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The best of Big 12 football: Gearing up for the 2010 season

Dozens of names, teams and moments as we prepare for the Big 12's final season with 12 teams.
By Jake Trotter and Brandon Chatmon, Staff Writers Modified: August 1, 2010 at 12:42 pm •  Published: July 31, 2010

photo - OU receiver Ryan Broyles tops The Oklahoman's list of top players in the Big 12 for the 2010-11 season. PHOTO BY CHRIS LANDSBERGER, THE OKLAHOMAN
OU receiver Ryan Broyles tops The Oklahoman's list of top players in the Big 12 for the 2010-11 season. PHOTO BY CHRIS LANDSBERGER, THE OKLAHOMAN

In the final year of 12 teams in the Big 12, The Oklahoman pays tribute to the number "12." We look at the 12 best players, 12 players on the spot, the 12 best players you've never heard of, 12 things we learned during Big 12 media days in Dallas, 12 things we didn't learn in Dallas, and look back at the 12 best moments in Big 12 history.

12 best players

1. WR Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma: It's scary to think what Broyles' final numbers would have been last season had he not missed two games with a fractured shoulder blade. And yet, he still set a school record with 89 receptions. A better season than that, and Broyles could be in the Heisman conversation.

2. DT Jared Crick, Nebraska: Despite playing in Ndamukong Suh's shadow, Crick still made a name for himself, recording a Husker record five sacks in one game. Without Suh, Crick will have to deal with more double teams this season, but he'll still be a load for opposing offensive lines.

3. DE Jeremy Beal, Oklahoma: He won't beat anyone in the 40-yard dash or win any powerlifting contests, but Beal plays defense with the best. Last season, he led the Sooners with 11 sacks and 19 tackles for loss.

4. RB Daniel Thomas, Kansas State: Perhaps overshadowed by the flash of DeMarco Murray and Kendall Hunter, Thomas is the best back in the league. A throwback workhorse, Thomas led the conference with 1,265 rushing yards on a Big 12-high 247 carries. At 6-foot-2, 225 pounds, he's a load to bring down and can wear down defenses.

5. QB Jerrod Johnson, Texas A&M: The preseason Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year led the league with 30 TD passes in 2009. Johnson can hurt defenses with the pass or run, which makes him a nightmare to defend.

6. CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska: A lock to go in the first round of next year's NFL Draft, Amukamara had 64 tackles and five picks to lead the Husker secondary last season. The lockdown corner figures to anchor what should be among the best defensive backfields in the league.

7. LB Travis Lewis, Oklahoma: Lewis had 109 tackles to the lead the Sooners last season, and he declared he was disappointed. That's understandable, considering he had an OU freshman record 144 the year before. Lewis will look to solidify himself as the next in a long line of great Sooner linebackers.

8. OLB Von Miller, Texas A&M: Miller, who led the league with 17 sacks, was a bright spot on a defense that was otherwise anemic last season. If Miller can get some help, the Aggies could be a player in the Big 12 South race.

9. QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri: Had he not played on a badly sprained ankle most of the season, Gabbert might have contended for All-Big 12 honors. If the Tigers win the Big 12 North, it will be Gabbert's arm that gets them there.

10. CB Aaron Williams, Texas: Two other Longhorn defensive backs could have made this list (Curtis Brown, Blake Gideon), but Williams gets the nod because of his propensity for big plays. Sooner fans will remember him well. He's the 'Horn that injured QB Sam Bradford's shoulder a second time.

11. OT Nate Solder, Colorado: The tallest player in the league, Solder is a giant 6-foot-9, 305 pounds. But he's also plenty athletic to deal with the quicker ends in the league. Solder could develop into a franchise NFL tackle in time.

12. QB Robert Griffin, Baylor: Healthy, Griffin might be the best player in the entire league. But is he the same electrifying quarterback after last year's ACL tear? If so, the Bears could be in store for their first bowl game in 16 years.

12 things we learned at Big 12 media days

1. Dan Beebe is done answering that question: It's clear the Big 12 commissioner is tired of defending the remaining teams' commitment to the league. "I still see many of you writing statements about not believing this is really going to hold together. You're going to have to see it happen over time," he said.

2. No expansion or title game is in the works: Beebe said the conference likes the idea of a round-robin schedule with no championship game and has no plans to expand to more than 10 teams in the near future.

