
Key losses

RB Jon Cornish, C David Ochoa, G Bob Whitaker, WR Brian Murph, DE Paul Como, DT Wayne Wilder, S Jerome Kemp

Top newcomer: RB Carmon Boyd-AndersonInsider

2006 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Jon Cornish (1,528 yds)
Passing: Kerry Meier* (1,193 yds)
Receiving: Brian Murph (467 yds)
Tackles: Mike Rivera* (63)
Sacks: James McClinton* (6)
Interceptions: Aqib Talib* (6)

Spring answers: 1. Two-headed quarterback: Coach Mark Mangino won't name a starting quarterback until fall camp after sophomores Kerry Meier and Todd Reesing were neck-and-neck during spring practice. Meier started eight games in 2006, throwing for 1,193 yards and 13 touchdowns. Reesing has a better arm and provided a spark off the bench last season. Meier completed 13 of 27 passes for 204 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Reesing was 10-for-20 with 171 yards and one touchdown.

2. Stout defensive front: The Jayhawks have allowed only one 100-yard rusher in the last two seasons. The strength of their interior defensive line is a big reason for that success. Tackle James McClinton had 51 tackles and six sacks in 2006 and might be on the verge of an even bigger season this fall. Junior Todd Haselhorst, who missed all of 2005 and played in six games last season after undergoing shoulder surgery, is finally healthy and much more explosive.

3. Depth at linebacker: How deep are the Jayhawks at linebacker? So deep that junior Mike Rivera, who led the team with 90 tackles last season, was second team after spring practice. Junior Joe Mortensen, who had 82 tackles in 2006, supplanted Rivera as the starting middle linebacker in the spring. Sophomore James Holt and Arist Wright, who shared starting duties last season, should each start this fall.

4. Cover corners: Junior Aqib Talib might be an All-America candidate this fall after leading the Big 12 with six interceptions last season. Opponents rarely throw to his side of the field anymore, so solidifying the other cornerback spot was a priority. juco transfer Kendrick Harper, a mid-year transfer from Butler (Kansas) Community College, was ahead of sophomore Anthony Webb at the end of spring drills.

5. Warriner returns: Ed Warriner, who was the Jayhawks' offensive line coach and running game coordinator in 2003-04, returned to the staff as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Warriner worked the last two years at Illinois. One of his first moves at Kansas was taking away the audibles from his team's young quarterbacks. Warriner relays audibles to passing game coordinator Tim Beck, who signals them from the sideline.

Fall questions: 1. Running back: How do you replace the school's single-season rushing leader? With two players, apparently. Sophomore Jake Sharp is the top candidate to replace Jon Cornish, who ran for 1,457 yards and eight touchdowns in 2006. But senior Brandon McAnderson, who mostly blocked for Cornish the last two seasons, also will get a lot of carries this fall. Mangino hopes to take advantage of Sharp's speed, while pounding McAnderson between the tackles for a change of pace.

2. More big-play receivers: The Jayhawks have a couple of sure-handed receivers in junior Dexton Fields and senior Marcus Henry, but neither is going to run by a defensive back. The coaches are hoping Marcus Herford or Tertavian Ingram can supply that kind of speed.

3. New offensive line: Two starters are back, but tackles Cesar Rodriguez and Anthony Collins are flipping sides. Rodriguez is going from left to right, and vice versa. Junior college transfer Chet Hartley emerged as the leader at right guard, and Ryan Cantrell will probably replace David Ochoa at center. Juniors Adrian Mayes and Matt Darton are battling at left guard.

4. Little pass rush: The Jayhawks had problems getting pressure on the quarterback last season, and starting end Paul Como graduated. Russell Brorsen and John Larsen, who combined for 46 tackles, 19 tackles for loss and six sacks in limited action last season, also will be counted on for more pressure.

5. Staff changes: Along with Warriner, who replaced offensive coordinator Nick Quartaro (who resigned in December after Kansas finished 100th in Division I-A in total offense), the Jayhawks have a new cornerbacks coach and new running backs coach. Je'Ney Jackson was promoted from the strength and conditioning staff, and Louie Matsakis was hired after running backs coach Earle Mosely suddenly resigned in April because of health concerns.

2006 overall record:
Conference record:

Returning starters
Offense: 7, Defense: 6, Kicker/punter: 1

Top returners
QB Josh Freeman, RB James Johnson, RB Leon Patton, WR Jordy Nelson, C Jordan Bedore, DE Ian Campbell, DE Rob Jackson, S Marcus Watts
Key losses

WR/KR Yamon Figurs, LB Zach Diles, LB Brandon Archer, S Kyle Williams, OT Michael Frieson

Top newcomer: S Lamark BrownInsider

2006 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Leon Patton (609 yds)
Passing: Josh Freeman (1,780 yds)
Receiving: Jordy Nelson (547 yds)
Tackles: Brandon Archer (57)
Sacks: Ian Campbell (11)
Interceptions: Marcus Watts (3)

Spring answers: 1. Two running backs: The Wildcats have one of the better running back duos in the Big 12 with senior James Johnson and sophomore Leon Patton. Johnson is in better shape than he was when he arrived in Manhattan from junior college last summer. He has gained muscle and slimmed down. Patton was bothered by a sprained ankle in the spring, but the injury isn't expected to affect him this fall.

2. Experienced defensive line: The ends and tackles are one of the more experienced units on the squad. Junior Ian Campbell was fiercely disruptive last season with 11½ sacks and 17½ tackles for loss. Senior end Rob Jackson had 8 1/2 tackles for loss and four sacks in 2006. Senior Moses Manu and sophomore Eric Childs are the top reserves at end. Junior Alphonso Moran is the top candidate at nose tackle, but juco All-American Michael Abana might be a factor in training camp.

