The Big 12 released its preseason All-Big 12 team last week, as voted on by a panel of media. Here's the full team, if you missed it.
Preseason awards were also announced. I'll unveil my ballots a little later on, but here's a few thoughts.
Landry Jones isn't the most emotional guy, but even coming off a disappointing 2011, you have to think seeing Geno Smith's name on the first team and preseason Offensive Player of the Year gets him fired up. Smith's a playmaker who was inconsistent at times in 2011, but finished strong. Oklahoma faltered down the stretch with losses to Baylor and Oklahoma State that left a bitter taste in some mouths re: Jones. Still, this battle between the two best passers by far in the Big 12 should be fun to watch.
Simply put, I don't get the Alex Okafor hype. No, I didn't vote for him as Defensive Player of the Year. He's a great, productive player, but he might not even be the best defensive end on his own team. And people want to crown him as the Big 12's best defensive player? Jackson Jeffcoat has more upside, and was more productive in just about every way in 2011. Okafor's really good. Probably the second-best defensive end in the league. But the best defender overall? No way.
Speaking of absences, I'm not a huge fan of West Virginia's leading receiver getting left off the team in favor of Oklahoma's Kenny Stills. Stedman Bailey proved himself as a No. 1 receiver last year, even against LSU when he caught eight balls for 115 yards and a score. When Ryan Broyles went down, the production simply wasn't there for Stills. The league change is a factor, but why does Stills (61 rec., 849 yards, 8 TD) belong over Bailey (72 rec., 1,279 yards, 12 TD)? Seems to me like the league's media was a bit ignorant over just how good Bailey was last year, in favor of Stills, a talent they're more familiar with. I call shenanigans.
Great picks along the offensive line. All very deserving.
Jamarkus McFarland was a surprise on the defensive line, but I sort of understand it. The Big 12 simply asks for "defensive linemen," and some people feel like they need to include two ends and two tackles. Generally, I do, but when the depth at defensive end is so much stronger, I can't reason including a tackle, even though McFarland is one of the best. Additionally, in the Big 12, a dominant pass-rusher is far more valuable than a run stopper, and there are a few of those more deserving than McFarland, like Meshak Williams at Kansas State, his teammate R.J. Washington, or even Toben Opurum at Kansas. More than anything, McFarland's inclusion is an indictment of the lack of quality defensive tackles in the league, even though McFarland has big potential for a big 2012.
The Big 12 only asks for "defensive backs" but I do feel it's necessary to include two safeties and two cornerbacks. There shouldn't even be a conversation: Kenny Vaccaro and Tony Jefferson deserve the two safety spots and got them on this year's team. At corner, though? There just have to be some necessary snubs. There are no less than six guys who deserve a spot on the first team. Kansas State's Nigel Malone and Oklahoma State's Brodrick Brown got them, but I'd take Texas' Carrington Byndom over both, even though they all deserve a spot. So does Texas' Quandre Diggs, Oklahoma's Demontre Hurst and Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert.
What's more ridiculous? That Quinn Sharp earned both the kicker and punter spots? Or that he didn't really have much competition at either spot? I voted Sharp for both and didn't think twice about it.