Friday, August 26, 2011
Young players to look for on the next top 25
By David Ubben
We'll officially wrap up the top 25 players in the Big 12 on Monday (WHICH IS GAME WEEK, PEOPLE), but there are plenty of players around the Big 12 that you might find on this list next season.
They're first-year starters or freshmen that are loaded with potential.
Keep an eye on these guys.
Eric Stephens, RB, Texas Tech: Stephens played second fiddle to three-year starter Baron Batch last season, but still racked up 668 yards rushing on just 127 carries, an average of 5.26 yards a carry. I've got him lined up to be the Red Raiders' first 1,000-yard rusher since 1998. If that happens, he'll be on our top 25.
James Franklin, QB, Missouri: I've got Franklin currently as the Big 12's sixth-best quarterback, but he could shoot up that list fast with the amount of talent around him. The Tigers bring back the top three running backs from last year's team and every receiver. His left tackle, Elvis Fisher, is out for the year, but Franklin is a talented, yet inexperienced dual threat.
Damontre Moore, LB, Texas A&M: Moore showed some big talent in relief of Von Miller early last season. Now's his chance to fill the Aggies' joker spot. He'll have a lot of talent around him on defense, especially at linebacker, which is very experienced at two of the other three spots in A&M's 3-4. That could allow Moore space to shine.
Darrian Miller, RB, Kansas: The shifty Kansas City native will have to stand out to get significant touches in a crowded Kansas backfield that returns leading rusher James Sims, but the true freshman is a home run hitter inserted into a lineup that was without one in 2010.
Ahmad Dixon, S, Baylor: Dixon's found a home in Baylor's defense at the nickel back spot. The former blue-chip recruit and Waco native should be well suited to use his size and speed in a restructured Bears defense.
Joseph Randle, RB, Oklahoma State: Randle was outstanding in limited opportunities behind two-time 1,500-yard rusher Kendall Hunter. Those opportunities will be plentiful in 2011 as he shares the backfield with Jeremy Smith and should rack up plenty of receptions in the Cowboys' offense, too.
Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State: Brown was my pick for the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, so he should be a slam dunk for this list at season's end. Look for Brown to emerge as the top playmaker for a Wildcats defense that has a lot to prove in 2011.
Malcolm Brown, RB, Texas: Brown is perhaps the league's most hyped freshman entering the season. He'll need help from his offensive line, but there's a good chance he could oust Fozzy Whittaker and Cody Johnson for the Longhorn's primary ballcarrier based on physical skills alone.
Corey Nelson, LB, Oklahoma: Nelson is a huge unknown, but no player in the Big 12 has earned more buzz from his coaches and teammates. They've been raving about the sophomore. Bob Stoops called him the defense's best player in the spring. Travis Lewis has said Nelson will be better than him eventually. He'll have a chance early in the season with Lewis sidelined with a broken toe.
Steele Jantz, QB, Iowa State: Jantz is a wild card, but if he gets a chance to showcase his speed, he could revitalize an Iowa State offense that has been way, way short on playmakers in recent years. His running backs could provide some help, but the receivers are uninspired. Can Jantz open things up? If so, he deserves a spot on the list.