3. Abundance of tight ends: Kansas State has four tight ends who could start for many teams. Senior Rashaad Norwood was the team's second leading receiver in 2006, and sophomore Jeron Mastrud is a dominating blocker and capable receiver. Senior Michael Pooschke and junior Brett Alstatt also can catch the football.

4. New defensive scheme: There weren't many problems in installing the 3-4 scheme for new defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar. Tibesar, who was the Wildcats' special teams coach last season, was promoted after Raheem Morris left to become the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' secondary coach. Coach Ron Prince is very familiar with the 3-4 scheme because Virginia coach Al Groh preferred that alignment when Prince was an assistant there. In the new alignment, Campbell might be moved from defensive end to outside linebacker, where his primary focus will still be rushing the passer. The 3-4 scheme should help Kansas State defend the spread offenses that are so prevalent in the Big 12.

5. Deep secondary: The Wildcats have as many as 10 players with experience in the secondary. Safety Marcus Watts is back after missing five games last season with a broken wrist. He still led the team with three interceptions. Senior cornerback Bryan Baldwin returns after breaking his arm in the fourth game of 2006, and cornerbacks Joshua Moore and Justin McKinney also have starting experience. Juco All-American Gary Chandler figures to challenge for playing time this fall.

Fall questions: 1. Josh Freeman's development: Freeman beat out four other quarterbacks to win the starting job last season, but then faltered in the Wildcats' last two games. He had nine turnovers combined in ugly losses to rival Kansas and Rutgers in the Texas Bowl. Freeman, who threw 15 interceptions and six touchdowns last season, wasn't much better in the spring. He completed only nine of 22 passes for 44 yards with two interceptions in the spring game. His team's offense was held to a total of zero yards in the intrasquad scrimmage.

2. Holes on offensive line: Freeman might have been better last season if he'd had more time to throw. Eight players are back who started at least one game on the offensive line last season. But only center Jordan Bedore and right tackle Nick Stringer, who missed spring practice with a shoulder injury, seem assured of keeping starting jobs. There could be as many as 19 players battling for playing time in the fall, including juco All-American Alesana Alesana, a mammoth 6-6 tackle.

3. Linebacker replacements: If Campbell moves to outside linebacker, senior Justin Roland and junior Reggie Walker are leading candidates to win the other two starting spots. But another incoming juco All-American -- former Oklahoma signee Chris Patterson -- will be involved in the mix this fall. Walker is an athletic outside linebacker, who had six tackles in the spring game.

4. Help for Jordy: Senior receiver Jordy Nelson struggled with a knee injury throughout the 2006 season, but still caught 39 passes for 547 yards and one touchdown. The Wildcats need to find some other receivers to help him. Senior Daniel Gonzalez and junior Cedric Wilson are steady but not spectacular, so look for juco transfers Ernie Pierce and Deon Murphy and highly touted freshman Lamark Brown to find their way into the rotation this fall.

5. Just for kicks: Record-setting kicker Jeff Snodgrass departed, and three players were competing to replace him during spring practice. Ohio transfer Brooks Rossman had a leg up at the end of spring practice, but he'll have to hold off incoming freshman Josh Cherry in preseason camp.

2006 overall record:
Conference record:

Returning starters
Offense: 8, Defense: 5, Kicker/punter: 2

Top returners
QB Chase Daniel, RB Tony Temple, OT Tyler Luellen, C Adam Spieker, WR Will Franklin, NT Lorenzo Williams, CB Darnell Terrell, TE Martin Rucker, TE Chase Coffman
Key losses

DE Brian Smith, DE Xzavie Jackson, G Mike Cook, OT Joel Clinger, WR Brad Ekwerekwu, LB Dedrick Harrington, LB Marcus Bacon, S David Overstreet, S Brandon Massey

Top newcomer: DE Michael KeckInsider

2006 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Tony Temple* (1,063 yds)
Passing: Chase Daniel* (3,527 yds)
Receiving: William Franklin* (829 yds)
Tackles: Dedrick Harrington (74)
Sacks: Xzavie Jackson (8)
Interceptions: Brandon Massey (3)

Spring answers: 1. Daniel is better: All quarterback Chase Daniel did in his first season as Missouri's starting quarterback was set school single-season records for touchdown passes (29), passing yards (3,527) and total offense (3,906). It would be hard to believe that he could do much better in his encore, but he was even more accurate this spring, albeit in controlled scrimmages. In Missouri's five spring scrimmages, Daniel completed all but 12 of his 59 passes with eight touchdowns and only two interceptions.

2. Abundance of pass catchers: Daniel has plenty of targets. Senior receiver Will Franklin is back after catching 48 passes for 829 yards and six touchdowns. He missed the spring while recovering from a shoulder injury. Junior Tommy Saunders (25 catches in 2006) also returns. Sophomore Danario Alexander made a big move in the spring (17 catches for 227 yards in five scrimmages), and jumped ahead of sophomore Jared Perry in the battle to replace Brad Ekwerekwu. Redshirt freshman Jeremy Maclin, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, also emerged as a big-play threat, with 14 catches in the scrimmages.

3. Rucker and Coffman return: There aren't a better duo of tight ends in the country than senior Martin Rucker and junior Chase Coffman, who combined to catch 111 passes for 1,149 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2006. Rucker nearly entered the NFL draft, but chose to return to Missouri for one more season. Both should be more adept in their route running and blocking this fall.

