It’s officially the offseason in college football, so why not already begin fantasizing of warmer weather, spring camp and summer ball. Let’s look at our Big 12 football teams and address one area of improvement each team needs to make in the coming months before we kick off the 2018 season. From Morgantown to Manhattan and Lawrence to Lubbock, we travel across the Big 12 conference and analyze who needs to improve on certain areas to tilt their W-L record in a positive manner next season.
Baylor Bears: offensive line
The Bears have their quarterback of the foreseeable future in Charlie Brewer. The true freshman stepped into a difficult spot this past season and got himself plenty of valuable reps that should pay off for the Bears in 2018 and beyond. But who is going to protect him? That’s the question. Clemson transfer Jake Fruhmorgen should help things immediately, while young players like Xavier Newman are one year older. If healthy, and after a year of learning Matt Rhule’s system, there is a ton of potential for this offense, but the success will hinge up front.
Iowa State Cyclones: Run blocking
Despite the talents of David Montgomery, Iowa State was second to last in the Big 12 in rushing yards per game last season with 113.1. They were also second to last in yards per rush at 3.4. The left side of the offensive line is gone with Jake Campos and Robby Garcia graduating. But Julian Good-Jones, Josh Knipfel and Sean Foster were all underclassmen next season and would be well served to do their part to make sure Montgomery has a few more lanes available to him next season. With the loss of Allen Lazard and Trever Ryen at wide receiver, and possibly Kyle Kempt at quarterback, the running game could become even more important than it was this season for the Cyclones.
Kansas Jayhawks: everything
I mean, can we really zero in on one unit and say, “if ____ unit improves, Kansas will take a big step forward in 2018”. No, we can’t, so I’m not going to BS you, because this team needs to improve in basically every facet of the game to get to three wins next season. From quarterback to pass defense and everything in between, there really isn’t a unit, except maybe defensive line, that doesn’t need drastic improvement in 2018.
Kansas State: secondary
The Wildcats gave up the most passing yards per game in the Big 12 conference this season and are losing star junior cornerback D.J. Reed to the NFL Draft. This group had high expectations, but the likes of Duke Shelley, Kendall Adams, etc. did not live up to the billing. In the pass-happy Big 12 conference, a team needs to be able to slow down the passing game, especially when your offense is built like Kansas State’s is, which prefers to avoid a shootout, if possible.
Oklahoma Sooners: defensive line
Yes, there were several injuries throughout the defense that hurt this team as the season went along. The cornerbacks are young and I thought this unit showed improvement as the season went on with the likes of Parnell Motley and Tre Norwood. The linebackers should also see improvement with another year of growth for Caleb Kelly and Kenneth Murray, while hopefully Ricky DeBerry, a former 5-star recruit, can stay healthy. Now to the defensive line, which was already a work in progress, and surprisingly lost Du’Vonta Lampkin to the NFL Draft. Not many saw that coming and with the loss of D.J. Ward to graduation, it’s time for new faces to step up.
Oklahoma State Cowboys: offensive line
The Pokes’ offensive line was mediocre at times this season and it loses three starters from this group in Zachary Crabtree, Aaaron Cochran, both tackles, and center Brad Lundblade. Oklahoma State could mask that unit at times this season with Mason Rudolph at QB, a ton of wide receiver talent and Justice Hill in the backfield. But a lot of those veteran offensive skill position players are gone and this group is going to get much younger, outside of Hill. It’s imperative for the Cowboys to get strong offensive line play to help the transition to several news players on that side of the ball.
TCU Horned Frogs: quarterback
The Kenny Hill era is over in Forth Worth and now it’s onto Shawn Robinson. Hill was serviceable and did the job he was asked to do by Gary Patterson. He improved drastically this season in not making the big mistake or trying to do too much, which allowed TCU to dominate with the running game and defense. But in comes Robinson, arguably the best QB recruit Patterson has ever had at TCU. He’s a difference maker and could help elevate TCU to an even higher level (like Big 12 champs), if all goes right. I never believed a team could win a conference title with Hill, but if Robinson reaches his potential, that’s scary for the rest of the Big 12 conference.
Texas Longhorns: offensive line
Where else? The line was an absolute disaster for Texas this season, and now left tackle Connor Williams, who was the unit’s best player and injured much of the season, is bouncing for the NFL Draft. Texas returns some key pieces like Zack Shackleford, but also have recruited the position heavily with Junior Angilau, Reese Moore and others. The quarterback position remains up in the air, but taking care of the offensive line would be a great start to having an offense that is somewhat comparable to what should remain a very good defense.
Texas Tech Red Raiders: defensive line
This unit improved, but Tech was still in the bottom half of the Big 12 in rushing yards allowed per game at 161. The entire defense saw growth, but the pass D got a bit better than the rushing D. Also, the Red Raiders lose a couple of seniors off this line in Mychealon Thomas and Zach Barnes. So while most of the secondary comes back, the defensive line will have some new faces and starters. Eli Howard and Broderick Washington should step into leadership roles on this unit, but they can use all the help they can get along the front line.
West Virginia Mountaineers: defensive line
The Mountaineers have the offense to win the Big 12 next season. But this defense could be their demise. WVU ranked last in the Big 12, by a wide margin, in allowing over 200 rushing yards per game. The secondary loses Kyzir White, Mike Daniels and Elijah Battle, but still has good depth. The linebacking corps is solid enough, led by David Long, but the Mountaineers literally looked liked they had a defensive line that was more suitable for the FCS level this season. Lamonte McDougle was a bright spot as a true freshman, and fellow true freshman Darius Stills saw some action, while his brother, Dante, is a four-star defensive lineman that should see playing time immediately. This unit must improve the WVU to reach its potential.