- Brandon Chatmon, ESPN Staff Writer
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The 2014 season could be a critical one for several Big 12 seniors.
It’s their final chance to maximize their potential, show off for NFL scouts and push their teams to higher heights. In other words, it’s now or never for several Big 12 players who are poised to play the final 12 games of their college careers. Here’s a look at five seniors on the offensive side of the ball who could have a major impact on their team's success or hamper those chances for success if they struggle as individuals.
Receiver/running back Tony Pierson, Kansas
Why he may excel: When he’s healthy, Pierson is a big play waiting to happen. In limited action in 2013, Pierson averaged 10.33 yards per play from scrimmage. He’s had the potential to be one of the Big 12’s top players since his sophomore season but this year is his last chance to cement his name alongside the conference’s top offensive threats. If he’s healthy, KU’s offense will be able to stretch defenses with his speed and quickness.
Why he may struggle: He struggled to stay healthy as a junior and, worse yet, it was a head injury that hampered him. Charlie Weis and the rest of the coaching staff will undoubtedly try to make sure to limit the hits Pierson takes this fall, but the ball will be in his hands so much he will be open to punishment. Having a healthy Pierson is critical for a Jayhawk offense searching for playmakers.
Quarterback Clint Trickett, West Virginia
Why he may excel: Trickett has another year in Dana Holgorsen’s offense and a much better feel for how the Mountaineers’ head coach wants things to run. The senior showed toughness even though he struggled in 2013, but he could put up solid numbers this fall if he makes better decisions and focuses on letting his playmakers do the hard work.
Why he may struggle: Trickett never looked comfortable or confident in Holgorsen’s offense in 2013 and then a shoulder injury forced him to miss the spring. He might not have enough tangible experience to make the offense hum this fall.
Receiver Bradley Marquez, Texas Tech
Why he may excel: Marquez finally gets the opportunity to see a bigger role in the Red Raiders’ offense after playing a supplementary role as a junior. And he’s focusing on football instead of spending the summer playing professional baseball. He’s flashed terrific ability, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him emerge as one of the Big 12’s most productive receivers.
Why he may struggle: Marquez saw a lot of one-on-one situations with Jace Amaro and Eric Ward making plays and forcing defenses to account for them last year. If he does start to emerge as a playmaker and garner extra attention, will his production remain steady?
Receiver Curry Sexton, Kansas State
Why he may excel: Teams will be focused on Tyler Lockett, the Big 12’s potential offensive player of the year, anytime Jake Waters drops back to pass. Sexton can make them pay if he matches his consistency in 2013, when he caught 39 of the 55 passes thrown his way. He’s not a game breaking threat like Lockett but he could be a valuable asset for the Wildcat offense.
Why he may struggle: He’s not the type of receiver who will overwhelm defenders with his physicality or speed. If defenses get physical with him, Sexton will have to make them pay for challenging him. If he doesn’t, KSU’s offense will have to look to other, less experienced receivers to fill to void.
Tackle Desmond Harrison, Texas
Why he may excel: Harrison has physical gifts and Joe Wickline has arrived to push him to that potential. If he responds, the Longhorns could have a quality left tackle to build around.
Why he may struggle: If he doesn’t respond to Wickline, he could find himself on the bench. The Longhorns’ new offensive line coach will push him to improve or Wickline will look elsewhere.
5hMax Olson and Jake Trotter