Thursday, August 27, 2009
Watch for these freshmen across the Big 12
By ESPN.com staff
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
We're headed down to the final week of camp as two-deep rosters are getting set for next weekend's openers across the conference.
A collection of talented freshmen have emerged at Big 12 programs so far in training camp. Here's a look at one newcomer to remember from each Big 12 team as
we head into the start of the season.
Baylor: Imposing 6-foot-6 freshman wide receiver Willie Jefferson has already played his way into the Bears' rotation at receiver. He's shown a knack for making acrobatic, leaping catches and has made a quick connection with Robert Griffin in the Bears' offense.
Colorado: Freshman defensive end Forrest West is mature enough physically to compete for playing time immediately from early in the season. Coaches rave about his quick learning abilities and his physical skill. They think he can position himself into the rotation early in the season.
Iowa State: Freshman middle linebacker A.J. Klein, who turned 18 in July, has already turned heads because of his physical play and knack for roaming from sideline to sideline for tackles. He's now No. 2 on the Cyclones' depth chart behind starter Jesse Smith and should see playing time from early in the season.
Kansas: Coach Mark Mangino has already said that freshman wide receiver Bradley McDougald performed better than any freshman he's had in his program. The converted defensive back is already earning snaps at wide receiver -- improving the Jayhawks in speed and talent at an already stacked position.
Kansas State: Freshman cornerback Thomas Ferguson has been an early producer at workouts and has a good chance to see playing time immediately because of the new 4-2-5 defensive alignment favored by coordinators Chris Cosh and Vic Koenning.
Missouri: Freshman running back Kendial Lawrence will get immediately playing time, despite the stacked roster in front of him with Derrick Washington and De'Vion Moore. Lawrence can provide a speedy element for the Tigers to be looking for after rushing for 2,679 yards and scoring 43 touchdowns last season as a high school senior.
Nebraska: Freshman I-back Rex Burkhead, who was impressive early and has kept getting better. With Quentin Castille being kicked off the team, Burkhead now is the No. 2 I-back on the roster behind starter Roy Helu Jr.
Oklahoma: Freshman cornerback DeMontre Hurst has emerged as one of the surprises at camp. Hurst had two interceptions at the Sooners' recent scrimmage and should have had another.
Oklahoma State: Freshman safety Daytawion Lowe, who has shown well at several recent practices despite playing one of the team's deepest positions. Lowe will play in the Cowboys' defensive rotation.
Texas: Freshman quarterback Garrett Gilbert has staked his claim for the backup position behind Colt McCoy, taking advantage of Sherrod Harris' slow recovery from knee surgery. Look for Gilbert to get playing time this season and position himself for a strong bid for Texas' 2010 starting job.
Texas A&M: Freshman linebacker Sean Porter played a lot with the first-team defense in the Aggies' most recent scrimmage. A&M coaches have been impressed with his speed and athletic ability and he's playing at a position of need for his team.
Texas Tech: Running back Eric Stephens has emerged in the Red Raiders' rotation behind Baron Batch and Harrison Jeffers. Coach Mike Leach has described the 5-foot-8, 185-pound Stephens as "built for combat." Look for him to be used immediately in the running game and also as a kick returner.