CFB DFS: Big 12 Spring Report
When college football season begins months from now, we’re going to be hearing names we’ve never heard. And these guys will be studs. College football is unique in that the turnover is very fast. We see it more and more where players are leaving after their third season and a freshman replaces them. For this reason, I’m here to tell you what happened during each of the power five conferences’ spring practices.
The Big 12 is a really fun conference to cover because of its tempo and talent. It’s also nice that the defenses are pretty average at best. Teams like Baylor, TCU and Texas Tech will push the pace of play to the max resulting in typically great offensive days. The Baylor Bears have to replace some important pieces in 2015, but they should have plenty of depth to handle that.
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There were people that said Seth Russell wasn’t going to win the job in the spring, but boy were they wrong. Russell showed up big in the spring game throwing for 345 yards on 18 completions (27 attempts) and did it with the first-team offense. I think Russell is the best quarterback Baylor has, but anyone could be successful with the receivers they have. Corey Coleman and KD Cannon both brought in 50+ yard touchdowns in the spring game and they have another veteran, Jay Lee, who had a very solid season in 2014 (41/633/6). There is one receiver you need to keep an eye on immediately and especially if someone were to get hurt and that is Ishmael Zamora. The 6’4, 220lb redshirt freshman has big size and speed and could easily put up big numbers if given the opportunity. Art Briles has compared him to former Baylor star, Josh Gordon, so you know he thinks very highly of how he plays.
The Cyclones could surprise some people this fall with the way they’ll be able to throw the football. It’ll be up to Sam Richardson to lead the offense, at least to start, but he’ll have a bunch of resources to help him out. His receiver group might be a top three-receiver group when it comes to pure talent. Allen Lazard and D’Vario Montgomery are two very nice returners from last season and we’ll even see Quenton Bundrage, a receiver who sat out the 2014 season due to injury, back in action in 2015. Those three out wide are an intimidating group at 6’2, 6’5 and 6’6. The running back group is young and inexperienced, and I don’t suspect anyone will do enough to make them a CFB DFS play on a consistent basis.
The Jayhawks offense is not one to write home about nor is it one that will cause any excitement on Saturdays, but I do think they have a shot at being a reliable source for tight ends. From the sounds of how spring practice is going, the Jayhawks like the two top tight ends they have: Ben Johnson and Kent Taylor. Both are 6’5 with limited experience, but Johnson did catch eight passes for 80 yards last season even though he was behind Jimmay Mundine.
When it comes down to it, this offense is going to bite off smaller chunks of yardage at a time because of their weak quarterback play. Michael Cummings and Montell Cozart are limited in talent, but are being allowed to use their legs more, which is a great thing. It would be better if Cummings won the job, but he injured his knee in the spring game and has to have surgery on it. We don’t know how bad it is, but it will be hard for him to start the season. I expect Cozart to start the season as Kansas’ starter.
Like a lot of teams this offseason, there are big questions concerning quarterback play. The Wildcats have that issue, but it’s more of a problem than others I’ll be talking about this offseason. Joe Hubener was the backup last season, but has yet to start a game at quarterback… Ever. He’s a walk-on quarterback who played defensive back and receiver in high school. He’s likely the front runner for the job due to his legs and the fact passing isn’t a huge part of the offense. This Kansas State team has seen plenty of games where passing was limited and was successful doing that (see Daniel Sams/Jake Waters in 2013). I expect this offense to become extremely run based and because of that Charles Jones, the number one running back, should also benefit from this system.
The Sooners didn’t really give us any input as to who the starting quarterback would be come game one, but they did show us a little bit of what their offense will be like. They’re going to have a new offense this season under Lincoln Riley and it looks to be one based off the run and spreading the ball around through the air. While I buy the first part of that sentence, I think the passing game will be based around Sterling Shepard. He’s their star receiver that is back and should be very good for them.
Their running game was impressive in the spring game with Daniel Brooks running 20 times for 150 yards and adding 42 yards through the air. Samaje Perine wasn’t allowed to be tackled during the game, so he didn’t have any real stats. Alex Ross caught a touchdown, but was ineffective on the ground rushing 17 times for 62 yards. This Sooners defense was very solid against the run in 2014, so that’s a good sign for Brooks. Remember, Keith Ford transferred and Joe Mixon has gotten into trouble in the past.