4. Cornerbacks: Even after losing Domonique Johnson, who started four games at cornerback last season, the Tigers figure to be pretty talented on the perimeter of the secondary. Johnson transferred to Division I-AA Jackson (Miss.) State in February because of personal issues. Senior Darnell Terrell, who had nine pass breakups last season, is entrenched as one starter. But sophomore Hardy Ricks was being pushed by junior Castine Bridges at the end of spring drills and the battle will continue in the fall. Junior college transfer Paul Simpson emerged as the fourth cornerback.

5. Running back: Senior Tony Temple is the top returning rusher in the Big 12 after gaining 1,063 yards in 2006. He ran the ball well in the spring, averaging more than four yards per carry, although he didn't run it very much. The three backups behind him -- juniors Jimmy Jackson and Earl Goldsmith and senior Marcus Woods -- were largely unspectacular.

Fall questions: 1. Defensive end: The Tigers lost starters Brian Smith and Xzavie Jackson, who finished first and seventh, respectively, in career sacks at the school. Junior Stryker Sulak will replace Smith, and junior Tommy Chavis played very well in the spring. He will probably replace Jackson. Redshirt freshmen John Stull and Bart Coslet and junior college transfer Jaysen Corbett were productive in the spring, too.

2. Offensive line: Injuries prevented the new offensive line from working together during the spring. The Tigers must replace guard Mike Cook and tackle Joel Clinger. Center Adam Spieker and left tackle Tyler Luellen are four-year starters. Left guard Ryan Madison also seems to have a starting job secured. But battles continue at right guard, where Monte Wyrick and James Stigall might rotate, and right tackle, where Dain Wise played very well in sophomore Kurtis Gregory's absence. Gregory missed the spring after undergoing surgeries to repair his shoulder and knee.

3. Linebackers: Two of the three starters are gone, and returning strong side linebacker Brock Christopher moved to the middle. Sean Weatherspoon should start on the weak side, where he replaces leading tackler Marcus Bacon, and junior Van Alexander will start on the strong side. Senior Steve Redmond and freshmen Michael Keck and Luke Lambert, who enrolled in January, played well enough to earn playing time this fall.

4. Safety: Starters David Overstreet and Brandon Massey are gone after combining for nearly 190 tackles last season. Junior William Moore, who started four games at strong safety in 2006, moves to free safety. Cornelius "Pig" Brown is the top candidate at strong safety, but he'll be pushed by juco transfer Justin Garrett, a former Tennessee signee, who was very impressive in the spring.

5. Can the defense get tougher: Missouri won't have problems scoring points, with Daniel, Rucker, Temple and Coffman returning. But will its defense get tougher and more physical? The Tigers allowed only 19.5 points per game last season and only gave up more than 21 points in four of 13 games. But they were beaten 39-38 by Oregon State in the Sun Bowl, with the Beavers winning on a two-point conversion at the end of the game. Defensive coordinator Matt Berflus tried to make his players tougher in the spring.

2006 overall record:
Conference record:

Returning starters
Offense: 5, Defense: 5, Kicker/punter: 1

Top returners
WR Maurice Purify, WR Terrence Nunn, C Brett Byford, LT Carl Nicks, LB Bo Ruud, LB Corey McKeon, FS Tierre Green
Key losses

QB Zac Taylor, RB Brandon Jackson, G Greg Austin, DE Jay Moore, DE Adam Carriker, DT Barry Cryer, NT Ola Dagunduro, LB Stewart Bradley, FS Andrew Shanle

Top newcomer: RB Marcus MendozaInsider

2006 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Brandon Jackson (1,023 yds)
Passing: Zac Taylor (3,197 yds)
Receiving: Maurice Purify* (630 yds)
Tackles: Stewart Bradley (76)
Sacks: Adam Carriker (7)
Interceptions: Andrew Shanle (4)

Spring answers: 1. Two quarterback options: So much for Arizona State transfer Sam Keller walking into the starting job. While Keller might indeed have a leg up in the race to replace departed starter Zac Taylor, he received a largely unexpected battle from junior Joe Ganz during spring practice. Ganz seems to have a better grasp of the West Coast offense. He completed 11 of 18 passes for 157 yards and one touchdown in the spring game. Keller is more athletic and has a stronger arm, but is still learning the nuances of the Nebraska offense after enrolling there last fall. He completed 10 of 13 passes for 193 yards and one touchdown in in the spring game. The starter won't be determined until fall camp, at the earliest. Freshman Patrick Witt also was very impressive during the spring.

2. Wide receivers: Undoubtedly the strongest position at Nebraska, the receiver corps is talented and experienced. Seniors Maurice Purify and Terrence Nunn combined to catch 76 passes for 1,227 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2006. Seniors Frantz Hardy and Todd Peterson should play bigger roles, and sophomores Menelik Holt and Chris Brooks are rising stars.

3. Experienced linebackers: The Cornhuskers have four senior linebackers back. Bo Ruud moved from the weak side to strong side, where he replaces departed starter Stewart Bradley. The move was precipitated by defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove's wish to get Ruud and Steve Octavien, his two most athletic linebackers, on the field at the same time. Senior Corey McKeon returns in the middle, and senior Lance Brandenburgh provides depth.

4. Safeties: The Cornhuskers expected senior Tierre Green and sophomore Larry Asante to grab the starting safety spots during spring practice, but senior Bryan Wilson played so well that he's slated to start at strong safety. Green, who started at strong safety last year, should play at free safety this fall. After playing only four players at times last season, at least the secondary finally has depth.

