Big 12: Big 12
You can click here to see the previous four installments.
Today, we wrap up the series with who we think the top five players in the league will be in 2014:
5. Cedric Reed, DE, Texas: Overshadowed by his Big 12 defensive player of the year teammate in 2013, Reed had almost as productive a season as Jackson Jeffcoat. Reed was third in the Big 12 with 10 sacks, fourth with 19 tackles for loss and tied for first with five forced fumbles. With Jeffcoat gone, Reed takes over as the centerpiece of coach Charlie Strong’s defense. He bring as much speed off the corner as any defensive end in the league and could play himself into the first round of the NFL draft with another big season.
4. Eric Striker, LB, Oklahoma: He’s the Lawrence Taylor of the Big 12. Striker still needs to refine other parts of his game, but when it comes to rushing the passer off the blitz, there’s no one better in the country. Everyone remembers his three sacks in the Allstate Sugar Bowl win over Alabama, including the game-clinching forced fumble that led to an exclamation-point touchdown. But Striker had a penchant for creating big plays all season. On the first possession at Notre Dame, Striker slammed into quarterback Tommy Rees, knocking the ball into the air and into the arms of linebacker Corey Nelson, who gave the Sooners a quick 7-0 lead on the way to a 35-21 victory. Reed, Shawn Oakman and Ryan Mueller are all double-digit sack contenders, but Striker could be the odds-on favorite to win the Big 12’s sack crown in 2014.
3. Antwan Goodley, WR, Baylor: Goodley was arguably the league’s most improved player in 2013. He exploded right along with the Baylor offense, hauling in 1,339 receiving yards and a Big 12-best 13 touchdown catches. The big-play deep threat also led the nation with five receptions of 60 yards or more. Goodley won’t sneak up on anyone this season, but that doesn’t mean anyone will be able to contain him. The Bears have plenty of other weapons in the passing game and one of the nation’s top quarterbacks to get him the ball in Bryce Petty. Goodley has a legitimate chance to join Justin Blackmon and Michael Crabtree as the third Big 12 wideout to win Biletnikoff Award.
2. Tyler Lockett, WR, Kansas State: One of Goodley’s prime competitors for the Biletnikoff Award figures to be Lockett. Prone to utterly unconscious performances in big games, Lockett combined for 35 receptions, 631 yards and six touchdowns in the three games against Texas, Oklahoma and Michigan last season. He’ll have a prime opportunity to show the nation what he can do in September, when defending SEC champion Auburn visits Manhattan, Kansas, for a Thursday night clash. Lockett is on pace to break every school career receiving record held by his father, Kevin Lockett. Tyler Lockett will square off against Goodley in the final week of the regular season in a showdown featuring two of the best wideouts to come through the Big 12.
1. Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor: The Dairy Queens in Salem, Oregon, might not appreciate Petty, but we do here, as slotting Petty No. 1 was the easiest decision we made while putting together this top-25 player ranking. In his first season as a starting quarterback, Petty totaled 46 touchdowns and threw just three interceptions while earning Big 12 offensive player of the year honors. It will be difficult for Petty to replicate such gaudy numbers, but with a year of experience behind him operating Art Briles' offense, Petty should be even sharper in 2014. If he is, he’ll have a chance to become the second Baylor quarterback to capture the Heisman Trophy in the past four seasons.
That’s it for our top 25 player ranking. Did we get it right? Send your thoughts to the Big 12 mailbag.
Today, the unveiling continued with Nos. 40-21.
Here is the lone Big 12 player who made the fourth installment:
No. 30: Baylor WR Antwan Goodley
Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty seems to get all the national headlines. But Goodley is a pretty good player, too. Despite splitting touches with a host of other playmakers, Goodley finished the 2013 season with 71 catches, 1,339 receiving yards and a Big 12-best 13 touchdowns. Goodley was the only receiver in the country that had five catches of at least 60 yards.
With Lache Seastrunk and Tevin Reese gone, Goodley will have a little more pressure to carry the playmaking load. But the Bears still boast plenty of firepower elsewhere in Corey Coleman, Shock Linwood and Levi Norwood. Plus, Goodley will still be hauling in passes from one of the preeminent quarterbacks in the country.
