Friday, January 28, 2011
The Big 12's most improved players in 2010
By ESPN.com staff
We saw plenty of talents rise up and become stars in 2010, so here's a nod to the ones who made the most improvement. The criteria: Players must have played in some capacity during the 2009 season, and ones returning from injury (Sorry, Kendall Hunter and Robert Griffin III) weren't eligible.
1. Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State. Blackmon caught 20 passes as a freshman in 2009, but with a new offense and a new guy to run it in 2010, the sophomore saw an opportunity. He ramped up his training, and finished the season with 111 receptions for 1,782 yards and 20 touchdowns. He was also the first player in college football history with 100 yards and a touchdown in 12 consecutive games.
2. Seriously, Blackmon deserves a gap between himself and the rest of the league. He went from a guy almost nobody outside Stillwater had ever heard of to the best player in the league in one season. The list of guys who have done that is extremely short.
3. T.J. Moe, WR, Missouri. Moe played through a broken foot as a freshman in 2009, but caught just two passes -- both against Furman -- for eight yards. In 2010, he became one of the toughest covers in the nation, racking up 92 receptions for 1,045 yards and six scores.
4. Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska. Dennard only became a starter late in the 2009 season, but throughout 2010, became the Big 12's next-best shutdown corner, right behind his teammate, Prince Amukamara. He finished with four interceptions and 11 passes defended, and was my pick for the second All-Big 12 first-team corner.
5. Cyrus Gray, RB, Texas A&M. Gray made perhaps his biggest leap midway through the season, but he had a strong case as the conference's best running back in conference play after teammate Christine Michael went down with a broken leg. He finished the year with seven 100-yard games and had 938 yards in that stretch alone, more than his 757 yards in 2009 and his 195 yards in the season's first six games.
6. Byron Landor, S, Baylor. Landor started just three games in 2009, and made 46 tackles, but became one of the league's best safeties as a senior. He earned a reputation as perhaps the hardest hitter in the league and made 127 tackles, fourth-most in the Big 12.
Honorable mention: Jamell Fleming, CB, Oklahoma; Michael Egnew, TE, Missouri; Dan Bailey, K, Oklahoma State; Kevin Rutland, CB, Missouri; Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M