5. Watson has Callahan's ear: When former offensive coordinator Jay Norvell left to call plays at UCLA, Callahan wasted no time in promoting tight ends coach Shawn Watson. Watson was an offensive coordinator on Gary Barnett's staff at Colorado. While Callahan intends to keep the play-calling duties for himself, Watson will coach from the press box and might infuse some new ideas into the offense. Watson also coaches the Cornhuskers' quarterbacks now.

Fall questions: 1. Offensive line: The main question coming into camp was whether junior Lydon Murtha and senior Carl Nicks would be good enough to start at the tackle spots, after Chris Patrick unexpectedly entered the NFL supplemental draft and Matt Slauson moved from right tackle to right guard. Both Murtha and Nicks have been plagued by inconsistency during their careers, but each showed enough promise to somewhat ease concerns during the spring. There are no concerns about center Brett Byford, who has evolved into an NFL prospect. Three potential guards -- Jake Hickman (knee), Mike Huff (ruptured Achilles tendon) and Andy Christensen (shoulder surgery) -- didn't participate in spring practice. Guard Keith Williams and tackle D.J. Jones might be future stars.

2. Running back: The Cornhuskers seemed to have an abundance of talent in the backfield. But then leading rusher Brandon Jackson entered the NFL draft as a junior, and senior Kenny Wilson broke his femur while, ahem, moving a TV. That left juniors Marlon Lucky and Cody Glenn to carry the load. Lucky has had a history of ailments that has plagued his progress at Nebraska. He was bothered by a back injury last season, was hospitalized with an undisclosed medical emergency in February and then sprained the medial collateral ligament in his knee in the spring game. Meantime, Glenn has been hampered by a foot injury since November and still isn't fully healed. Incoming freshmen Quentin Castille and Roy Helu might have to help this fall.

3. Defensive line: All four starters are gone from last season's defensive line, including end Adam Carriker, the 13th pick in the NFL draft by the St. Louis Rams. Junior end Barry Turner missed spring practice with a shoulder injury, so converted tight end Clayton Sievers and Zach Potter were playing on the ends. Tackles Barry Cryer and Ola Dagunduro also must be replaced. Callahan believes junior Ndamukong Suh could be a force in the middle, and junior Ty Steinkuhler also should start inside.

4. Zach Bowman's status: Before he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on the third day of fall practice last season, cornerback Zach Bowman was considered a potential first-round pick in the NFL draft. He missed all of the 2006 season and worked diligently to get back this spring. But then he ruptured the patellar tendon in his right knee during spring practice and now faces up to six months of recovery. If Bowman isn't ready for the start of the 2007 season, junior college transfer Armando Murillo better be ready to play. If not, much-maligned senior Cortney Grixby might be starting opposite senior Andre Jones.

5. Kicker: When the Cornhuskers left spring practice, walk-on punter Alex Henery and junior Jake Wesch were battling for the place-kicking job. The job opened when Jordon Congdon, who had fallen out of favor with the coaching staff, transferred to Southern California. Congdon made five of seven field goal tries last season. Incoming freshman Adi Kunalic also figures to be in the mix this fall.

2006 overall record:
Conference record:

Returning starters
Offense: 8, Defense: 7, Kicker/punter: 2

Top returners
RB Allen Patrick, WR Malcolm Kelly, C Jon Cooper, FS Nic Harris, CB Marcus Walker, CB Reggie Smith, G Duke Robinson, WR Juaquin Iglesias
Key losses

RB Adrian Peterson, QB Paul Thompson, LB Rufus Alexander, LB Zac Latim, DE C.J. Ah You, DE Larry Birdine, DE Calvin Thibodeaux, OT Chris Messner

Top newcomer: S Austin BoxInsider

2006 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Adrian Peterson (1,012 yds)
Passing: Paul Thompson (2,667 yds)
Receiving: Malcolm Kelly* (993 yds)
Tackles: Rufus Alexander (118)
Sacks: C.J. Ah You (4)
Interceptions: Nic Harris* (4)

Spring answers: 1. Depth at running back: The post-Adrian Peterson era will probably begin with senior Allen Patrick carrying the load. He ran for 761 yards and started after Peterson broke his collarbone last season. But it won't be too long before redshirt freshman DeMarco Murray finds the field. The Las Vegas native was one of the country's top recruits before last season, but suffered a turf toe injury during the preseason. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds and had a 41-inch vertical leap during Oklahoma's offseason conditioning. During the spring, he averaged 11.3 yards per carry. He gained 129 all-purpose yards in the first scrimmage, ran for 132 yards in the second and had 103 yards and one touchdown on only four touches in the spring game.

2. More speed at receiver: The top four receivers from 2006 are back, including junior Malcolm Kelly, who caught 62 passes for 993 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. Kelly missed spring practice while recovering from offseason knee surgery. Junior Juaquin Iglesias caught 41 passes last season, and junior Manuel Johnson had 36 receptions. But sophomore Adron Tennell made the biggest move during spring practice, and sophomore Brandon Caleb also impressed.

3. A lot of beef up front: Four of the Sooners' five starting offensive linemen are back, but there were some surprising battles during the spring. Phil Loadholt, a mammoth, 6-foot-8, 360-pound juco transfer, was leading the battle to replace departed left tackle Chris Messner. Junior Branndon Braxton is back at right tackle after breaking his leg last season, and sophomore Brian Simmons was ahead of 2006 starter Brandon Walker at right guard at the end of spring drills.

4. Smith moves to cornerback: The Sooners' improved play in the secondary was dramatic in 2006, so it's somewhat surprising to see the radical changes that took place during the spring. Reggie Smith, a first team All-Big 12 safety last season, has moved to cornerback. D.J. Wolfe, a starting cornerback two seasons ago, replaces Smith at strong safety. Junior Marcus Walker leads Lendy Holmes for the other starting cornerback job, and Nic Harris is back at free safety.