Make sure to check back Friday to find out who our top 20 players are.
Coming Friday: Nos. 20-1.
We’re down to the unveiling of the final five players, which will come out Friday morning. You can review who has made the list so far by clicking here.
But what about the players who narrowly didn't make the list?
Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma offensive tackle Daryl Williams, TCU cornerback Kevin White, West Virginia safety Karl Joseph, Texas center Dominic Espinosa and Kansas wideout Nick Harwell, who once finished second in the country in receiving at Miami (Ohio).
But there were five players specifically who were the most difficult to leave out, including two of the league’s top returning running backs.
Malcolm Brown was previously known as Johnathan Gray's wing man in the Texas backfield. But Brown proved he could handle a starring role after Gray suffered a season-ending Achilles injury Nov. 9. Brown stepped in and rushed for 128, 131 and 130 yards in the Longhorns’ final three games. Gray, who did make our top 25 list, is back from the Achilles tear. But Brown will still be a big part of the Texas offense.
Baylor’s Shock Linwood also started out last season in a backup role. But when Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin both suffered injuries against Oklahoma, Linwood stepped in and the offense didn’t miss a beat. He rushed for 182 yards against the Sooners, then 187 the following week against Texas Tech. Despite being Baylor’s third-team running back, Linwood finished sixth in the Big 12 in rushing. With Seastrunk and Martin gone, Linwood will step into the starting lineup full time this season.
The other notable omissions from our top 25 reside in the trenches.
Oklahoma defensive tackle Jordan Phillips was on his way to an All-Big 12 type of campaign before suffering a season-ending back injury. Phillips is healthy again and might be the best player on one of the nation’s deepest and most disruptive defensive lines.
On the other side of the ball, West Virginia guard Quinton Spain and Kansas State tackle Cody Whitehair were on my preseason All-Big 12 ballot. Spain has 26 career starts and might be the best guard in the league after Texas Tech’s Le'Raven Clark. Whitehair is also a two-year starter and earned second-team All-Big 12 honors as a sophomore last year. Whitehair has moved to left tackle, where he’ll be protecting the blind side of quarterback Jake Waters.
Now, we put the question to you in our weekly Big 12 poll.
Who has the biggest gripe being left out of our Big 12 Top 25 player rankings?
This is a ranking of who we think the best 25 players will be over the course of the 2014 season.
You can click here to see the previous three installments.
Today, we continue the series with Nos. 10-6:
10. Le'Raven Clark, OG, Texas Tech: Clark was a freshman All-American tackle two years ago and a first-team All-Big 12 performer last season as the anchor of the Texas Tech offensive line. With the addition of junior-college tackle Dominique Robertson, Clark is moving inside to guard, a more natural position for his 315-pound frame. Clark already has proven to be a terrific pass-blocker, but he could also become a road-grader in the run game in his new spot.
9. Spencer Drango, OT, Baylor: Sometimes you don’t realize what you’ve got until it’s gone. Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty found out the hard way just how valuable his left tackle is when Drango suffered a season-ending back injury in early November. With Drango protecting his blindside, Petty was sacked only eight times through the Bears’ first nine games. With Drango sidelined, Petty was sacked nine times in Baylor’s last four games -- two of which the Bears lost as their high-powered offense sputtered down the stretch. The good news for Petty, and Baylor, is that Drango is healthy again and ready to help keep one of the nation’s most lethal quarterbacks upright.
8. Charles Tapper, DE, Oklahoma: One offensive lineman at Big 12 media days noted that Tapper was the most difficult defender to block in the Big 12. The 6-foot-4, 281-pound junior runs like a linebacker with the strength of a defensive tackle. He was the only defensive underclassman to be named first-team All-Big 12 last season, and considering he’s only started 12 games in his career, he figures only to get better playing alongside one of the most talented and deepest defensive lines in the country.
7. Shawn Oakman, DE, Baylor: Coach Art Briles has been effusive in his praise of Oakman, whom he called “unblockable” during the spring. The 6-foot-9, 275-pound outspoken defensive end could be an unstoppable force this season in the Big 12. Despite being a part-time player in 2013, Oakman still finished sixth in the league with 12.5 tackles for loss. The switch just now appears to have flipped for Oakman this offseason, which is a frightening proposition for Big 12 quarterbacks not named Bryce Petty.
