Collin Klein

CFT 2014 Preseason Preview: Big 12 Predictions

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As the 2014 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we will be examining the Big 12 Conference.

And while we’re at it, check out our CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository for our team’s looks at the upcoming season.

BIG 12

1. Oklahoma (Last year: 11-2; beat Alabama in Sugar Bowl)
Will the real Oklahoma Sooners please stand up? Questions surround one of the most talented teams in college football. Will Trevor Knight be the quarterback that shredded Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, or will he revert to the player that couldn’t initially beat out Blake Bell (who converted to tight end) to become the team’s starting quarterback? Will wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham receive a waiver from the NCAA to play this season? How will the Sooners overcome the losses of their top tackler, Frank Shannon, and five-star freshman Joe Mixon? And, historically, the Sooners have a penchant to disappoint after being named a preseason Top 5 team. The program will enter this season ranked fourth overall in the AP Poll and third in USA TODAY’s Coaches Poll. Despite these questions, the Sooners are still the favorites to win the Big 12. Oklahoma returns eight starters to a defensive unit that was the Big 12’s best last season. The group is led by outside linebacker Eric Striker, who is one of the most feared defenders in the country. Knight is the key on offense, but the quarterback will benefit from an experienced and talented offensive line. Both of the team’s starting offensive tackles as well as left guard Adam Shead return for another season. The Sooners’ ability to win up front on both sides of the ball will give them a decided advantage each week. Oklahoma will need it, because the team may have to go undefeated to be a part of the inaugural College Football Playoff.

2. Baylor (Last year: 11-2; lost to UCF in Fiesta Bowl) 
Despite Oklahoma’s status as the favorite to claim a Big 12 crown, it’s a wide-open race and the Bears have just as much chance to win a conference title. Whereas the Sooners will rely heavily on a strong defense and an improving offense, the Bears will continue to score points in bunches and hope they can stop opponents at least once or twice per game. The biggest advantage the Bears have among their conference rivals is the play of quarterback Bryce Petty. Petty threw for 4,200 yards, 32 touchdowns and only three interceptions during his first full season as a starter. Petty should be even better during his second season as he continues to grow in all phases of the game. The Bears also lay claim to the most talented group of skill position players in the conference. Five of the team’s top six receivers from last year return, while running Shock Linwood will get an opportunity to show how explosive he is as the team’s new starting running back. The Bears will score points in bunches. It will fall on the defense to makes sure they don’t surrender more points than the team’s offense can score. College football is more offensive driven than its ever been, but we’ll give Oklahoma a very slight edge over Baylor due to the old adage, “Defense wins championships.”

3. Texas (Last year: 8-5; lost to Oregon in Alamo Bowl)
Everything Texas does this season will be under a microscope. New head coach Charlie Strong will be scrutinized at every turn. How the team responds to Strong, both on and off the field, will be compared to the program’s former coach, Mack Brown. Strong has already made a statement during the offseason by suspending or dismissing numerous players. Everyone will be anxious to see whether or not this new-found discipline in the locker room will eventually translate to the field. In four seasons with the Louisville Cardinals, Strong was 37-15 overall with an impressive Sugar Bowl victory over the Florida Gators in 2012. What Strong inherits in Texas is a far more talented roster than he ever had in Louisville, and his Cardinals finished No. 1 overall in total defense last season. Strong, a former defensive coordinator, should be giddy with the talent he now has on the defensive side of the football. Defensive tackle Malcom Brown and defensive end Cedric Reed are as good of an inside-outside defensive line tandem as can be found in college football. On offense, meanwhile, the team will will rely on quarterback David Ash again. Believe it or not, Ash is the most experienced quarterback in the Big 12. But this will be a run-first team with the talented Malcolm Brown and the recovering Jonathan Gray running behind a big and athletic offensive line. Texas has enough to compete for a Big 12 championship if it finally puts everything together on both sides of the football.

4. Texas Tech (Last year: 8-5; beat Arizona State in Holiday Bowl)
The Red Raiders did their best disappearing act a year ago. Kliff Kingsbury‘s squad started 7-0 and was ranked as high as 10th overall before the team faded down the stretch. Texas Tech lost five straight to end the team’s regular season but bounced back with a 37-23 victory against the Arizona State Sun Devils in the Holiday Bowl. The losing streak showed the Red Raiders weren’t ready to play against the big boys of the Big 12. However, the win in the bowl game showed the team’s resiliency and growth during the month the team had to regroup and grow with the extra practices. And the Red Raiders will continue to build their program under Kingsbury. The biggest growth should come on the offensive side of the ball. Texas Tech already had the best passing offense in the conference last year, and it should be even better in 2014. Davis Webb enters his first full season as starter. Webb threw for over 400 yards in four games and finished with 20-to-9 touchdown-interception ratio. Both of his offensive tackles and center return along the offensive line. And each of the wide receivers expected to start received plenty of playing time last season. The defense is another matter altogether, but this is a team built to win games with its passing game and offensive explosiveness. Kingsbury has made his mark in a very short time as a head coach, and his team should be expected to impress during his second season with the program.