5. Defensive tackles: Three of the four players who rotated at defensive tackle in 2006 return (junior Carl Pendleton left the team so he could adopt a younger brother and enroll in graduate school). Steven Coleman, DeMarcus Granger and Cory Bennett are all back after playing extensively last season. Gerald McCoy, who redshirted last season after playing as a freshman in 2005, was one of the most impressive players during the spring.

Fall questions: 1. Starting quarterback: Paul Thompson, an emergency replacement for Rhett Bomar last season, is gone. Junior Joey Halzle and redshirt freshman Sam Bradford worked with the first-team offense for most of the spring, while freshman Keith Nichol played with the scout team to become more acclimated with the offense after enrolling in January. Bradford completed 25 of 41 passes for 341 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions in three spring scrimmages; Halzle was 20-for-44 for 347 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions. Nichol didn't throw as much during the scrimmages, but offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson was encouraged, telling reporters the Michigan native had the strongest arm of any quarterback he'd coached at Oklahoma.

2. Defensive ends: The Sooners lost three of their top pass rushers: defensive ends C.J. Ah You, Larry Birdine and Calvin Thibodeaux, who combined for eight sacks last season. Seniors Alonzo Dotson and John Williams, who missed all of 2005 with a knee injury and part of last season because of injuries, are the top candidates to start at end this fall.

3. Linebackers: Gone are Rufus Alexander, the Big 12 Conference defensive player of the year and an All-American, and middle linebacker Zach Latimer. Curtis Lofton should start on the weakside, with senior Lewis Baker battling senior Demarrio Pleasant on the strong side. Juco tranfer Mike Reed, who had seven tackles, one tackle for loss, a forced fumble and pass breakup in the spring game, might start in the middle. Ryan Reynolds, who tore the ACL in his left knee last summer and missed all of the 2006 season, suffered another knee injury during the spring. He partially tore the lateral collateral ligament in his right knee, but should be ready for the start of fall camp.

4. Can the Sooners get the tight ends more involved: Oklahoma has two physically gifted tight ends in Joe Jon Finley and Jermaine Gresham. And while the duo combined to catch 27 passes and four touchdowns in 2006, offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson is looking to get them even more involved this fall.

5. Lingering injuries: Kelly, the top receiver, should be full speed from surgery to repair torn cartilage in his knee by the time preseason camp arrives. But Reynolds, who was being counted on to replace Alexander, might not be ready. Loadholt, considered the key to the offensive line at left tackle, suffered a stress fracture in his foot and missed the end of spring practice.

2006 overall record:
Conference record:

Returning starters
Offense: 8, Defense: 7, Kicker/punter: 2

Top returners
QB Bobby Reid, WR Adarius Bowman, RB Dantrell Savage, RB Keith Toston, TE Brandon Pettigrew, LB Patrick Lavine, FS Donovan Woods, G David Koenig
Key losses

WR D'Juan Woods, DT Ryan McBean, OT Corey Hillard, RB Mike Hamilton, C Kurt Seifried, DT Larry Brown, DE Darnell Smith, DE Victor DeGrate, DE Xavier Lawson-Kennedy

Top newcomer: WR Dez BryantInsider

2006 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Dantrell Savage* (820 yds)
Passing: Bobby Reid* (2,266 yds)
Receiving: Adarius Bowman* (1,181 yds)
Tackles: Andre Sexton* (79)
Sacks: Victor DeGrate (9.5)
Interceptions: Three players tied (2)

Spring answers: 1. Balance remains on offense: For as much attention as Oklahoma State's passing game received last season, the Cowboys can run the football pretty well, too. The Cowboys and Boise State were the only Division I-A teams to run and pass for more than 200 yards per game in 2006. Tailbacks Dantrell Savage and Keith Toston showed they could be even better this fall, combining to run for 148 yards on 22 carries in the spring game.

2. Pettigrew is a stud: Oklahoma State had two of the best receivers in the country last season: departed D'Juan Woods and Adarius Bowman, who is back. While Bowman is projected as a possible first round pick in the 2008 NFL draft, tight end Brandon Pettigrew might have the brightest future among the Cowboys' offensive stars. The 6-foot-6 junior caught 24 passes last season, including six for 125 yards in the last two games against Oklahoma and Alabama.

3. Offense will score points again: Under the direction of former Cowboys quarterback Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State was one of the country's most high-powered offenses last season, scoring more than 35 points per game. With quarterback Bobby Reid, Bowman, Pettigrew and the two tailbacks returning, Oklahoma State should again have plenty of firepower.

4. Strong special teams: The Cowboys were sound in special teams last season and every key player is back. Punter Matt Fodge was a second team All-Big 12 selection, and kicker Jason Ricks has yet to miss a field goal try inside 40 yards. Speedy sophomore Perrish Cox ranked 14th nationally in punt returns and 35th in kickoff returns.

5. Two for one: Quarterback Bobby Reid is a proven playmaker, running for 500 yards and passing for 2,266 yards with 24 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. While Reid is continuing to improve as a passer and trying to make better decisions, he could have company in the backfield this fall. Offensive coordinator Larry Fedora vows to use backup quarterback Zac Robinson as much as possible, including putting Robinson and Reid in the game at the same time.

