(Our spring wraps are a recap of events from spring practices from around the country. For more detailed information on each team see our Conference Look Aheads)
Looking for some actual fantasy players that emerged this spring? No shock that they come from the Big XII, a conference where the next great fantasy superstar is a commencement, suspension or injury away. While there are plenty of position wars to be waged this summer and fall, we did find lots of answers in this conference formed fifteen years ago. Taylor Potts will start at Texas Tech. Dezmon Briscoe is back in good graces for now. And DeMarco Murray and Dez Bryant will be just fine, thanks for asking. In a league with more superstars than any other, the attention paid to these gamebreakers allows for others to become fantasy factors. And no position sees more of these emerging stars than the wide receiver spot, and this is a far cry from the days of Switzer and Osborne.
Movers and Shakers (newbies that made noise)
** QB Taylor Potts, Texas Tech
QB Carson Coffman, Kansas State
QB Zac Lee, Nebraska
**RB Baron Batch, Texas Tech
RB Harrison Jeffers, Texas Tech
**WR Adron Tennell, Oklahoma
**WR Jeff Fuller, Texas A&M
*WR Malcolm Williams, Texas
*WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
WR Alex Torres, Texas Tech
WR Josh Cooper , Oklahoma State
WR Jerrell Jackson, Missouri
WR Attrail Snipes, Kansas State
*TE Collin Franklin, Iowa State
TE Patrick Devenny, Colorado
* denotes draft worthy player in BCS-only leagues
** denotes draft worthy player in All-120 leagues
We already knew that Robert Griffin was really good, but this spring he emerged as the true leader of the Bears. It sounds like we’ll have an even better quarterback on our hands. He’s in the early stages of a career that will leave him a legend in Waco.
Kendall Wright spent most of the spring with the hoops team and he’ll be Griffin’s go-to guy for as long as the two are tormenting defenses at the collegiate level. And remember the name Jacob Salubi; this redshirt freshman had a very nice spring, and he could make a play for time right away.
Rodney Stewart was back, carrying the ball 8 times for 52 yards in the spring game, but he was trumped by Darrell Scott’s 128 yards from scrimmage. Much like the Six-Million Dollar Man, Darrell Scott has come back better/faster/stronger.
QB Tyler Hansen broke his thumb and this leaves the QB competition to be settled this fall. Don't be surprised to see a QB rotation like the end of last year. The Buffs will lean on the ground game more than the passing game this fall, though when they pass keep an eye on Patrick Devenny, a tight end who emerged this spring.
The Cyclones are moving to the Rice Owl (new OC Tom Herman) version of the spread-em-out attack, and this spring the coaches praised running back Alexander Robinson. Though the big winner of the offensive switch may be Darius Darks who, though a hamstring slowed him this spring, appears tailor-made for this scheme.
The Austen Arnaud/Jerome Tiller battle at quarterback is still pretty close, and word is Iowa State will use their tight ends as wide receivers. Yes, we’re looking for another James Casey too. Keep an eye on Marquis Hamilton and Sedrick Johnson.
The big news of the spring was WR Dezmon Briscoe’s suspension, which has since been lifted by coach Mark Mangino. All appears good, though you may want to keep an eye on Johnathan Wilson should Briscoe’s antics cause problems in the near future.
Otherwise the KU offense looks like it’ll be a pretty explosive unit in 2008, though it’d be nice if Kale Pick would make enough strides at quarterback to allow Kerry Meier to focus solely on wide receiver and not worry about playing a little backup signal caller. And the suspension of Jocques Crawford eliminates any doubt that Jake Sharp will be the man in the Jayhawks’ backfield.
Bill Snyder just couldn't wait to run up the score, only this time it was against his own team as the Purple team defeated the White team 45-0. QB Carson Coffman, working with the first team offense, was on the winning side of the ledger and has an early lead on the starting job. And while he did have 27-yard scamper on a read option play, we still wonder if he fits the Snyder mold at quarterback.
Otherwise Snyder has been a grumpy old curmudgeon, finding fault with the team’s progress and practices. He’s also made reference to a changing role for wide receiver Brandon Banks, which means he’s likely going to see a few more carries, possibly in a Harvin/McCluster role. This, plus the dismissal of wide receiver Deon Murphy means that Banks may be a busy boy this fall.
Keithen Valentine may also see some steady work out of a thin backfield as well.
Well the baton has been passed from Chase Daniel to Blaine Gabbert, and spring ball portrays a young quarterback that will have his moments, both good and bad. The other Blaine (Dalton) is apparently taking off-field decision-making advice from Stephen Garcia, as he was popped with a bunch of illegal stuff on a recent traffic stop. Although based on Dalton's story, this could work itself out rather quickly. Speaking of Blaines, the Missouri Tigers quarterback depth chart has recently seen two guys named Blaine, two guys named Chase, and an Ashton. George Carlin would’ve had a field day with these names.
