Kevin Lonnquist Lists His Top Big 12 Passing Tandems Heading Into 2012
By KEVIN LONNQUIST
The Big 12 was known for its out-of-site offensive numbers in 2011. Just look at the final total offense figures and you’ll know why.
According to the NCAA, Baylor was second (587.1 ypg), Oklahoma State third (549.9), Oklahoma fifth (512.3) and Texas Tech 13th (470.6). If you include the conference’s newest members, West Virginia was 15th (469.5) and TCU 28th (440.2), defensive coordinators are probably going to age some more this fall with what they are about to endure. This conference has some great combinations entering, returning or about to blossom, so let’s give you what we believe will be the most exciting to watch in the Rattle and Hum Sports Big 12 Passing Tandem Rankings.
- Geno Smith-Tavon Austin, West Virginia: Scary. Big 12 fans are going to get to know this duo very quickly. Smith is a Heisman Trophy candidate. He threw for 4,385 yards and 31 TDs. Those RG3 numbers. If it wasn’t for Oklahoma QB Landry Jones, he’d be a cinch for preseason All Big 12 first-team Austin had a breakout year with 1,186 yards and eight TD catches. He’s only 5-9 but look out when he’s in the open field.
- Landry Jones-Kenny Stills, Oklahoma: Ho-hum. All you have is another 4,000-yard passer (4,463) in Jones, who is a Heisman Trophy candidate, and a receiver in Stills (849, 8 TD) who now owns the stage as the Sooners go-to guy. Admittedly, Jones struggled toward the end of the season (1 TD, 6 int) in his last four games. But he had a great spring and is determined to put the past in the past. Stills averaged nearly 14 yards per reception.
- Seth Doege-Eric Ward, Texas Tech: When the running game caved in last year, Doege stepped up and threw for 4,004 yards and 28 TDs. He helped some receivers grow including Ward. Although Ward was more or less a possession receiver, he broke out in the last game of the season against Baylor with 151 yards and two TDs. He finished at 800 total receiving yards and should be a favorite target again.
- Casey Pachall-Josh Boyce, TCU: Pachall was a little wobbly at times in his debut season when he replaced Andy Dalton. But as the season progressed, he was better. He threw for 2,921 yards and 25 TDs. Boyce just missed a 1,000-yard season with 998. But he is definitely excitement with the ball in his hands. He averaged nearly 17 yards per catch so an opposing secondary better be ready.
- Nick Florence-Terrance Williams, Baylor: Go back to the third quarter of last year’s 66-42 Bears victory over Texas Tech at Cowboys Stadium and that’s where the premiere of this relationship began. Florence, who is the presumed starter in 2012, found Williams on a 40-yard touchdown pass. Florence isn’t Robert Griffin III but he demonstrated he can run the offense like he did in 2009. Williams also just missed 1,000 yards with 957 but should top that mark this fall.
- Wes Lunt-Tracy Moore, Oklahoma State: Yes, this is bit speculative but this is where you have to defer to Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy and his history of developing quarterbacks. He named Lunt his starter (for now) after spring ball, even though he’s a freshman. Moore is the most experienced receiver returning. It may take some time for them to develop some chemistry, but this program always finds a way to move the football.
- Collin Klein-Chris Harper, Kansas State: The Wildcats are going to establish the run first. Klein was respectable at 1,918 passing yards and completing 57 percent of his passes. Harper is the most experienced receiver in the corps. He’s going to have to lead by example and led all receivers with five touchdown grabs in 2011. The Wildcats are just going to have to throw the ball a little better in 2012.
- David Ash-Jaxon Shipley, Texas: Yes, it’s a bit surprising to see Texas ranked this low. But given the instability with the quarterback situation, you have to start there. If Ash (1,079, 57%, 4 TD, 8 int) is really the guy, then he has to work his way into this role and make quality passes. Shipley (607 receiving yards) is likely going to be a carbon copy of his older brother Jordan and still has three years ahead of him.
- Jared Barnett/Steele Jantz-Josh Lenz, Iowa State: Paul Rhoades rotated the position between those two last year and there doesn’t seem to be any reason why each won’t get his fair share of snaps again in 2012. The two combined for 2,700 passing yards and 16 TDs. Yet each barely completed 50 percent of his passes. Lenz (510 yards) is the most polished of the receivers.
- Dayne Crist-D.J Beshears, Kansas: There’s a lot to do with this Jayhawk passing game. Coach Charlie Weis thought the group made strides in his first spring. Crist gets a new lease on life after transferring from Notre Dame. By process of elimination, Beshears (437 yards) is the receiver of choice. However, Weis is looking for other people to step up and become big-time receivers in his intricate system.
Pre-season Big 12 First-team Announced
Meanwhile the Big 12 released its preseason All-Big 12 team and preseason awards on Wednesday. Here are the first team selections. The preseason rankings won’t come out until the meetings next week in Dallas. I’ll have mine released next week as I voted in this.
Offensive Player of the Year: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Defensive Player of the Year: Alex Okafor, DE, Texas
Newcomer of the Year: Trey Metoyer, WR, Oklahoma
QB: Geno Smith, WVU
RB: Malcom Brown, Texas
RB: Joseph Randle, Oklahoma State
WR: Tavon Austin, WVU
WR: Kenny Stills, Oklahoma
TE: Jordan Najvar, Baylor
C: Ben Habern, Oklahoma
OL: Lane Taylor, Oklahoma State
OL: Cyril Richardson, Baylor
OL: Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma
OL: LaAdrian Waddle, Texas Tech
DL: Alex Okafor, Texas
DL: Stansly Maponga, TCU
DL: Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas
DL: Jamarkus McFarland, Oklahoma
LB: Jake Knott, Iowa State
LB: Arthur Brown, Kansas State
LB: A.J. Klein, Iowa State
DB: Nigel Malone, Kansas State
DB: Brodrick Brown, Oklahoma State
DB: Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
DB: Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma
P: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
PK: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
PR: Tavon Austin, West Virginia
KR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
TCU quarterback Casey Pachall was named to Davey O’Brien watch list. The award is given to the nation’s top quarterback. He will be joined by Landry Jones (Oklahoma), Seth Doege (Texas Tech), Collin Klein (Kansas State) and Geno Smith (West Virginia)…Pachall’s teammate and wide receiver Josh Boyce has been named to the watch list for the Biletnikoff Award, recognizing the nation’s top wide receiver.