Monday, August 29, 2011
Who is the best player in the Big 12 in 2011?
By ESPN.com staff ESPN.com
We're finally here. It's been a fun month as always, but it's time to unveil our No. 1 player in the Big 12 entering the 2011 season.
Surprisingly, I haven't heard a whole lot of complaints about this year's countdown. That either means I'm getting smarter or you're apathetic about my tomfoolery.
For my livelihood's sake, I'll convince myself it's the former.
Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon had 20 touchdown catches last season.
The list was a little heavy on offensive skill-position talent at the top, much more so than our lists in the past. That's the nature of this league this season. The strength is at receiver and quarterback. Cornerbacks and pass-rushers? Not so much.
Making the case for Blackmon: Blackmon is big, a slightly above average 6-foot-1, 211 pounds. He's fast, a deceptively long strider as Baylor found out when Blackmon burned them for a 69-yard rushing touchdown along the sideline.
But perhaps his best attribute is his most tangible. With apologies to the man directly below him on the list, he's got arguably the best body control of any receiver in the league, and he can go up and get balls downfield that nobody else in the Big 12 can get. Texas A&M's Jeff Fuller has him beat on size, but Blackmon's straight-line speed is much more impressive.
That helped Blackmon become college football's breakout star in 2010 on a team that was obviously the nation's most underrated, with stars like Blackmon and his quarterback, Brandon Weeden, itching to break loose. They're well-known commodities now, and the goal is simple: A Big 12 title, a BCS bowl or more. To reach any of those three things and certainly the last, the Cowboys will likely have to beat their in-state rivals to the South.
Blackmon couldn't get the Cowboys over the hump in 2010, but he turned down NFL money to come back for another season in Stillwater. We'll get our first look at the payoff on Saturday, when Louisiana-Lafayette treks to Stillwater.