This article is part of our Spring Practice Preview series.
College football spring practices are firing up, which means RotoWire will preview key job position battles and storylines at schools across the country. This article will feature the top job battle at each school within the conference and provide a projected outlook for the group for the 2022 campaign.
The bombshell was dropped last season when it was announced that Oklahoma and Texas would depart the Big 12 for the SEC, however, that likely won't occur until 2024 at the earliest as there's a lot of details to be ironed out regarding the conference's current television contract that runs through 2025. With those anticipated departures, the conference has added BYU starting in 2023 with Houston, UCF and Cincinnati to soon follow.
It's terribly hard to predict what may happen two or three years down the road, so let's stick to the Big 12 as it's currently constructed which remains a crucial conference for CFF purposes. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Baylor top the preseason odds, but there's a ton of talent across this entire conference landscape.
Spring Storyline: Intriguing Quarterback Battle
Head coach Dave Aranda earned his extension through 2029 during the 2021 season by winning the Big 12 conference and knocking off Ole Miss in the Sugar Bowl. Although Aranda is known as a defensive mastermind, the Bears surprised everyone with an efficient offense led by both Gerry Bohanon and Blake Shapen last season. Shapen, a freshman, was forced to replace the injured Bohanon late in the season and accumulated five touchdowns versus no interceptions while completing 72 percent of his passes. He even managed three touchdown passes and no interceptions against a stingy Oklahoma State defense in the Big 12 Championship.
Whoever does win the starting job will be worth consideration for CFF as Baylor returns four of their five starting offensive lineman for the best rushing team in the conference last season. Both Shapen and Bohanon are known to tote the rock and may need to do so a bit more with unproven running backs in Taye McWilliams and Craig Williams. Both backs will be enticing, yet the value could be with the quarterback as Bohanon did average 6.3 carries per game and had nine total rushing scores in 12 games last year.
Spring Storyline: Can RB Breece Hall be Replaced?
It will be nearly impossible to match the 3,941 yards and 50 touchdowns notched by Hall during his three seasons with Iowa State. He was simply the best running back in the conference with two Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year awards. Jirehl Brock has served as his understudy for the last three years and should have no problem transitioning into a significant role in Ames.
The running back will be the Cyclones' best friend in 2022 as they get used to a new quarterback in Hunter Dekkers. While Dekkers will have a potent weapon in wide receiver Xavier Hutchinson, it's going to take a little time for them to find their chemistry. Moreover, Iowa State's defense could be sneaky good this season which has me projecting Brock to be the player you want on your fantasy squad. Brock shouldn't have too much competition on the depth chart as Eli Sanders and Deon Silas have only a combined 22 carries in their young careers.
Spring Storyline: Can QB Jalon Daniels be the Real Deal?
Daniels elevated the play of the Jayhawks in late 2021 by helping lead the team to a surprising road win at Texas in Week 11 and near wins against TCU and West Virginia in the following weeks. In those three games, he averaged 25.5 fantasy points, including a rushing score in each contest. That momentum will likely give him the starting job over Jason Bean in the upcoming season. Bean started nine games for the Jayhawks to start the 2021 season before being replaced due to injury.
Spring reports have Daniels working to become bigger and faster in order to win the quarterback competition. He's particularly been watching Alabama's Bryce Young to help him learn from his mistakes from last season. With some solid weapons like RB Devin Neal, WR Kwamie Lassiter and WR Luke Grimm, the Kansas offense could be much improved in 2022. The potential to get some fantasy value here is very high.
Spring Storyline: An Electric Backfield
The Wildcats will welcome Nebraska-transfer quarterback Adrian Martinez who rushed for at least 500 yards and seven touchdowns in each of his four seasons in Lincoln. Pair him with running back Deuce Vaughn who ended the 2022 season with six straight 100-yard rushing performances and you have quite the dynamic duo in the backfield. If Kansas State can seriously compete in the Big 12, Martinez and Vaughn could get some legitimate Heisman Hype.
As usual, Kansas State will have one of the best defenses in the conference. Their DE Felix Anudike-Uzomah is an absolute monster as he led the nation in forced fumbles and had an eye-popping 11 sacks a year ago. Watch out for the Wildcats, who could be one of the most exciting teams in the conference and there should be no hesitation if looking at Vaughn and Martinez early in CFF Drafts.
Spring Storyline: Can the Offense Keep Chugging Along at Wide Receiver?
All the attention has been on new coach Brent Venables and the defense, but Oklahoma's sustainability on offense may be their savior for the 2022 season. Offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby will make sure they remain fast-paced and ultimately one of the most exciting units in the nation. Driving their efficiency will be a diverse wide receiver group who should be able to be more productive than they have in the past with transfer quarterback Dillon Gabriel.