6. Ryan Mueller, DE, Kansas State: Mueller doesn’t have the length or the athleticism that Tapper and Oakman do. But the former unrecruited walk-on finds a way to make plays. In 2013, Mueller finished with 11.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss, both of which were second in the league only to Jackson Jeffcoat, the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. Mueller forced four fumbles, too. There are players, and then there are playmakers. Mueller fits the latter.
Coming Friday: Nos. 5-1 ...
Shoutout to @OU_Football for the new iPads for play books. The grind starts tomorrow and the season is finally upon us!— Valar Morghulis (@chukaduka) July 31, 2014
The playbook for Oklahoma kicker Michael Hunnicutt, however, came loaded with just one play.
We got iPads for our playbooks today. Here's the only play loaded on mine.. pic.twitter.com/3TcEpjx5wj— S. M. Hunnicutt (@Hunnicutt08) July 31, 2014
Hunnicutt, who will vie to become the first All-American kicker in Oklahoma history, knows how to kick the ball through the uprights. He went 24 of 27 on field goals last season.
Of course, that's not all Hunnicutt can do. He scored a touchdown off a fake field goal in the upset win at Oklahoma State that catapulted the Sooners to the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
Hunnicutt did not divulge on Twitter whether his iPad also included another fake play.
The first 40 players have already been released. Today, the unveiling continued with Nos. 60-41.
Here are the Big 12 players that made the third installment:
No. 42: TCU DE Devonte Fields
No. 49: Kansas State WR Tyler Lockett
No. 52: Oklahoma LB Eric Striker
Striker and Lockett are two of the most explosive players in the Big 12.
Lockett was virtually unstoppable at times last season, hauling in 237 receiving yards against Texas and 278 against Oklahoma. He also capped off a tremendous season with three touchdown receptions in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl against Michigan. With Jake Waters settled in at quarterback, Lockett could put up even bigger numbers in 2014, which is a scary thought for Big 12 defenses.
Speaking of scary, Striker figures to be one of the most feared pass rushers in the country after a breakout sophomore campaign. He sacked Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron three times in the Allstate Sugar Bowl and forced the game-clinching fumble late in the game.
It would have been a crime had Lockett or Striker been left off the top 100.
It will be interesting to see if Fields sees the field at all this season. The voting for the top 100 players was done before Fields was arrested on allegations of assaulting his ex-girlfriend. TCU has since “separated” from Fields, pending the outcome of the case. For that reason, we actually didn’t include Fields in our top 25 ranking of Big 12 players.
By the way, this national list, which was compiled by the entire ESPN.com college football team, won’t necessarily line up with our top 25 ranking of Big 12 players, which was compiled exclusively by Brandon Chatmon, Max Olson, and myself.
Make sure to track the top 100 rankings the remainder of the week, as there will be Big 12 players in the final two parts, as well.
Coming Thursday: Nos. 40-21.
- Witness intimidation charges against West Virginia running back Wendell Smallwood have been dropped. Smallwood is expected to be on the field with the Mountaineers when they open fall camp.
- Thanks to the recent graduation of a player from the 1990s, Oklahoma State's APR penalty has been lifted. The Cowboys will have the full 20 weekly hours of practice time.
- Oklahoma State added future games with Tulsa, reports the Tulsa World's Bill Haisten.
- Oklahoma State is experiencing an all-time five-year win total, according to Kyle Porter of pistolsfiringblog.com.
- The fate of Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon is in the hands of the district attorney and coach Bob Stoops, writes The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel.
- Norman police released the 911 call in the Mixon investigation.
- A court date has been set for two former Longhorns charged with felony sexual assault.
- Could more Texas players face possible suspension?
- Jonathan Truman is a tried and true veteran anchoring the Kansas State defense, writes the Topeka Capital-Journal's Ken Corbitt.
- The Lawrence Journal-World's Tom Keegan lays odds on who will lead the Jayhawks in rushing.
- Eastern Washington will play at Texas Tech in 2017.
