Spring practice has already started or will soon for all 10 teams in the Big 12 for the 2022 college football season. Although it's tough to get an accurate read on teams from practices in the spring, this is the first set of official workouts and provides some insight into the upcoming year.
Baylor and Oklahoma State played for the Big 12 title last season, and it's safe to assume both will be in the mix to play for the league crown once again. However, Oklahoma under new coach Brent Venables is expected to push for a return atop the league, and Texas should improve in coach Steve Sarkisian's second year. The Big 12 should have quality depth with Kansas State, Iowa State, TCU, Texas Tech and West Virginia all expected to push for a bowl trip in '22. Also, Kansas should be improved in coach Lance Leipold's second year.
What are the early storylines to watch and how do the teams stack up in the Big 12 going into '22? Here are Athlon's top things to watch on both sides of the ball for the conference going into spring practice:
Big 12 Football: Spring 2022 Power Rankings
What to Watch on Offense: Skill talent. The Bears return two proven quarterbacks in Gerry Bohanon and Blake Shapen and four starters to form one of the nation’s top offensive lines. However, running back Abram Smith (1,601 yards is off to the NFL, and top receivers R.J. Sneed and Tyquan Thornton have moved on from Waco.
What to Watch on Defense: This unit was one of the best in the Big 12 last year, but coach Dave Aranda and coordinator Ron Roberts have to replace first-team All-Big 12 selections in linebacker Terrel Bernard and safety Jalen Pitre.
What to Watch on Offense: This spring is all about transition. The Sooners have a new play-caller in Jeff Lebby, but quarterback Dillon Gabriel already has familiarity with the scheme from a stint with Lebby at UCF. In addition to the overall transition, Oklahoma has to solidify its offensive line and restock the weapons at receiver.
What to Watch on Defense: New coach Brent Venables was arguably the best defensive coordinator in the nation at Clemson, and his impact should be felt right away. The Sooners return only four starters on defense, but a strong class of transfers will help right away.
3. Oklahoma State
What to Watch on Offense: Defense carried Oklahoma State in ’21, but with a handful of key players leaving, coach Mike Gundy needs his offense to handle more of the slack in ’22. Quarterback Spencer Sanders has to build off a strong performance in the Fiesta Bowl, and this unit must replace two standouts up front (Josh Sills and Danny Godlevske) and leading rusher Jaylen Warren.
What to Watch on Defense: Can Oklahoma State keep this unit atop the conference without coordinator Jim Knowles (left for Ohio State) and the loss of five key starters, including three in the secondary?
What to Watch on Offense: The quarterback battle between Hudson Card, Maalik Murphy and Quinn Ewers will draw most of the attention, but the Longhorns also need to get significantly better in the trenches this spring.
What to Watch on Defense: Overall improvement. There are position battles at every level, but the Longhorns need to show marked improvement after allowing 6.1 yards per play and 35 points a game in Big 12 contests. Also, stopping the run was a major issue last year.
5. Kansas State
What to Watch on Offense: Nebraska transfer quarterback Adrian Martinez will be limited this spring, but the biggest concern in Manhattan rests up front. K-State lost all three interior starters on the line, including honorable mention All-Big 12 selections Noah Johnson (center) and Josh Rivas (guard).
What to Watch on Defense: The secondary is the primary focal point for coach Chris Klieman’s defense. The Wildcats have to replace safeties Jahron McPherson, Ross Elder and Russ Yeast, along with nickel back Reggie Stubblefield.
6. Iowa State
What to Watch on Offense: Coach Matt Campbell has a busy spring ahead. The Cyclones lost quarterback Brock Purdy, running back Breece Hall, tight end Charlie Kolar, and center Colin Newell.
What to Watch on Defense: The Cyclones return only three starters on this side of the ball and each level was hit hard by key departures. End Will McDonald IV and cornerback/safety Anthony Johnson are back to leading the rebuilding effort.
What to Watch on Offense: New coach Sonny Dykes returns six starters from an offense that ranked third in the Big 12 in yards per play in conference-only games (6.6) but averaged only 25.7 points a game. Getting more consistent play up front is a priority, and a quarterback battle between Max Duggan and Chandler Morris will play out this offseason.
What to Watch on Defense: How much improvement can the Horned Frogs make on defense under new coordinator Joe Gillespie after giving up 7.4 yards per play and 38 points a game in Big 12 action last year? Restocking the defensive front after losing Ochaun Mathis, Corey Bethley and Khari Coleman is a priority.
8. Texas Tech
What to Watch on Offense: Can quarterback Donovan Smith build off last year’s solid finish under new coordinator Zach Kittley? The Red Raiders must replace their top two receivers and restock an offensive line losing three players who earned at least honorable mention all-conference honors in ’21.
What to Watch on Defense: The Red Raiders have struggled to find the right mix on this side of the ball in recent years, so general improvement is the major storyline going into spring practice after giving up 35.7 points in Big 12 action last fall.
9. West Virginia
What to Watch on Offense: Will the Mountaineers leave spring with an answer at quarterback? Jarret Doege’s transfer to WKU leaves Garrett Greene, Will Crowder, and incoming freshman Nicco Marchiol to battle for the job. Could a transfer arrive after spring practice?
What to Watch on Defense: Dante Stills, Taijh Alston and Akheem Mesidor are back to anchor the line, but the rest of the defense will require some attention in spring ball. Josh Chandler-Semedo left a void at linebacker by transferring, and the secondary lost four starters, including cornerback Daryl Porter Jr.
What to Watch on Offense: Quarterback Jalon Daniels had a promising four-game stretch to end ’21. Can he build off that finish to help the offense take a big step forward in ’22?
What to Watch on Defense: Having a full offseason to develop under coach Lance Leipold should help both sides of the ball improve next season. It’s no secret the Jayhawks need to get better on defense after allowing 7.5 yards per play and 43.4 points a game in Big 12 contests last year.
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