Spring camps are fully underway across the Big 12 as all 10 programs enter with more questions than answers at key spots. Outside of conference realignment, big-name coaching turnover has been the dominant storyline within the conference. As a result, Baylor's Dave Aranda is the only sitting coach with a Big 12 championship to his name in the College Football Playoff era. However, three new coaches at Texas Tech, Oklahoma and TCU will immediately fight for the top spot. 

Questions under center persist across the conference, too, as Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders returns as the only entrenched starter across the 10 teams. Meanwhile, flagship programs like Texas and Oklahoma will rely on key transfers to bring them back to contention. The answers to some of these burning spring questions could ultimately decide which team holds up the trophy at the Big 12 Championship Game in December. 

Here are the biggest question marks facing each Big 12 team as they run through their respective spring camps. 


Who emerges as the workhorse at running back?: After a Big 12 championship season, the Bears lost their top two rushers, Abram Smith and Trestan Ebner, to the NFL. Smith and Ebner combined for 2,400 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns, leaving Baylor without a returning running back that cleared 20 carries. 

Outside of the top two, Taye McWilliams was the top rusher with 181 yards on 10.6 yards per carry in the Bears' physical wide-zone system. Craig "Sqwirl" Williams had 197 yards of his own in 2020 but dealt with injuries in offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes' first season. Additionally, versatile weapon Josh Fleeks made the switch from running back to wide receiver, while Jordan Jenkins could push his way into the rotation with his powerful frame. 

Baylor's wide-zone offense is built around physical and decisive running, so finding a fearless feature back is critical to building upon an impressive first year under Grimes. Luckily, four offensive linemen return from a Joe Moore Award semifinalist group, which should ease the transition. 

Iowa State

Who replaces Charlie Kolar's production at tight end?: The 2021 Cyclones were a golden generation, of sorts, with quarterback Brock Purdy, running back Breece Hall and linebacker Mike Rose ranking among the legends leaving the program. However, perhaps the most irreplaceable was Kolar, who posted more than 2,100 yards receiving in his career. 

Iowa State's offense is built heavily around versatile tight ends creating extra gaps and seams. Kolar was close to unguardable in the Big 12 with 17 games of at least five catches in his career. There was no bigger performance than his 12-catch, 152-yard performance against his hometown Oklahoma squad that nearly dragged the Cyclones all the way back in a tight 28-21 game. 

Senior Jared Rus and junior Easton Dean boast a combined nine career catches to their names. Freshman Tyler Moore is the only other scholarship tight end on the spring roster. Especially with Purdy off to the NFL, the Cyclones need to quickly find a new weapon to ease the transition for quarterback Hunter Dekkers. 


Can the Jayhawks make the most of a full offseason?: The Jayhawks' 2-10 record hid what quietly was one of the more intriguing turnarounds in college football last season. After losing 2020 conference matchups by 32.1 points per game, Kansas beat Texas on the road in overtime, and it played TCU, West Virginia and even vaunted Oklahoma to the wire.  

Now, second-year coach Lance Leipold will have an opportunity to lead KU to another big leap. Remember, Leipold didn't take over at Kansas until May 2021 after Les Miles was fired due to inappropriate conduct during his time at LSU. By that time, spring practice was over and nearly every major contributor had transferred out of the program. 

It's a simple answer, but an underrated staff having an opportunity to take its roster through a true install and development cycle should provide rare glimmers of hope for one of the most downtrodden programs in the sport. 

Kansas State

How to integrate Adrian Martinez at quarterback: The Wildcats lost experienced quarterback Skylar Thompson to graduation but brought in one of football's most productive playmakers to replace him. Adrian Martinez ranks No. 1 all-time among Nebraska players in total offense and played 39 games in a Cornhuskers uniform before transferring to Manhattan. 

Martinez had an up-and-down career in Lincoln. He completed 64.6% of his passes for 2,617 yards in a breakout freshman campaign but struggled to build on that efficiency. Martinez also rushed for more than 500 yards per season with 35 total rushing touchdowns, including seven 100-yard rushing performances in his career. 

From a tools perspective, Kansas State should be a perfect fit. Coach Chris Klieman developed Carson Wentz and Easton Stick into NFL Draft picks at North Dakota State with dynamic dual-threat skill sets. If Martinez can quickly find his place in the Kansas State offense next to running back Deuce Vaughn, the Wildcats could be a surprise team in the Big 12 race. 


Can Brent Venables rebuild a defensive culture?: After five years of offensive focus under Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma opted to turn things around by hiring defensive mastermind Brent Venables. The former Sooners assistant under Bob Stoops has helped put together 12 consecutive years of 10-win seasons between his time at Oklahoma and Clemson, but starting over in Norman comes with complications. 