3. Travis Lewis is entertaining: The Oklahoma linebacker is very gregarious and energetic. He handles interviews as well as he handles one-on-one situations with running backs. Advantage, Lewis.

4. Tommy Tuberville knows how to play the media game: The new Texas Tech coach has a great way with the media and even joked that he was going to name his starting quarterback based off the media's vote.

5. Jarrod Johnson is impressive: The Texas A&M quarterback was arguably the most impressive player at media days. He was confident in his team while also being respectful of the rest of the league.

6. Watch your mouth: New Kansas coach Turner Gill has implemented a no cursing policy. But senior cornerback Chris Harris said it's more frowned upon than staunchly upheld, noting: "It's college football"

7. Brandon Weeden is ready for the spotlight: The Oklahoma State quarterback handled his first appearance as the Cowboys starter seamlessly. His maturity was on full display.

8. Bo Pelini can coach: Um, not that type of coaching. Niles Paul said his coach didn't say anything about the move to the Big Ten until he told his players what to tell the media on the plane to Dallas. And when Paul was asked about it, he repeatedly talked of the 2010 season only. Well done, Bo, well done.

9. Mack Brown remains a politician: The Texas coach refused to play the blame game when asked about Nebraska's "Red Out Around the World" video, which featured a Beat Texas slogan before it was edited out.

10. Punctuality is not a Missouri trait: For the second straight year, the Tigers were late to media days.

11. Everyone has eyes on a title: Baylor's Antonio Johnson was one of the most outspoken players at media days. The Bears linebacker promised wins over Texas and Oklahoma and said the Bears' talent level was equal to anyone.

12. Alexander Robinson is underrated off the field and on it: The Iowa State running back, who finished second in the Big 12 in rushing a year ago, is not a household name, but he was just as impressive as Jerrod Johnson and Brandon Weeden were.

12 things we didn't learn at media days

1. Who is Texas Tech's quarterback? New Tech coach Tommy Tuberville brought Steven Sheffield and Taylor Potts to the event. Tuberville said he wanted to evaluate everything his quarterbacks did both on the field and off. This quarterback controversy could last all season.

2. How is Robert Griffin feeling? It was the question on everyone's minds in Dallas, yet Baylor didn't bring its standout quarterback. Thus, all we know is how his teammates and coach Art Briles feel about his potential return.

3. How much resentment lingers over realignment talks? Everyone said the right thing, and the main combatants, Texas and Nebraska, had clearly coached their players on what to say and what not to say.

4. Who is Colorado's quarterback? Despite Tyler Hansen earning the starting job to end the season at CU, Dan Hawkins insists the spot remains up for grabs in 2010.

5. Gary Pinkel's thoughts on a round-robin schedule and no title game? "If I gave my opinion it wouldn't matter" was Pinkel's response when asked about it.

6. Who will replace Todd Reesing at Kansas? New Jayhawk coach Turner Gill said the quarterback spot is wide open, with Kale Pick and Jordan Webb battling for the No. 1 job.

7. Who will fill the void when Nebraska leaves? Texas A&M will get the money, but that doesn't mean the Aggies will fill the void on the field. A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Missouri all are vying for the role.

8. Will anyone miss Colorado? The Buffs were rarely mentioned as leaving the conference. All the talk was about Nebraska's move to the Big Ten and ... oh by the way, apparently Colorado is leaving too.

9. Where's the star power? Last year's Big 12 media days were basically an pre-NFL Draft rehearsal. Sam Bradford, Gerald McCoy, Ndamukong Suh and Colt McCoy walked the hallways of The Westin a year ago. This year's version featured a lot more unknowns.

10. How does Nebraska expect to be treated during its final Big 12 season? The Husker players seem to expect the worst, but players from other programs, most notably Texas A&M, spoke of their respect for the program and their expectations that fans feel the same way.

11. Who is the most impressive newcomer to the Big 12 coaching ranks? Texas Tech's Tommy Tuberville and Kansas' Turner Gill were both impressive in their first appearance at Big 12 media days, Gill with his passion and Tuberville with his polish.

12. Will Colorado leave in 2011? All signs point to the Buffaloes leaving for the Pac 10 after this season, but nothing has been finalized or announced.

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