Running back Derrick Washington missed most of spring following minor knee surgery, though De'Vion Moore stepped up and should be able to spell Washington when necessary.
On the pass-catching front Michael Egnew is a very nice sleeper prospect at tight end, Jared Perry missed spring ball with shoulder injuries, Jerrell Jackson looked good, and Danario Alexander’s knee may never be right.
Quarterback Patrick Witt decided to transfer to Yale, and let’s be honest, if you’re looking for a place to land following a transfer you could do a lot worse than New Haven, CT. And wide receiver Niles Paul was suspended for DUI. His status is up in the air.
As for those certain to make an impact in Lincoln this year, we heard great things about QB Zac Lee, who surged ahead of Cody Green thanks to solid play and Green’s hip injury. Something tells us this quarterback battle isn’t over though.
The running game, led by Roy Helu Jr. and Quentin Castille, is in very good hands, though shared duty will likely drive owners nuts.
Most of our attention was turned to the OU wide receivers this spring, and it appears that things are rounding into form. Ryan Broyles moves from slot receiver to the outside (at least in some sets), and he has all the appearances of a fantasy star. In Bob Stoops’ attempt to get yet another stud on the field we’ll see running back Mossis Madu lining up in the slot. It also appears that Adron Tennell will be a factor, and we are anxiously awaiting the arrival of JUCO Cameron Kenney.
In the backfield everything sounds good on DeMarco Murray’s knee, and he and Chris Brown appear all ready to torment more defensive units.
On the keeper front we strongly recommend an early investment in quarterback Landry Jones and running back Jermie Calhoun. Each has received rave reviews during camp, and each will be ready to step in when the opportunity presents itself.
Of course the spring in Norman was overshadowed by the tragic car accident involving wide receiver Corey Wilson. All continue to wish this young man nothing but the best as he continues his recovery.
Running back Keith Toston made up some ground as he looks to see the field more, though the starting job still belongs to Kendall Hunter. Zac Robinson saw a very light spring, as did our top national wide receiver, Dez Bryant, who is recovering from relatively minor knee surgery. And while Dez Bryant was taking it easy we had an all-out battle for snaps at the other wide receiver spots.
The dismissal of Damian Davis and suspension of Bo Bowling opened the door for some wide receivers to emerge, and it appears that Justin Blackmon and Josh Cooper made the most of the opportunity. Blackmon appears to be in the lead for the #2 spot, though Cooper (and Hubert Anyiam) will make noise.
The running back situation in Texas is still a mess, both for Mack Brown and fantasy owners. Vondrell McGee, Foswhitt Whittaker and Cody Johnson all bring different dishes to the proverbial table, but none has done enough to steal the job. Johnson missed the end of spring with a hamstring injury. We’ll have to wait until fall camp, and the arrival of ballyhooed freshman Chris Whaley, before we can firmly tell you not to draft a Longhorn back.
Poor John Chiles continues to see his collegiate career in flux as he moved to wide receiver full-time. He has talent, but his conditioning and the fact that he’s learning a brand new role this late in the game makes it hard to see any significant fantasy impact.
Malcolm Williams had a solid spring, good enough to pencil him in as starter alongside Jordan Shipley, who was granted a sixth year. Jordan, we too would want to stay in Austin as long as possible.
Looking for a real super-duper sleeper? Wide receiver Brock Fitzhenry seems to have a nice future ahead of him.
Ryan Tannehill asked to be moved back to QB for chance to compete for the starting gig. However rotator cuff surgery kept him out most of spring. It will be interesting to see what happens in fall camp with this talent; with Jerrod Johnson’s presence we think he will end up back at WR. Although, the Aggies do lack depth at quarterback.
Are running backs Cyrus Gray and Bradley Stephens just keeping the seat warm for Christine Michael? Gray appeared to be the leader exiting spring. Reports of WR Jeff Fuller toying with A&M defenders have us giddy about his prospects in 2009, and this furthers our belief that there may be no more maddening offense than the Aggies.
There is plenty of skill position talent, and A&M plays in a defense-optional conference yet they struggle to put up points. It may soon be make or break time for Mike Sherman.
Taylor Potts had his ups and downs this spring but still saw a majority of the first team reps, all but putting to rest a quarterback controversy. And this is wonderful news for fantasy owners.
Our favorite to emerge at the flanker spot, Lyle Leong, missed of spring ball and this really made trying to put the Texas Tech wide receiver puzzle in place a difficult chore. Alex Torres stepped up in Leong's absence, and Detron Lewis had a great spring camp and is still the most reliable of the group. But the starters won't be determined until this fall. We'll attempt to put this jigsaw together in an upcoming article.
This spring did nothing but reaffirm our belief in running back Baron Batch. Batch will enter fall camp as the feature back, though fellow running back Harrison Jeffers could also be in the mix as a change-of-pace. He has speed to burn and will battle Aaron Crawford, who nursed a shoulder injury this spring, for playing time behind Batch.