It all starts with Marvin Mims who has led the Sooners in each of the last two seasons as primarily a deep-threat option. He'll need to add to his game in his third year as Oklahoma will rely on him to be more an all-around threat with teammate Theo Wease on the outside. After those two, it's some new names with Drake Stoops and Jalil Farooq fighting for the third spot on the depth chart. With Oklahoma rebuilding on the defensive side, I expect this receiving group to remain one of the most impactful in the nation and worth watching for the rest of the spring and intothere are the fall.
Spring Storyline: Who Will be the Cowboys' Top Running Back?
Jaylen Warren was a beast last year with 1,216 yards and 11 touchdowns on a workhorse appetite of 256 carries. It was anticipated that LD Brown or Dezmon Jackson would step into Warren's role, however, Brown is attempting to play on Sundays and Jackson hit the transfer portal. With an established and experienced quarterback in Spencer Sanders, who will be that RB1 in Oklahoma State's offense?
The candidates include Dominic Richardson and Jaden Nixon. Few remember that Warren was actually behind Richardson on the depth chart last fall before rising to the top in his lone season with the Cowboys. Richardson enters the year with more experience than Nixon and even had 134 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries against TCU in Week 10. Expect both backs to see a significant role in 2022 with the hot hand seeing the majority of the work.
Spring Storyline: Which QB will Sonny Dykes Go With?
New coach Sonny Dykes has quite the decision in front of him at the signal-caller position with the experienced Max Duggan or the up-and-coming Chandler Morris. The Horned Frogs lost their five-star running back, Zach Evans, to Ole Miss, but still do have Quentin Johnston who is one of the most promising wide receivers in the conference.
Morris burst onto the scene with 44.1 fantasy points against Baylor in Week 10 before being shut-down to save a redshirt season. Yes, that same Baylor team that won the conference and was one of the best teams in the country. Meanwhile, Duggan had a rollercoaster type of season that ended with foot surgery. He's supposed to be back for spring ball, but the quarterback battle will likely last all the way into the fall. Dykes has always fielded a dynamic offense that can put up points, so while Morris likely has a higher ceiling, Duggan would be just fine in the interim.
Spring Storyline: One of the Premier Quarterback Battles in the Nation
There will be plenty written about Hudson Card, Maalik Murphy and Quinn Ewers as they battle it out for a chance to head up Steve Sarkisian's second-year offense. Ewers is expected to win the job as he's a five-start recruit from the state of Texas which means everyone wants to see him excel in this spot. Don't give up on Card and Murphy though who are both extremely talented themselves, plus there's a reason Ewers transferred away from Ohio State after a single year behind C.J. Stroud.
This battle should attract a lot of eyes from CFF players as Texas has a couple of dangerous weapons in RB Bijan Robinson and WR Xavier Worthy who are two of the best in the nation at their respective positions. Whether it's Card, Murphy or Ewers, they should be able to put up QB1 numbers with this kind of firepower. With a full off-season to prepare, Sarkisian should be able to put together an offensive game plan which has the Longhorns back in the national conversation.
Spring Storyline: New Ideas at the Wide Receiver Position
The Red Raiders will make quite a bit of changes on the offensive side with a new coaching regime including new offensive coordinator Zach Kittley. Kittley was the architect behind Bailey Zappe with the Western Kentucky offense last season and Houston Baptist the year before. The biggest question will be how they replace their top two pass-catchers from a year ago.
Wideout Myles Price returns as their top-producing receiver with 38 catches for 523 yards and two touchdowns in 2021. Recent reports have reserve running backs Xavier White and Chadarius Townsend making the move to the wide receiver position which is something to watch during spring practices. This makes sense as White was a 1,000 yard receiver in high school and has 49 catches in three seasons with the Red Raiders.
Spring Storyline: Running Back Competition is Wide Open
The Mountaineers are looking at a new coaching staff and an entirely new-looking offense. That was only accelerated further when quarterback Jarret Doege announced his transfer to Western Kentucky. That leaves Garrett Greene, Will Crowder and Nicco Marchiol fighting it out in the quarterback competition. That one is too close to call at the moment, so the running back battle seems more intriguing for CFF purposes.
Tony Mathis will likely enter the spring as the top back with the most experience in a West Virginia uniform. Yet, Lyn-J Dixon will be the player to roster for CFF as he could be a game-changer with the Mountaineers. He was never able to truly break out from his reserve role at Clemson but should get plenty of opportunity at West Virginia.