5. Kansas State (Last year: 8-5; beat Michigan in Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl)
Everyone will know whether or not the Wildcats are for real this season by Sept. 18. On that day, Kansas State will host the Auburn Tigers. The clash of styles will make for an highly intriguing game. The reason this game is so important for the Wildcats is because the teams they lost to last season either ran the ball very well or operated with tempo on offense. The Tigers do both, and they do both very well. The game is Manhattan, and Kansas State will be prepared very well by the ageless Bill Snyder. This is a program that is built around playing fundamental football and winning close games. Three top offensive linemen may have left the program after last season, but the team should still be very good up front with B.J. Finney at center and Cody Whitehair at left guard. They’ll be blocking for a quarterback, Jake Waters, who will be going into his second season as the team’s starter. And Tyler Lockett is one of the most dynamic wide receivers and return men in the nation. This is a team that could very well finish much higher or lower in the standings. It’s all dependent on whether or not the ball bounces in their favor, because they don’t have a player the caliber of Collin Klein to carry the team to the top of the conference.

6. TCU (Last year: 4-8)
It’s been a rough transition to the Big 12 for the Horned Frogs. The team is 11-14 since making the move. The program lost a combined 13 games the previous six seasons. However, this year’s squad is regarded as the most talented since it entered the league. Last season, the Horned Frogs’ defense played at a high level and finished second in the league. The biggest story line of the offseason, though, was the potential return and eventual dismissal of Devonte Fields. The defensive end was voted the Big 12’s preseason Defensive of the Year even after missing nine games last season due to injury. Fields, who was named the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year in 2012, was a game-changing talent and his presence on the field will be missed greatly. The team also lost one of the best cornerbacks in school history when Jason Verrett graduated and went on to become a first-round selection in May’s NFL draft. Despite these losses, this unit is still talented, particularly at linebacker. Both Jonathan Anderson and Paul Dawson return. And head coach Gary Patterson always has that side of the football prepared to play at a high level. It’s on the offensive side of the football the Horned Frogs are expected to experience the most growth. While a starter has yet to be named at quarterback, Trevone Boykin should be more comfortable behind center after starting nine games last year and Matt Joeckel is a talented transfer from Texas A&M. The team can always lean heavily on its skill positions. Running backs Aaron Green and B.J. Catalon as well as the team’s top receiver, Josh Doctson, are back. TCU may not return to the level of winning it experienced prior to becoming a member of the Big 12, but the team should be much better than 4-8 during the upcoming season.

7. Oklahoma State (Last year: 10-3; lost to Missouri in Cotton Bowl)
It’s difficult to place the Cowboys this low in the standings. After all, the program has won at least 10 games three of the last four years. It’s been seven years since Oklahoma finished this low in the Big 12 standings. The biggest concern for this team is experience. Both sides of the ball will be overhauled after losing a total of 14 starters. It isn’t just how many starters the Cowboys lost, but who they lost. Justin Gilbert was an elite cornerback and returner. Defensive tackle Calvin Barnett could be dominant at times. The team’s top three tacklers from last season are gone. Three of the team’s top four receivers graduated. And the offensive line will have four new starters, while senior Daniel Koenig will transition from right to left tackle. Head coach Mike Gundy will still find ways to manufacture points due to his dynamic offensive scheme, but this is simply too much talent for a team to lose and still hope to be legitimate contenders.

8. Iowa State (Last year: 3-9)
Three years ago, Iowas State head coach Paul Rhoads was considered one of the top coaching candidates in college football. The Cyclones rewarded him with a 10-year contract worth $20 million. The Cyclones are 9-16 since then, and the team is coming off a 3-9 season. Two of those wins came at the end end of the season when quarterback Sam Richardson wasn’t in the starting lineup. Yet, Richardson won this summer’s quarterback competition. The rest of last year’s starting offense remains virtually intact. Plus, Richardson will now have a legitimate No. 1 target at wide receiver in freshman Allen Lazard. Despite the positives on the offensive side of the ball, the Cyclones’ defense was the worst in the Big 12 last season. The program simply doesn’t have the athletes on that side of the ball to compete against the explosive offenses they face this season.

