Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Who's in, out of the Big 12 in 2012?
By David Ubben
Sunday was the final deadline for players to enter the NFL Draft, so here's a look at who's in and who's out for 2012.
Leaving early for the NFL:
Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon is headed to the NFL, as expected.
Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State: Blackmon's decision was mostly a formality all season. Coach Mike Gundy intimated several times that he expected Blackmon, who held a dramatic news conference before the 2011 season, to leave and advised him to do so. Blackmon went through Senior Day festivities as a junior, and made it "official," I suppose, right after the Fiesta Bowl, announcing his intentions in a postgame interview.
Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor: Griffin's stock skyrocketed faster and more dramatically than anyone in the draft over the last half of the season, and after winning the Heisman Trophy and the Alamo Bowl, Griffin said he felt it was time to go. He's right. He said he felt like he needed to go after breaking down in the locker room after the bowl win, and he'll leave the Big 12 as one of the league's all-time greats. Both Blackmon and Griffin are projected as top 10 picks easily. Both could realistically go in the top five.
Ronnell Lewis, LB, Oklahoma: Lewis had a lot on his plate this year, and Sooners coach Bob Stoops recognized this. Lewis missed the final three games of the season with an injury and then academic issues, and left for the NFL with Stoops' blessing. He projects as a late first-round or early second-round pick, but his impressive physical measurables should be on display at the combine.
Bryce Brown, RB, Kansas State: Brown's career at Kansas State never worked out. The five-star recruit turned transfer from Tennessee carried the ball just three times for 16 yards and fumbled deep in K-State territory to set up an opponent's score in the season opener. Brown's physical skills impressed coach Bill Snyder in the spring, but he never earned his spot in the rotation and left the team in midseason. Now, it looks like he won't be coming back.
Staying in college:
Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma: Jones' decision to return was the most impactful since Blackmon and Brandon Weeden made a joint announcement to return to OSU after the 2010 season. Jones' decision makes Oklahoma the front-runner in 2012 in the Big 12, and a dark horse to win the national title. Oklahoma's failed run at the title this past season began with a preseason No. 1 ranking. Jones, though, regressed this past season and struggled after his top target, Ryan Broyles, tore his ACL. The Sooners' receivers were plagued with drops, too, but Jones will have to figure out what went wrong to bounce back in 2012.
Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas: Vaccaro might emerge as one of the league's premier defensive stars in 2012, but he'll keep his diverse skill set in Austin for one more season. He's one of the league's biggest hitters, and he'll be a huge piece of Manny Diaz's defense next season, as well as a preseason candidate for Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.
Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M: Swope won't be playing in the Big 12, of course, but the former running back and unlikely leading receiver for the Aggies is coming back to College Station. Last season, the Aggies waited on Jeff Fuller's decision, but Swope outperformed the more athletically gifted Fuller. Swope's running-back frame is deceptively fast and his feel for space is excellent. It'll be interesting to see how he does in the SEC West in 2012.
Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State: Brown's the surest tackler in the Big 12 and an amazing blend of power and speed. Like Vaccaro, he'll be a big candidate for preseason Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. He was one of just eight Big 12 defenders to top 100 tackles in 2011.
Alex Okafor, DE, Texas: Okafor burst onto the scene this season after playing defensive tackle in 2010, and he finished seventh in the Big 12 with six sacks. He was also eighth with 12.5 tackles for loss.