With the second National Signing Day in the rear view mirror, all eyes begin to turn towards spring and summer for Big 12 football aficionados. Each squad has its share of weapons leaving and returning, and the biggest problems that every team will have to solve are coming more clearly into view. For each team in the conference, the following lays out the biggest question facing that football program as we get ready for spring football and beyond.
Baylor: How Will The Bears Replace Their Defensive Losses?
Aside from Raleigh Texada and Terrel Bernard, no member of Baylor’s 2020 defense has more than five starts under their belt. For a defensive unit that was the best scoring defense in Big 12 play in 2019, Baylor has a slew of talent and experience that needs replacing. The biggest concern might be the defensive line, which was a strength for the Bears last season, but could well be a work in progress as Arranda’s staff tries to figure out what they have up front.
Iowa State: How Do The ‘Clones Rebuild The Offensive Line?
Matt Campbell’s worked to strengthen Iowa State’s “big uglies” since got to Ames, but with four starters gone up front, how does that group develop over the course of the next few months? Colin Newell and Sean Foster have starting experience, but who else will Iowa State come to rely on? The Cyclones gave up the fewest sacks in Big 12 play out of all the teams in the conference last year, something that undeniably helped propel their offensive success. Replicating that level of offensive play will certainly factor into Iowa State’s 2020 production.
Kansas: Who Will Lead The Jayhawks On Offense?
Last season provided a glimpse of what a Les Miles-led Jayhawks football team might accomplish, but further progress will nevertheless need to be made. Is there a breakout star that could take Kansas closer to bowl eligibility? Pooka Williams is a likely answer there, but how much does he need to do in addition to his 93.4 yards per game from 2019? With the exit of Carter Stanley, quarterback is a mystery, but it could hold the answers. The wide receiver room, with two of the Big 12’s better pass catchers in Stephon Robinson and Andrew Parchment, looks like it might be Kansas’ best bet, but the off-season will be key for that group.
Kansas State: Can Klieman Succeed With Inexperience?
Klieman’s staff gave the Kansas State faithful reason for optimism with a bowl appearance in Year One, but 2020 presents a different set of challenges. Gone from last year’s two deep are 20 seniors, begging the question of how the Wildcats replace so many departed veterans. Losses will be particularly felt along both lines of scrimmage, which will need to be almost completely rebuilt. Of course, since this is Year Two, this year’s team should look a bit more like what the new staff is looking for.
Oklahoma: Will Rattler Actually Be The Guy At Quarterback?
In spite of a rough outing in last year’s College Football Playoff, Lincoln Riley’s established himself as the “quarterback whisperer” in college football with three straight Heisman finalists. It makes sense then that former five star recruit Spencer Rattler is getting Heisman hype despite never having played meaningful snaps in Division I football. The only real question remaining is whether Rattler will indeed pick up where his predecessors left off and continue the success Oklahoma’s had under Riley.
Oklahoma State: Who Else Steps Up On Offense?
The Pokes look like they might field the best trio in the Big 12 next season, with the return of Spencer Sanders, Chuba Hubbard, and Tylan Wallace. If Oklahoma State is serious about aiming for a potential spot in the title game in 2020, they will need everyone else to up their game. After all, Hubbard is one of the best running backs in college football, but does that necessarily mean he has to tote the rock 25-30 times a game?
TCU: What Kind Of Help Will The Frogs Get At The Skill Positions?
With Jalen Reagor leaving school to the NFL, the Horned Frogs will be looking to replace one of the school’s most marquee playmakers. Answers will also have to be found at the running back positions, where there’s talent, but experience also walking out the door. Taye Barber and Pro Wells will be back to turn heads in the receiving corps, but a struggling TCU offense could certainly use new faces to step up and excel in the off-season.
Texas: Will There Be Enough Around Ehlinger?
Sam Ehlinger has brought the most quarterback stability to Austin that Texas has had in a decade. After leading an offense that averaged 35.2 points per game in 2019, though, the senior is losing two of his top offensive weapons. Wide receiver will be a bit of a question mark throughout the spring and summer, as younger players like Brennan Eagles and Malcolm Epps will have to prove that they’re ready for more prominent leadership roles. For the Longhorns to take the next step, they’ll need to have stars emerge around Ehlinger, something that should be a priority for a new offensive coaching staff.
Texas Tech: Where Do The Defensive Improvements Come From?
Being at the bottom of a lot of defensive categories isn’t foreign for the Red Raiders, who gave up more yards in conference play than anyone else in the Big 12 last season. Wells might have brought an attitude of toughness from Utah State, but that will eventually need to materialize into on-the-field results to mean anything. Now that some of the best players from the 2019 defense are gone, there are questions surrounding who might step up to give the program positive momentum.
West Virginia: Who Breaks Out In 2020?
The Mountaineers showed flashes of high powered offense last season, but who will consistently shine this year? Jarret Doege played very well in his limited snaps, but he’s probably not secured his job just yet. Skill players like Leddie Brown and Sam James were also two stalwarts for the Mountaineer offense in 2019, but no one put up especially eye-popping numbers. Neal Brown impressed at times in a 5-7 down year for West Virginia, so who might he find to take this team to that next step?