Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Big 12 [Print without images]

Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Take Two: Biggest true freshman impact?

By Jake Trotter

It’s Take Two Tuesday, where we give our takes on a burning question in the league.

Today's Take Two topic: Which incoming Big 12 freshman will have the biggest impact on the 2014 season?

Take 1: Brandon Chatmon

At 6-foot-5 and 208 pounds, Allen Lazard won’t look like a freshman the first time he steps on a college football field.

His size is one reason why the Iowa State receiver will make the biggest impact by a Big 12 true freshman this season. He will step on campus with his unusual size joining his receiving skills and a maturity that belies his age. The Urbandale, Iowa, native moves like a smaller receiver and has a passion for being a Cyclone, which was readily apparent as he rebuffed team after team during the recruiting process.

As Lazard appears to have all the skills to make an immediate impact, the Cyclones provide the ideal opportunity to play right away. Returning receiver Quenton Bundrage is a big-play machine, but no other returning Cyclones receiver had more than 22 receptions or two touchdowns in 2013. Lazard has the talent to force Big 12 teams to account for his playmaking ability and give ISU a terrific 1-2 option at receiver to combine with E.J. Bibbs, one of the league’s better pass-catching tight ends.

Lazard, who was No. 148 player in the ESPN 300, could emerge as one of the Big 12’s toughest mismatches if he makes a smooth transition to college football. His size allows him to be a red-zone and third-down threat. So if he’s mentally prepared to make an impact, Lazard could become a key playmaker for ISU and immediately make his name known in Big 12 circles.

Take 2: Jake Trotter

No incoming freshman is more assured of a role than Lazard, who is the most acclaimed offensive skill player Paul Rhoads has signed at Iowa State.

But no position can impact a season more than quarterback.

As one of the premier conferences for the position, the Big 12 again signed several talented quarterbacks, many of whom could play quickly. But no quarterback has better chance of playing quickly than Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph.

Unlike West Virginia’s William Crest or Texas’ Jerrod Heard, Rudolph is already on campus and will take part in spring ball. That will give him an edge over other freshman quarterbacks and a chance of winning the starting job in Stillwater.

The Cowboys have only one other quarterback on scholarship in J.W. Walsh, who was removed as a starter last October because of a poor completion percentage and penchant for interceptions. By all accounts, Walsh is a good runner, a great leader and a tough kid. But his limited arm strength is not the best fit for Mike Gundy’s offense, which is predicated on completing passes downfield to ease pressure off the running game. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Rudolph showed no such constraints in high school, completing 72 percent of his passes while throwing 64 touchdowns during a monster, state-championship senior season in Rock Hill, S.C.

Though Gundy has precedent for starting a true freshman quarterback (Wes Lunt) in an opener, he might opt against it this time, considering the Cowboys open against defending national champion Florida State.

However, Rudolph has the skill set to warrant a look, especially if the offense sputters under Walsh again. And if Rudolph gets a chance, his impact could be significant.