Fall questions: 1. Second receiver: Bowman is back after catching 60 passes for 1,187 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. But the Cowboys must replace Woods, who had 647 receiving yards and five touchdowns. Sophomore Artrell Woods made quite an impression during the spring, catching four passes for 111 yards and two touchdowns during the spring game. Sophomore Jeremy Broadway, who missed last season with a wrist injury, had four catches for 73 yards and one touchdown in the spring game. Depth is a concern, especially after senior Anthony Parks transferred to a Division I-AA school. Four highly regarded freshmen might help in the fall.

2. Offensive line: Three starters are back -- center David Washington, left guard David Koenig and left tackle Russell Okung -- and each should be better after starting for the first time last season. Right tackle Brady Bond started the first five games until he was hurt last season, but the starting right guard spot remains up for grabs going into preseason camp.

3. Defensive line: The Cowboys lost each of their four starters from last season, but what other team had two reserve defensive ends with a combined 25 tackles for loss and 12½ sacks in 2006? Seniors Marque Fountain and Nate Peterson were spectacular a year ago and are solid replacements for ends Darnell Smith and Victor DeGrate. However, replacing tackles Larry Brown and Ryan McBean might be more arduous. Junior college transfer Tonga Tea Jr., Maurice Cummings, Jeray Chatham and Jonathan Lewis are all battling for playing time.

4. Chris Collins' future: Not only is the star freshman linebacker recovering from reconstructive knee surgery, but his future at the school might be in jeopardy because of criminal charges he faces in his native Texarkana, Texas. Collins, who led the team in tackles until he was hurt against Kansas, is one of four men charged with sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl during a post-prom party in a hotel room in 2004. Collins has pleaded not guilty and his final preliminary hearing is scheduled for June. If convicted, Collins faces a sentence of five to 99 years or life in prison.

5. New direction on defense: The Cowboys allowed 25.6 points per game last season, which ranked 82nd in the country, and surrendered more than 30 points in seven games. Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford left for Michigan, and Gundy hired Ohio State secondary coach Tim Beckman to lead his defense. Beckman hopes to be more aggressive on defense, with more blitzing and stunts. But he also needs faster players to make it work. Beckman installed about 50 percent of his defense during the spring, so there's still plenty of work to do this fall.

2006 overall record:
Conference record:

Returning starters
Offense: 6, Defense: 6, Kicker/punter: 2

Top returners
QB Colt McCoy, TB Jamaal Charles, SS Marcus Griffin, WR Limas Sweed, WR Quan Crosby, DT Frank Okam, LB Rashad Bobino
Key losses

G Justin Blalock, S Michael Griffin, CB Aaron Ross, G Kasey Studdard, CB Tarell Brown, DE Tim Crowder, DE Brian Robinson, C Kyle Sendlein, RB Selvin Young

Top newcomer: OT Tray AllenInsider

2006 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Jamaal Charles* (831 yds)
Passing: Colt McCoy* (2,570 yds)
Receiving: Limas Sweed* (801 yds)
Tackles: Michael Griffin (126)
Sacks: Tim Crowder (10.5)
Interceptions: Aaron Ross (6)

Spring answers: 1. The real McCoy: Quarterback Colt McCoy, who completed 68.2 percent of his passes for 2,570 yards and 29 touchdowns as a freshman, is fully recovered from the shoulder injury that plagued him at the end of the 2006 season. McCoy, the first Texas freshman quarterback to win 10 games, added weight during the offseason and now weighs 208. Texas coaches hope the added weight will make him more conditioned to handle hard hits. They also hope he'll be better suited to run quarterback draws, bootlegs, etc., to increase the effectiveness of the the shotgun formation.

2. Great receivers: Texas coach Mack Brown said the 2007 receiver corps is "the best group of receivers we've had since we've been here." With Limas Sweed, Quan Cosby, Billy Pittman, Nate Jones and Jordan Shipley coming back, it would be hard to argue with Brown. Tight end Jermichael Finley, who caught 31 passes for 372 yards and three touchdowns as a freshman, is another budding star.

3. Linebackers: Seven players are battling for three starting spots. Each of the three starters from last season -- Robert Killebrew, Scott Derry and Rashad Bobino -- are back. But highly regarded redshirt freshman Sergio Kindle, who was hampered by a sprained ankle last season, also is making a push for a lot of playing time.

4. Smooth transition to safety: One of the more drastic positions changes during the spring involved senior Drew Kelson, who moved from weakside linebacker to free safety. He also has played running back and safety during his Texas career.

5. Akina takes over: After co-defensive coordinator Gene Chizik left to become Iowa State's coach, Mack Brown promoted Duane Akina to sole coordinator. Akina, who has coached the Longhorns' talented secondary the last six seasons and produced three Thorpe Award winners. Akina wants the Longhorns to be more aggressive this season, which will require more pressure from the front four and better play from the linebackers. So far, the Longhorns are buying into his aggessive style.

Fall questions: 1. Secondary: It's hard to believe Texas ranked 99th nationally in pass defense last season. Especially when you consider that cornerback Aaron Ross was the Thorpe Award winner as college football's best defensive back, and strong safety Michael Griffin was an All-American. Now, those two are gone to the NFL, along with cornerback Tarell Brown. Strong safety Marcus Griffin is the only returning starter in the secondary. Senior Brandon Foster is expected to win one of the cornerback jobs, with sophomore Deon Beasley and Ryan Palmer battling for the other spot.

2. Offensive line: The Longhorns must replace each of their interior linemen: All-America guard Justin Blalock, center Kyle Sendlein and guard Kasey Studdard. Senior Dallas Griffin should start at center, with Chris Hall and Charlie Tanner getting the nods at guard. Starting tackles Tony Hills and Adam Ulatoski are back.