The Sooners have a proud history of hard-nosed defenses, but things slipped mightily under Riley. The Sooners gave up nearly 400 yards per game in an average Big 12. Plus, six top starters are gone, including nearly every leader in the front seven from last year's team. 

Oklahoma has recruited well on the defensive side of the ball and Venables has six defensive transfers on the way. However, the defensive struggles in Norman have seemed to transcend personnel and scheme. Venables has a critical spring to start building trust on the roster and assemble the kind of defensive culture that can get OU back to contention for national titles. 

Oklahoma State: 

Who replaces Jaylen Warren in the backfield?: Warren was perhaps the most underrated player in the Big 12 after unexpectedly transferring from Utah State and leading the Cowboys with more than 1,200 yards rushing. Warren was effectively a 5-foot-8 battering ram and carried Oklahoma State to key wins over Baylor, Texas and Boise State. 

Sanders is a running threat of his own with more than 1,500 yards rushing to his name in his career, but the rest of the room is unproven. Dezmon Jackson ran for 547 yards in 2020 but fell out of the rotation last year. Dominic Richardson finished third with 373 yards rushing, but was a non-factor for much of the season.

One overlooked name to keep an eye on is freshman Ollie Gordon from Trinity High School in Euless, Texas. Gordon was a battering ram of his own in the state's highest classification and rushed for more than 2,000 yards in each of his final two seasons. There's no question that he is a long-term answer at the position. 


Will Quinn Ewers be ready for the spotlight?: When quarterback Quinn Ewers decommitted from Texas as a recruit, it portended the end of the Tom Herman era. When Ewers opted to transfer from Ohio State to Texas, it gave Steve Sarkisian's program the shot in the arm it desperately needed to rebound from a 5-7 season. 

Ewers was the consensus No. 1 recruit in the nation and the first quarterback to earn a perfect rating from the 247Sports Composite since Vince Young. But with spring practice starting, hype isn't enough. Ewers has to perform like a generational quarterback recruit. 

The Longhorns' 5-7 record was the worst first-year campaign by a Longhorns coach since Dana X. Bible in 1937. Texas ranked No. 47 in total offense and No. 72 in passing offense during the disappointing campaign. Whether Texas can reach Big 12 contention relies almost solely on whether Ewers pops from Day 1. 


Who is the right quarterback for Sonny Dykes' system?: The Horned Frogs have been running some amalgamation of offensive systems over the past several seasons, but they should finally have a clear identity under first-year coach Sonny Dykes and touted offensive coordinator Garrett Riley. 

Riley and Dykes both have deep ties to the Air Raid, though with their own wrinkles. Under Riley's tutelage at SMU, Tanner Mordecai finished in the top 15 nationally in passing yards and No. 5 in passing touchdowns despite playing just 12 games. The Frogs will have an open competition between incumbent Max Duggan and backup Chandler Morris to step in. 

Duggan is a powerful runner with a big arm but often struggled with consistency and found himself in bad spots over the past few seasons. Morris is an accurate passer who completed 65.8% of his throws, but the majority came in one game against rival Baylor. This battle could go either way. 

Texas Tech

Can the offensive line be productive?: First-year coach Joey McGuire took some swings on his first staff, but none is bigger than elevating Western Kentucky offensive coordinator Zach Kittley to the same position at his alma mater. Kittley led the Hilltoppers to the nation's best passing offense in his first year after moving from FCS Houston Baptist, and he hopes to do the same at Texas Tech. For Kittley's system to thrive, however, the Red Raiders quickly need to get their offensive line in order. Three starters are gone from an offensive line unit that struggled by giving up 22 sacks and failing to pave the way for any running back to eclipse 600 yards. 

McGuire has acted decisively to fill the holes, though. All-conference lineman Cole Spencer came with Kittley from WKU as one of four offensive line transfers. Oklahoma State's Monroe Mills and UT-Martin's Michael Shanahan also join the rotation. The transfers should compete with a handful of leftover high school recruits for playing time. If Kittley can have a starting five in mind leaving spring camp, the Red Raiders will be ahead of schedule. 

West Virginia

Who emerges as the long-term solution under center?: The Mountaineers have been known for dynamic offenses over the years, but the Neal Brown era has been a disaster on that front. The only Big 12 school to rank behind West Virginia in both total offense and scoring offense was Kansas. With maligned quarterback Jarret Doege transferring to Western Kentucky after two seasons, the Mountaineers have an open quarterback competition. Unfortunately, there aren't any obvious answers at the position. 

Garrett Greene served as primary backup to Doege, but he has thrown just 30 passes in two years. Will Crowder completed both his pass attempts against LIU in a redshirt season. The dark horse is freshman Nicco Marchiol, the lone blue-chip in the quarterback room who had interest from several top programs. Failing to turn the offense around in Year 4 could spell the end of the Brown era.