Thursday, December 15, 2011
The Big 12's Super Seniors of 2011
By ESPN.com staff
We honored the freshmen in the Big 12 earlier this week, but what about the old guys?
These guys have played at their programs for four or five years each, and earned a spot as one of the greats after providing some big-time senior leadership. Here's each Big 12 team's Super Senior of 2011.
Baylor: Kendall Wright, WR -- How many players lead a program at receiver for four consecutive years? Talk about a rarity. Wright did it emphatically this season, catching 101 passes for 1,572 yards, second-most nationally and the most in the Big 12. Wright got better every season, even in 2009 when Robert Griffin III missed the last nine games with a torn ACL. RG3 was the guy collecting the Heisman, so Wright's value sometimes got lost.
Iowa State: Kelechi Osemele, OT -- Osemele has been a mainstay on the Cyclones' offensive line, helping the program reach two bowl games in three years. He started each of those three seasons, and half of his redshirt freshman year in 2008. He'll carry on Iowa State's reputation into the NFL next year, but he's been valuable to an underrated offensive line.
Kansas: Steven Johnson, LB -- Johnson was a Pennsylvania kid who wanted a chance. Mark Mangino gave it to him, first letting him walk on and then giving him a scholarship. He's been around for two coaching changes now, but he's done after a huge year in 2011, where he led the Big 12 in tackles, with 119. It's been a dark period in Kansas' recent history, but Johnson's been the brightest spot.
Kansas State: Tysyn Hartman, S -- Hartman's a great personification of the "student-athlete," earning a finalist nod for the Campbell Trophy, which is essentially the academic Heisman. He's also been a four-year starter and helped bring about change this season under Bill Snyder, who led the Wildcats to a 10-2 record. Hartman made 62 tackles and intercepted three passes this year.
Missouri: Jacquies Smith, DE/Kenji Jackson, S -- Smith and Jackson were both major contributors for four seasons and shared captain duties for the Tigers this season. Smith's been big on the defensive line for all four seasons, and both have played through injuries. Smith dislocated an elbow this year and Jackson fought through a knee injury last year, as well as a hamstring injury in camp. Jackson made 71 tackles and picked off three passes, while Smith bullrushed his way into All-Big 12 honors with eight tackles for loss and five sacks, as well as four forced fumbles.
We'll review part two later.