3. Backup quarterback: Jevan Snead, who lost the starting job to McCoy before the 2006 season, transferred to Ole Miss during the offseason. He'll have to sit out this season under NCAA rules. Redshirt freshman Sherrod Harris and freshman John Chiles, who enrolled at Texas in January, are battling for the second-team quarterback spot. Both backups are more adept at running than throwing at this point in their careers. Harris ran for a 75-yard touchdown in the spring game; Chiles ran for a 28-yard score. Each backup's mobility will probably be utilized by offensive coordinator Greg Davis in the same way Florida used Tim Tebow last season.

4. Defensive ends: The Longhorns lost starters Tim Crowder and Brian Robison, who combined for 16 sacks in 2006. Aaron Lewis and Brian Orakpo, who combined for 7½ sacks as reserves last season, are ready to step into the starting lineup. Eddie Jones and Henry Melton, who returned to defense from fullback, need to develop quickly for depth.

5. Charles in charge: After struggling in the running game last season, Texas must replace three offensive lineman and RB Selvin Young. The Horns hope Jamaal Charles, who slumped during his sophomore campaign while sharing tailback duties with Young, will return to the big-play form of his freshman season. The speedster spent overtime in the training room to improve his durability. Vondrell McGee and Chris Ogbonnaya also should get some carries.

2006 overall record:
Conference record:

Returning starters
Offense: 9, Defense: 7, Kicker/punter: 1

Top returners
QB Stephen McGee, RB Mike Goodson, RB Jorvorskie Lane, TE Martellus Bennett, G Kirk Elder, DT Red Bryant, DE Chris Harrington, C Cody Wallace
Key losses

SS Melvin Bullitt, DT Marques Thornton, LB Justin Warren, DE Jason Jack, WR Chad Schroeder, WR L'Tydrick Riley, G Grant Dickey

Top newcomer: LB Derrick StephensInsider

2006 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Mike Goodson* (847 yds)
Passing: Stephen McGee* (2,295 yds)
Receiving: Chad Schroeder (612 yds)
Tackles: Justin Warren (93)
Sacks: Chris Harrington* (7.5)
Interceptions: Four players tied (2)

Spring answers: 1. McGee is healthy: Quarterback Stephen McGee was one of the most efficient starters in the country in 2006, completing 62 percent of his passes for 2,295 yards with 12 touchdowns and only two interceptions. He also ran for 666 yards and four touchdowns. But because 2006 was his first full season as a starter, McGee didn't seem to throw the ball down the field as much. Then he injured the triceps in his throwing arm and threw the ball even less. McGee seemed to be fully recovered from the injury during the spring and took more chances in the passing game.

2. More of Goodson, less of Lane: The Aggies are blessed with one of the best running back combinations in the country. Sophomore Mike Goodson is back after running for 847 yards as a freshman. Junior Jorvorskie Lane has slimmed down to 263 pounds, after scoring a school-record 19 touchdowns last season at more than 280 pounds. Redshirt freshman Cornell Tarrant was the most explosive back during the spring, running for 136 yards in the first scrimmage and 117 yards in the spring game. Highly regarded freshman Bradley Stephens joins the crowded backfield this fall.

3. Experienced offensive line: The Aggies return four starters and four fifth-year seniors to what should be one of the best offensive lines in college football. Center Cody Wallace, quick guard Kirk Elder and split tackle Corey Clark started all 13 games in 2006. Junior Yemi Babalola started the final three games last season, and remains ahead of nine-game starter Travis Schneider at quick tackle. Senior Chris Yoder replaces departed guard Grant Dickey.

4. Cornerbacks: The Aggies were one of the most improved teams in the nation in terms of pass defense last season. With starting cornerbacks Jordan Peterson and Danny Gorrer returning, the secondary should again be a strength. Junior Arkeith Brown was the team's most impressive cornerback during the spring, and he might supplant Gorrer as a starter this fall. Senior Marquis Carpenter also played well enough to give the Aggies an option in nickle and dime coverages.

5. Big-time tight ends: Junior Martellus Bennett got serious about playing football, leaving the school's basketball team shortly after he joined it following the Holiday Bowl. Bennett worked exceptionally hard during the offseason conditioning program, adding about five pounds to 260. He runs exceptional routes and has great hands and is a much-improved blocker. After earning All-Big 12 honors last season, Bennett goes for All-America status this fall. Senior Joey Thomas also returns after catching nine passes last season.

Fall questions: 1. Interior defensive line: The Aggies struggled stopping the run last season, especially near the end of the schedule, when Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and California each ran for more than 200 yards. Tackle Marques Johnson is gone, and senior Red Bryant is still recovering from a knee injury that caused him to miss the last four games of 2006. Senior Henry Smith and sophomore Kellen Heard are both 300-pounders who might emerge as plugs at nose tackle. Senior Chris Smith, only 260 pounds, will back up Bryant at defensive tackle.

2. Pass rush: The Aggies had only 20 sacks and a Big 12-low 55 tackles for loss. The lack of a pass rush was a big reason opponents completed 55.2 percent of their passes last season. Defensive end Chris Harrington is back, after totaling 7½ sacks and 11½ tackles for loss in 2006. Harrington missed the spring while recovering from a shoulder injury. The coaching staff moved junior Amos Gbunblee back to defense from tight end, and they hope he can use his speed to generate pressure. Junior Michael Bennett had a good spring and might emerge as the other starter.

3. Linebackers: Texas A&M must replace strongside linebacker Justin Warren, the top tackler in coordinator Gary Darnell's 4-2-5 scheme. Mark Dodge, a 25-year-old Army veteran, takes over after starting three games last season. Senior Misi Tupe, the Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year after transferring from junior college, returns in the middle.