The other team in Oklahoma, the Cowboys, don’t’ have a quarterback problem, as they’ve all but named Mason Rudolph their starter. J.W. Walsh will be the backup and be a safety net if any injuries occur to Rudolph. The biggest thing to look at here is the running back situation. Rennie Childs was the big player in the spring game with Todd Mays hurt and Chris Carson still not at school. Childs is the returning leader in rushing yards with Tyreke Hill kicked off the team and Desmond Roland graduated. Those three ran it 383 times in 2014, so there is obviously a plan of running the football. If Childs has a great rest of the offseason we could be looking at a 20+ rush attempt guy per game.
There are plenty of questions around this offense and I’m not so sure we’re going to see the kind of players to have a great offense here in Austin. While I do love Tyrone Swoopes, he is a typical young quarterback, making bad decisions and rushing throws. Coach Strong has said that he is the number one guy right now, but backup Jerrod Heard had a nice spring game after sitting out all of 2014 as a redshirt. Strong also said that Heard is a “legitimate threat” to Swoopes at the position.
At wide receiver, Daje Johnson was supposed to be the guy to replace John Harris and Jaxon Shipley, but he struggled big time during the spring game. He’s a speedster who couldn’t get into any space and had two turnovers in the game. Overall, this offense is a work in progress, but it is nice to see that their plan of speeding up the offense is being worked on. This in itself would benefit them in the eyes of CFB DFS players.
While Trevone Boykin is going to be an exciting and profitable player to use this season, I think Aaron Green will have tons of value. He’s an extremely talented running back that will have no one looking over his shoulder in 2015. He totaled 114 yards and scored two TDs against Ole Miss in their bowl game last season. Something encouraging to see is the amount of usage Green had compared to B.J. Catalon when he was healthy. Catalon ran the ball 14 or more times just twice in eight games while Green ran it 14+ times in four of six games. I don’t think this will affect Boykin’s value much if at all because Green still wasn’t used like a Samaje Perine in Oklahoma’s offense. If anything, it makes this offense more dynamic in 2015.
This Red Raiders offense is very dependent on quarterback play and they didn’t get the best out of their guys during their spring scrimmage. Patrick Mahomes ended the 2014 season with some great numbers but has focused on baseball this spring. He didn’t look good on down the field passes but did end up with three touchdowns. There wasn’t much of a quarterback battle due to Davis Webb sitting out the game (non-throwing arm shoulder surgery). There isn’t much to take away from the scrimmage for that reason alone. There is a load of talent at the running back position and it starts with DeAndre Washington. He ran for 1,100+ yards last season and continued that success with a nice offseason. They also return Justin Stockton and Quinton White, who didn’t post great numbers in 2014, but have looked great in the spring.
When junior Skyler Howard was announced as the starter this spring, I thought for sure we wouldn’t see freshman William Crest Jr. for another year. Now, I think we might be in for one of the most exciting and interesting players in CFB DFS this season. To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, here’s a quote from Dana Holgorsen this spring:
“We’re going to continue to … figure out what he does best, whether that’s playing receiver, running back, quarterback, punt returner or kick returner.”
If you don’t believe him then just look at Crest Jr.’s stats in the spring game: 3 for 5 for 31 yards passing, three catches for 31 yards, and 12 rushes for 47 yards. Now, this could get really tricky if he is eligible on sites as a RB/WR. Last season we saw Greg Ward Jr. become a very good CFB DFS quarterback when he made the move in the middle of the season from wide receiver to quarterback. This allowed many to plug him into their lineups as a wide receiver, yet get the kind of usage that a quarterback gets.
Rushel Shell is going to be the starter at running back, but the Mountaineers are missing Kevin White and Mario Alford from their very good receiving group in 2014. Crest Jr. obviously is an athletic player who we need to follow. Don’t sleep on him this summer and early fall.
Check out Chris’ Spring Reports for the other power conferences:
What players or teams do you have your eye on for the upcoming CFB DFS season?