With the Big 12 football season kicking off in a few weeks, college recruits will be focused on setting up official visits and also narrowing their college lists in preparation for a commitment. As important as this time will be for recruits, it’ll be equally important for schools, as they prepare for a season that, with solid performances in home-game environments, can assist in landing some of the best uncommitted prospects around.
Here are some names that the Big 12 schools will be pursuing throughout the fall.
This is a ranking of who we're projecting the best 25 players will be in 2014.
Today, we continue with Nos. 15-11, which include a pair of budding quarterbacks:
15. Malcom Brown, DT, Texas: The Longhorns' 6-foot-4, 305-pound run-stuffer might have as much NFL upside as any player in the league. The former blue-chip recruit had a breakout season as a sophomore in 2013 with 68 tackles, including 12 for loss. If Brown continues to develop he could become one of the most menacing defensive players in the league.
14. Sam Carter, SS, TCU: Jason Verrett and Devonte Fields have overshadowed Carter the past two years. But with Verrett gone and Fields' TCU future in limbo, Carter will be the cornerstone of one of the best defenses in the conference. Carter has nine interceptions the past two years, the most of any returning Big 12 player.
13. B.J. Finney, C, Kansas State: Nobody in the Big 12 has more offensive line starts than Finney, who has 39 in three years. Not only has Finney been a starter for seemingly forever, he's been a stalwart for Bill Snyder in the trenches. Finney is a two-time first-team All-Big 12 selection, and was voted on the preseason all-conference squad for 2014. With Finney manning center, the Wildcats have compiled a sparkling three-year record of 29-10.
12. Trevor Knight, QB, Oklahoma: This might be our most controversial selection so far. But we're believers in Knight, who was nothing short of spectacular quarterbacking the Sooners to the 45-31 win over Alabama in January. Knight struggled with his passing accuracy and his health early on as a redshirt freshman. And sure, he's started and finished only three games in his career. But Knight was also terrific in a late-season win at Kansas State. We don't think the Alabama performance was a one-hit wonder. We think it was a sign of more to come.
11. Davis Webb, QB, Texas Tech: Webb gets the slight nod over Knight, due to a more impressive spring. As good as Knight was in the Sugar Bowl, Webb was just as impressive leading Texas Tech to the upset win over Arizona State in the National University Holiday Bowl. Including that bowl game and Tech's three open spring scrimmages, the rising sophomore tossed 17 touchdowns with no interceptions. He also showed more zip on his throws in the spring after adding 15 pounds of muscle during the offseason. Tech's defense remains a question. But Kliff Kingsbury's passing offense should be prolific thanks to Webb's rapid development.
Coming Thursday: Nos. 10-6 ...
The GameDay set will broadcast from the Sundance Square Plaza in downtown Fort Worth.
The Cowboys were host to GameDay last season when they played Baylor in Stillwater. Oklahoma State won that game, 49-17.
The Las Vegas sportsbook released odds on each team's chance to win the conference earlier this summer and recently released an updated set of odds. The Sooners are now 2/3 to win the conference, followed by Baylor at 11/4.
The biggest surprise on this list might be Oklahoma State. Even though the Cowboys lost the bulk of their 2013 team, Bovada is still bullish on them at 10-1. But the sportsbook is not buying Texas Tech as a darkhorse conference title contender, pegging the Red Raiders at 28/1.
Here's a look at the full list of odds for the conference crown:
Kansas State: 10/1
Oklahoma State: 10/1
Texas Tech: 28/1
West Virginia: 66/1
Iowa State: 100/1
Monday, the first 20 players were released. Today, the unveiling continued with Nos. 80-61.
Here are the Big 12 players who made the second installment:
No. 68: Texas CB Quandre Diggs
No. 72: Texas DE Cedric Reed
I can’t argue with either Longhorn cracking the top 100.
I’m not sure Diggs was more deserving than Kansas State defensive end Ryan Mueller, who narrowly missed out on the top 100. But Diggs is a three-year, 36-game starter and probably the best returning cornerback in the Big 12.
Reed definitely was deserving. He finished third in the Big 12 last year in sacks and fourth in tackles for loss. Together with defensive tackle Malcom Brown, who also appeared in the top 100 at No. 90, the Longhorns have one of the best one-two defensive line punches in college football.