9. West Virginia (Last year: 4-8)
It’s a make-or-break season for West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen. The team has gotten progressively worse each season Holgorsen has been at the helm of the program and tensions are building in Morgantown. Holgorsen’s entire program is built around his offense. An offense which disappointed in 2013 and finished 62nd overall in yardage per game. That level of production simply isn’t good enough when the defense continues to be an issue for the Mountaineers. The defensive coordinator position has been a revolving door under Holgorsen’s supervision. Former Penn State coordinator Tom Bradley was hired as a senior associate head coach during the offseason. Bradley’s inclusion to the staff is a last-ditch attempt to get a woeful defense on track. If it doesn’t and Holgorsen can’t revive his offense — and it doesn’t seem likely — there will be major changes within the program.

10. Kansas (Last year: 3-9)
At this point, what is there to say about Charlie Weis‘ tenure at Kansas? It’s a failed experiment. Yes, the team improved by two wins during Weis’ second season and finally captured a conference victory for the first time in three years. But Weis’ plan to inject talent into the roster with a plethora of junior college additions and transfers didn’t do nearly enough to close the gap with the rest of the teams in the Big 12. All is not bleak, though. The Jayhawks return 17 starters. The team has officially given the reins to quarterback Montell Cozart, who decided to stay in-state to be the future of Jayhawks football. His growth at the position will play a major part in Kansas’ improvement this season. The team also has a solid edge-rushing duo in junior Ben Goodman and senior Michael Reynolds. Overall, It’s difficult to win at this basketball school. And it’s even more difficult to establish a long-term winning culture. After a quick peak at the schedule, it’s hard to project this team winning more than three or four games even in a best-case scenario.

Report: Collin Klein taking grad assistant job at K-State

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It appears that one of the all-time greats at Kansas State is heading home.

While the school has yet to officially announce it, Collin Klein told GoPowerCats.com in an interview Wednesday that he is set to become a member of Bill Snyder‘s coaching staff.  The former K-State quarterback, a finalist for the 2012 Heisman finalist as well as Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, will serve in some capacity, at least initially, as a grad assistant.

While Klein acknowledges he hasn’t “signed any papers or anything like that” making the move official, he did say that the coaching opportunity arose after several conversations with Snyder recently.  It’s also expected Klein will in some capacity work with a position with which he’s very familiar.

“I’m sure I’m going to help with the quarterbacks, but obviously anywhere else they need me as far as supporting the offensive staff,” Klein told the Rivals.com website. “I’m sure I’ll have multiple roles. I’d say it’s some sort of offensive assistant/quality control role. That’s probably what it’ll be.”

Since leaving the Wildcats after the 2012 season, Klein has not been able to latch on toi a playing job at the professional level.

After participating in the NFL scouting Combine — as a tight end — Klein went undrafted in April of 2013.  He was invited to a rookie minicamp with the Houston Texans but wasn’t signed by that club or any other NFL club for that matter.  He signed a two-year contract with the Montreal Alouettes last year but was cut by the CFL team after its first preseason game earlier this month.

This, obviously, will mark Klein’s first foray into coaching.  It likely won’t be his last, however, as many people see the former player as a future head coach.

Navy drops anchor on Army for 12th straight time

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Another year, another Navy victory over Army.

This year’s game was played in a mixture of snow and freezing rain as the game went on, but no matter what sort of wintry mix was falling from the sky, nothing Army was able to do was enough to slow down Navy’s red-hot quarterback Keenan Reynolds. Reynolds set an NCAA record while rushing for three touchdowns to power Navy to a 34-7 victory over their service academy rivals from West Point.

Reynolds tied the NCAA record for most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in a single season with his 27th touchdown run of the year in the second quarter. In the fourth quarter he broke the three-way tie with former Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein and another former Midshipman quarterback, Ricky Dobbs. On his first fourth quarter touchdown run, an 11-yard scamper, Reynolds rushed for his 28th rushing touchdown of the season to become the new record holder for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in a single season. For good measure, he added one more from the one-yard line for his 29th of the season. Reynolds ended his day with 136 rushing yards, the fourth most rushing yards by a Navy player during Navy’s current 12-game winning streak against Army. Only running back Adam Ballard has had more rushing yards for Navy during this stretch, with 192 yards in the 2003 Army Navy Game, and Kyle Eckel‘s 179 yards in the 2004 game and 152 yards in the 2005 game.

