The Oklahoma State junior is in line to replace Gilbert, a top-10 NFL draft pick. Gilbert was a special playmaker for the Cowboys and he changed several games during his four seasons in Stillwater, Okla.
Lampkin won’t be able to replace the complete package Gilbert brought to the table as a cover man and returner, but he has the pedigree and ability to slide right into the starting lineup without becoming the weak link in the secondary.
The Arlington, Texas, native has played in every game since becoming a Cowboy and was named OSU’s Special Teams Most Valuable Player in 2013. Lampkin has looked like a player who could handle an increased role for the past two seasons and should finally get his opportunity to shine at cornerback this fall. At 5-foot-11, 180 pounds, Lampkin brings decent size to the position and has the athletic ability to be a quality Big 12 cornerback.
Yet, Lampkin still has the biggest shoes to fill in the entire conference. Gilbert was a unique athlete who often made big plays when the Cowboys needed them, so Lampkin could have a superb first season as a starter and still leave people reminiscing about the eye-popping plays that Gilbert made look easy, particularly as a senior.
Thus, Lampkin could be, for all intents and purposes, in a no-win situation.
Brandon went with a first-rounder in Gilbert. I’ll go the other direction, and pick a seventh-rounder.
Sure, Dixon was the last Big 12 player selected in the draft, coming off the board 240 picks after Gilbert. But like Gilbert, Dixon was the tone-setter in the Baylor secondary, and one of the major reasons why the Bears fielded their best defensive unit in years. The Waco, Texas, native was also a 38-game starter, and Baylor’s first All-American safety since Thomas Everett in 1986.
The Bears also fielded the second-best pass defense in the league last year, after fielding the worst the previous two seasons. And no player had a bigger hand in that staggering improvement than Dixon, who was the unequivocal leader and heavy hitter of the Baylor defense. Sure, the Bears featured the nation’s top-scoring offense in 2013, but Baylor doesn’t capture its first Big 12 title without a drastically improved defense.
Next season, however, Dixon will be gone. And in his place, the Bears will be leaning on another Waco native that graduated from the same Midway High School as Dixon.
Backing up Dixon, Orion Stewart was a key reserve for the Bears last year as a freshman, and garnered key time in significant moments. In the same game Dixon was ejected for targeting last year, Stewart picked off a pass and dashed 82 yards for a touchdown, which helped lift Baylor to a 41-38 win over TCU. Stewart also started the following game against Texas while Dixon served a first half suspension.
In both games, Stewart performed admirably. But he’ll have to fill Dixon’s shoes for an entire season in 2014. And those shoes are as big as any in the Big 12.