Earlier today, I crowned Geno Smith the Big 12's best player entering the 2012 season.
That completed our preseason countdown of the league's top 25 players, but making these lists is always difficult. A lot of deserving players had to be cut. Here's the best of the bunch I couldn't put on the list?
Nigel Malone, CB, Kansas State: Malone put up big interception numbers, picking off seven passes a year ago. However, his yards allowed per target last season make it clear he's a bit overrated. That said, he's still one of the league's best corners.
Casey Pachall, QB, TCU: Pachall set a school record with 2,921 yards last year, but in the Big 12, he'd better be ready to break his own record. With 50 fewer yards, he would have ranked just seventh in the Big 12 last year, ahead of Collin Klein and behind Missouri's James Franklin, who also rushed for 981 yards last year. Pachall's good, but the bar is much, much higher for QB play in this league. The first step: Get Pachall more attempts. He only threw the ball 343 times last year, which would have also ranked seventh in the Big 12 in 2011.
Tevin Reese, WR, Baylor: Reese is going to make a run at 1,000 yards next season, and Nick Florence will be the man to help him. He's small at 5-foot-10, 165 pounds, but his speed gives teams reason to fear him.
Joe Madsen, C, West Virginia: Madsen's been a constant in the Big East, starting the last 38 games of his career and earning All-Big East honors. With Ben Habern out of the Big 12 now, he'll challenge Baylor's Ivory Wade and Kansas State's B.J. Finney as the league's best at the position.
Seth Doege, QB, Texas Tech: Doege topped 4,000 yards passing last year, even though his receivers and running backs and offensive line were constantly in the training room and in surgery last year. He takes care of the ball, too, throwing just 10 interceptions to 28 touchdowns in 581 attempts, the most in the Big 12 last year.
Quinn Sharp, K/P/KOS, Oklahoma State: I'm against putting special teamers on my top 25 list, but Sharp's come closer than any kicker ever, surpassing Nebraska legend Alex Henery. Sharp's the league's best kicker, best punter and led the nation in touchbacks by 21.
Eric Ward, WR, Texas Tech: Ward seemed like the last man standing in a receiving corps that lost Darrin Moore and Alex Torres last season. He was a constant for Doege, grabbing 84 passes for 800 yards and 11 scores, third-most in the Big 12.
Shaun Lewis, LB, Oklahoma State: Lewis cracked into the 2010 postseason list after a huge freshman year, but his numbers stayed pretty constant in 2011, and he got passed up by some of the league's other linebackers. He's still a huge talent, and may be on this list by season's end.
Eric Stephens, RB, Texas Tech: Stephens might have won a Big 12 rushing title last year if he hadn't suffered one of the worst knee injuries of the season. I'm a believer in Stephens, and here's hoping he's back to his usual self this fall. He scored eight touchdowns and had 565 yards last year in just over five games.