Army seemed to struggle to adjust to the weather at times once the snow started to pick up, but this game was more about Navy’s overall advantage on the field when it comes to execution. Navy was just four of 15 on third down conversions, but Army was unable to create any momentum off of that. Army picked up just two first downs out of 11 third down conversions in the game and the Black Knights also went 0-for-2 on fourth downs. Navy was two for three on fourth down, and four for four inside the red zone.

As expected, neither team found much success throwing the football the few times they attempted to do so. Reynolds took just seven pass attempts and completed two for 10 yards.Army quarterback Angel Santiago completed half of his ten attempts for 50 yards, but he was also intercepted at midfield as Navy seemed to be putting the clamps on Army late in the first half. Amy managed just 157 yards of total offense. Navy more than doubled that production with 347 yards of offense.

Army showed signs of life midway through the third quarter when they finally got on the scoreboard with a Santiago touchdown run, but Navy answered with an 11-play drive and a field goal. In the fourth quarter, Reynolds put the game away with his two touchdown runs to earn game MVP honors.

Army’s season is now officially in the books. The Black Knights won just three games this season, and the future of the program could be in some doubt. there has been some talk floating around that Rich Ellerson may have needed this game to potentially save his job. Coaching at Army has to be one of the toughest in the country though, and by most accounts Ellerson has done all he can.With this loss, Ellerson’s record is 20-41 overall and 0-5 against Navy (1-9 against Navy and Air Force, combined).

Navy will go on to play one more game. The Midshipmen will face Middle Tennessee in the Armed Forces Bowl on December 30 in Fort Worth, Texas. Navy missed out on the postseason last year and are just 1-4 in bowl games under head coach Ken Niumatalolo.

Navy gets another year of bragging rights. Next year the Army Navy Game will travel down I-95 from Philadelphia to Baltimore, much closer to Navy’s campus.

Navy’s Reynolds ties NCAA record, Navy leads Army 17-0

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The snow started coming down as the teams were warming up, and the pace of the snowfall has picked up throughout the first half of this year’s edition of the Army Navy Game. As snow continues to blanket the city of Philadelphia in snow for the second time this week, Navy looks to keep their winning streak going. Navy, looking for their 12th straight win in the series, leads Army 17-0 at the half thanks in part to a record-tying touchdown run by Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds.

Navy failed to capitalize on a big run by 58-run by Quinton Singleton late int he first quarter. After breaking a big play Singleton was brought down at the Army four-yard line but the Midshipmen were unable to push forward for a touchdown. Red zone threat Reynolds got as far as the two-yard line but nearly lost a fumble on a short second down play. After Army came up with a big third down stop, Navy gave in and sent Nick Sloan on for a 20-yard field goal in the driving wet snow fall.

Navy would capitalize on a mental mistake by Army midway through the second quarter. After an unsportsmanlike penalty by Army’s Robert Kough, Noah Copeland broke the second big play of the game for a 39-yard run. He was able to shed some defenders on his way to the end zone to give Navy the first touchdown of the game and a 10-0 lead following the point after touchdown. It was his longest career rushing attempt and it could not have come at a better time.

Reynolds would have the next big run of the half, wasting little time to score on a late half possession. On the first play after Army punted away, Reynolds ran right up the middle fo the field for 47 yards and his 27th rushing touchdown of the season. The touchdown run tied former Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs and former Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein for the NCAA rushing touchdown record by a quarterback. Odds are pretty good he will break that record at some point in the second half, or Navy’s Armed Forces Bowl against Middle Tennessee State if needed.

AJ McCarron named the 2013 Unitas Golden Arm Award winner

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Last night it was an Alabama defensive player taking home an individual honor.  This afternoon, a Tide player on the other side of the ball has been honored as well.

AJ McCarron, it was announced Monday, has been named as the 2013 winner of the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award.  McCarron joins Jay Barker as the only Tide quarterbacks to win an award that’s been presented annually since 1987.

McCarron was one of five finalists for this year’s award, along with Clemson’s Tajh Boyd, Fresno State’s Derek Carr, Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch and Georgia’s Aaron Murray.

“It is an unbelievable honor to win the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award.” the quarterback said in a statement. “I can’t thank the Unitas family enough for selecting me as the 2013 winner. To have my name next to all of the great quarterbacks who have won this award in the past is truly an honor. I want to thank my teammates, Coach Saban and all of our assistant coaches for making this possible.”

In McCarron’s three years as a starter, the Tide has gone 36-3 and won a pair of BCS championships.  He’s eighth in the country in passing efficiency this season after finishing No. 1 in 2012, and has thrown just 15 interceptions — and 75 touchdowns — 996 career attempts.

The 2012 winner of the award, given to seniors or fourth-year juniors on schedule to graduate with their class, was Kansas State’s Collin Klein.