Remember to keep in mind this national list, which was compiled by the entire ESPN.com college football team, won’t necessarily line up with our top 25 ranking of Big 12 players, which was put together by Brandon Chatmon, Max Olson and myself.
Make sure to track the top 100 rankings all week long, as there will be Big 12 players in all five parts.
Coming Wednesday: Nos. 60-41.
- Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon met with police investigators on Monday, The Oklahoman's Jason Kersey reports. His attorney claims Mixon did nothing wrong regarding assault allegations of a female student from last week.
- Texas Tech added a transfer QB from Iowa to shore up its depth.
- Seafood po’boys, barbecue sandwiches and various deep-fried and bacon-wrapped concoctions are among the concession items that will be available at Baylor's McLane Stadium.
- Athlon released its Big 12 breakout players for 2014.
- Defensive tackle Du'Vonta Lampkin, a former Sooners pledge, committed to Texas, which has been picking up its recruiting momentum in July.
- The Jayhawks are shrugging off negativity, writes KUSports.com's Benton Smith.
- The little brother of West Virginia running backs coach running backs coach JaJuan Seider will be joining him in Morgantown.
- Iowa State picked up a commitment from a Kansas linebacker.
- There are plenty of questions about the Cyclones defensive line, writes the Ames Tribune's Bobby La Gesse.
- The Oklahoman's Kyle Fredrickson did a Q&A with Oklahoma State receivers coach Jason Ray.
Today's Take Two topic: last week, Brandon Chatmon and Max Olson simulated out every game in the 2014 season. Off that simulation, which projection is most likely to be wrong?
Take 1: Brandon Chatmon -- Texas Tech
While Iowa State and Oklahoma State immediately come to mind as teams that could make me look like a fool for my low expectations for the Cyclones and Cowboys, Texas Tech is the team that could end up saying “I told you so” at the end of the 2014 season.
A 4-5 conference record for the Red Raiders would be a worst-case scenario, meaning the defense never came together and the offense ran into obstacles. But Tech, without question, has some of the Big 12’s best offensive talent with quarterback Davis Webb and receiver Jakeem Grant having the potential to perform as well as any player at their position this fall.
Their defense could be the determining factor. That unit has a couple things in its favor, including increased talent and some continuity with Matt Wallerstedt returning as defensive coordinator for the second straight season.
If Webb remains healthy, the Red Raiders will score plenty of points. If the defense comes together as the season progresses, Tech could be the team that far surpasses our summer projections and inserts itself in the Big 12 title race.
Take 2: Jake Trotter -- Oklahoma State
With all due respect to my esteemed colleagues, there is no way that Iowa State doesn’t win a game in the Big 12.
Mark it down. You heard it here first.
But my biggest gripe with their simulation was the 5-7 record they projected for Oklahoma State.
There’s no doubt with such a young roster the Cowboys will endure growing pains, especially in the ghastly opener against defending national champion Florida State.
But their projection smacks of 2010, when virtually every college football expert picked the Cowboys to finish either fifth or sixth -- in the Big 12 South. Instead, behind the unknown quarterback-receiver duo of Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon, the Pokes reeled off 11 wins and came within a hair of winning the South.
Likewise, this Oklahoma State squad has some unknowns. Many of the defenders penciled atop the current depth chart have never started a game in their careers. And of the returning receivers, only Jhajuan Seales had more than 22 catches last year.
But Oklahoma State has never recruited better, including the classes leading up to that 2010 season. The offense is littered with potential playmakers like Seales, Marcell Ateman and speed-demon running back Tyreek Hill. The defense has speed at every level.
These Cowboys likely won’t replicate the surprising success of the 2010 team. But Mike Gundy’s track record suggests Oklahoma State will do far better than 5-7.
The new ESPN 300 features 22 players currently committed to Big 12 programs. Texas leads the conference race with seven commits, while Oklahoma is next with five. Texas Tech has the conference’s highest-ranked ESPN 300 player in quarterback Jarrett Stidham, who is ranked No. 38 and is the No. 3 dual-threat quarterback in the country.
Here are five things to know in the Big 12:
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