Shontrelle Johnson

CFT Predicts: the Big 12


As the 2013 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we examine the Big 12. 

While we’re at it, be sure to check out our other conference predictions: SECBig TenPac-12

1. TCU (Last year: 7-6; lost to Michigan State in Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl) 
What happened last season?
Thanks to injuries, dismissals and attrition of various varieties, the Horned Frogs tossed a lot of young players into their first Big 12 fire and still managed to win seven games. Included in the list of new faces was quarterback Trevone Boykin, who played out the final two months of the season while Casey Pachall dealt with substance abuse issues. Of all the success Gary Patterson‘s had in Fort Worth, 2012 may have been was his best coaching job, and a young defense buckled down in the final month of the season.

So why are they picked here?
Most of them youngins mentioned above are back. The offense should be fine no matter which quarterback, Pachall or Boykin, takes the field. And they’ll have options at their disposal too. Running back Waymon James averaged nearly 10 yards per carry in two games before going down with a season-ending knee injury. In that vein, TCU’s backfield had its fair share of injuries, but when healthy, it should flourish alongside a solid receiving unit.

And that defense? It should be the best in the conference with just about everybody coming back (minus linebacker and second-leading tackler Joel Hasley).

Anything else?
Some departures just before, and around the start of, preseason camp have put a dent in the offensive line and linebacker units. Defensive end Devonte Fields will miss some early-season action as well. But Patterson is well-respected around these parts and he’s shown as recently as a year ago that he can coach around injuries. Also, the Horned Frogs have some intriguing road games at Oklahoma (Oct. 5), Oklahoma State (Oct. 19) and Kansas State (Nov. 16) that should provide tough tests. Going to Lubbock in the early portion of the season (Sept. 12) and Ames in November (Nov. 9) aren’t always picnics, either.

2. Texas (last year: 9-4; beat Oregon State in Alamo Bowl)
What happened last season?
Texas experienced about as many ups and downs as a nine-win team could possibly go through in one season. The Longhorns got taken to the woodshed (again) by Oklahoma and still couldn’t find a way to beat Kansas State, but a come-from-behind win against Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl cleansed the football palate just enough to make the offseason bearable. The offense, led by quarterback David Ash, was inconsistent and the defense exhibited too many breakdowns in fundamentals and tackling. 

So why are they picked here?
That’s a handsome question considering there wasn’t a lot praise being doled out in the 2012 recap. But the simple answer is Texas brings back among the most experienced group of starters not just in the Big 12, but in the country. There’s no denying the skill position talent on offense, where receivers Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley should be complemented by the deepest backfield in the conference. If the defense can improve even a little — getting Jordan Hicks back should help — this team has the potential to be dangerous.

Anything else?
Yeah, about that Mack Brown. Two BCS championship appearances (and winning one) would normally eliminate Brown from being mentioned as a concern, but media members in Big 12 country didn’t seem to have a lot of confidence in him when they picked Texas to finish fourth in the conference this year. I’m a little more convinced Texas will ascend to the top, or near the top, of the Big 12, which should be wide open this year. But if Brown can’t make it happen this year, it’s hard to see him hanging around much longer.


Iowa State RB cleared for return to team activities


It’s been seven months to the day since it was reported Iowa State running back Shontrelle Johnson would miss the Cyclones’ bowl game because of a knee injury. Now, Iowa State is getting Johnson back.

Paul Rhoads confirmed Johnson has been cleared to return to all team activities, according to the Ames Tribune. Fall camp for ISU starts up on Aug. 5.

Iowa State struggled getting the ground game going in 2012, with Johnson and James White combining for just 1,009 yards and four touchdowns. Both players are seniors for the Cyclones this season.

Iowa State’s leading RB to miss Liberty Bowl


Iowa State’s regular season rematch with Tulsa in the Liberty Bowl will be played without the team’s leading rusher. Per Cyclones coach Paul Rhoads, running back Shontrelle Johnson will miss the New Year’s Eve game with a knee injury he suffered during practice.

Rhoads didn’t get into the specifics of the injury, but it will require surgery — that will likely take place next month — and Johnson sustained it while making a cut. You can put two and two together on that one.

“He planted, and you know how violently he plants,” Rhoads said. “Something gave.”

Johnson was the team’s leading rusher in 2012 with 504 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Symbolizing ISU’s ground game struggles this season, he was also the only running back to eclipse 100 yards in a game — coincidentally enough in a 38-23 win against the Golden Hurricane in the first game of the season.

Fellow running back James White, who was also injured in practice, is expected to be healthy enough to play in the bowl game.

Iowa State down its leading rusher for Farmageddon

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If Iowa State wants to upset No. 6 Kansas State, it’ll need all the help it can get. Unfortunately for the Cyclones, they won’t have leading rusher James White.

ISU made it official a short while ago that White will not play because of a knee injury.

White has 264 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns on the season. Stepping up in White’s absence should be Shontrelle Johnson, who isn’t far behind White with 229 yards rushing and a touchdown.