Thursday, August 30, 2012
Five Big 12 breakout players go national
By David Ubben
Colleague Travis Haney made his list of the nation's top 30 breakout players, and no surprise, the Big 12 played a big part in the list.
All good selections from Haney, and five players from the Big 12 made the list.
The top pick: safety Tony Jefferson.
He's broken out and the secret's out in Big 12 country, but if the Sooners keep winning, expect Jefferson to gain a ton of national notoriety. The biggest piece of that will be his move to free safety that should allow him to rack up stats that will turn more heads, too.
Jefferson is No. 6 on the list, and Longhorns linebacker Jordan Hicks is right behind him at No. 7.
No question about it: The Ohio native and former No. 1 linebacker in the nation coming out of high school has all the skills necessary, but like Texas' corners did last year, don't be surprised if Hicks turns a question mark into a strength by the end of the season.
He's mature and already looks like a leader. He made 65 stops a year ago, and will be even more comfortable in Year 2 of Manny Diaz's defensive scheme.
Baylor's Terrance Williams gave the Big 12 three consecutive picks on the list at No. 8.
Williams might have had the quietest 900-yard receiving season in the country a year ago, but as the No. 1 target for Nick Florence this year, there won't be any room for NFL-bound Kendall Wright to overshadow Williams, who just may be an NFL first-round pick next April.
A fourth player? Somebody few Big 12 fans have really gotten a chance to see. Penn State didn't play any Big 12 teams last season, but Brown fled the NCAA sanctions in State College to try and find a new home in Norman. He caught 36 balls a year ago and would have been the Nittany Lions' No. 1 target this year, but now, he'll start and try to find his role in the Sooners' pass-happy offense.
Brown's at No. 16, and the Big 12's final player on the list is defensive tackle Calvin Barnett, a juco transfer trying to find his place at Oklahoma State.
Mike Gundy's been very impressed with Barnett already, saying he's further along than any other juco transfer the school's ever invited into the program.