4. Wide receivers: The Aggies are trying to replace leading receivers Chad Schroeder and L'Tydrick Riley, who combined to catch 62 passes last season. Earvin Taylor, Pierre Brown and Kerry Franks all have experience. E.J. Shankle is the fastest Aggie receiver and could provide a deep threat if he continues to improve.

5. How to use Jerrod Johnson: Backup quarterback Jerrod Johnson reminds a lot of Aggie fans of former LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell because of his size. But Johnson is much more mobile and is a legitimate running threat. Johnson isn't ready to challenge McGee for the starting job, but don't be surprised if coach Dennis Franchione comes up with some sort of package to utilize Johnson's running abilities.

2006 overall record:
Conference record:

Returning starters
Offense: 4, Defense: 5, Kicker/punter: 2

Top returners
QB Graham Harrell, RB Shannon Woods, WR Danny Amendola, S Darcel McBath, S Joe Garcia, G Louis Vasquez, LB Paul Williams, K Alex Trlica
Key losses

WR Robert Johnson, WR Joel Filani, WR Jarrett Hicks, OT Glenn January, OT Gabe Hall, G Manny Ramirez, DE Kenyunta Dawson

Top newcomer: G Jerrod GoochInsider

2006 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Shannon Woods* (926 yds)
Passing: Graham Harrell* (4,555 yds)
Receiving: Joel Filani (1,300 yds)
Tackles: Brock Stratton (88)
Sacks: Kenyunta Dawson (6)
Interceptions: Darcel McBath* (3)

Spring answers: 1. Still an abundance of receivers: Even after losing three starting receivers who combined to catch 180 passes for 2,171 yards and 24 touchdowns, coach Mike Leach believes the Red Raiders might be more talented at the position this fall. Michael Crabtree, who redshirted last season to concentrate on academics, was the most electrifying player during the spring. He caught three passes for 112 yards and one touchdown in the spring game. Likewise, converted running back Ed Britton showed a lot of speed and and will move into a starting job. Danny Amendola, who caught 47 passes for 482 yards last season, returns to the team, along with veterans L.A. Reed and Grant Walker.

2. Harrell's still pulling the trigger: Record-setting quarterback Graham Harrell, who led the Big 12 Conference with 412 completions, 4,555 passing yards and 38 touchdown passes in 2006, returns to the Red Raiders. It's the first time since 2002 that Texas Tech has a returning starting quarterback. Even though Leach tried to manufacture a quarterback battle between Harrell and redshirt freshman Taylor Potts, Harrell remains far ahead in the competition. He threw for more than 300 yards and three touchdowns in each of the last two scrimmages.

3. Veteran secondary: The Red Raiders should be much better against the passing game on defense, with safeties Darcel McBath and Joe Garcia and cornerback Chris Parker returning. Sophomore Jamar Wall, who displayed good ball skills during the spring, emerged as the other starting cornerback. De'Shon Sanders and Marcus Bunton also improved.

4. Trlica nearly perfect: Alex Trlica returns to give the Red Raiders one of the most consistent kickers in the country. He has made 166 extra-point tries in a row, setting an NCAA record. He made 15 of 21 field goal attempts last season, including 13-for-16 on attempts of 40 yards or shorter. Trlica nailed a 52-yard field goal near the end of regulation in the Insight Bowl, capping the Red Raiders' 31-point comeback. Texas Tech beat Minnesota, 44-41, in overtime.

5. Better kick returns: The additional speed coming at receiver should help the Red Raiders improve their kickoff returns. Texas Tech averaged 15.9 yards per kick return last season, worst in the Big 12 and next-to-last in Division I-A. Leach likes to have a long field to work, but the special teams must improve.

Fall questions: 1. Offensive line: Left guard Louis Vasquez is the only starter back from an offensive line that allowed only 16 sacks in 13 games last season, or one every 38 pass attempts. Guard Brandon Carter missed most of the spring with a strained back, so former walk-on Stephen Hamby won the right guard job. Rylan Reed, a former minor league baseball player, was leading at right tackle, and sophomore Shawn Byrnes should start at center. Left tackle Marlon Winn is a promising talent, but struggled with consistency. So much so that the coaching staff hinted at moving Vasquez outside this fall. The line shuffling was interrupted in April when new offensive line coach Jack Bicknell left for Boston College, his alma mater. Leach hired Troy assistant Matt Moore, one of his former players.

2. Was it motivation or a demotion: Junior tailback Shannon Woods, who led the Big 12 in all-purpose yards with 926 rushing and 522 receiving, was demoted to third team following spring practice. Leach was upset with Woods' effort during the spring, so he promoted sophomore Kobey Lewis to first team and walk-on Ryan Hayes to second.

3. Defensive line: The entire unit must be replaced, which is difficult when there are only seven scholarship players at four positions returning. Sophomore end Brandon Williams, who led Texas Tech freshmen in tackles, tackles for loss and sacks last season, is the most promising player up front. Ends Jake Ratliff and Tyler Yenzer also are potential pass rushers. Nose tackle Rajon Henley returns, and 250-pound walk-on Clint Stoffels was one of the most impressive interior linemen during the spring.

4. Linebackers: Senior Kellen Tillman will return to start on the strong side after the NCAA awarded him with a sixth year of eligibility. Senior Chad Hill, who missed all of the spring because of injuries, is the anticipated starter on the weak side, and senior Paul Williams should start in the middle.

5. Is Stoffels for real: Stoffels, the walk-on with the high motor, was a terror during spring drills, but can he keep that pace during the regular season. He is grossly undersized for Big 12 play, but teammates and coaches were amazed by his work ethic and energy level.

Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com.