Big 12: Big 12\'s top 40

Multi-faceted 'Big Suh' checks in as sixth-best Big 12 player

April, 27, 2009
4/27/09
8:07
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

No. 6

Ndamukong Suh has been transformed under Bo Pelini's defense.

After being a huge disappointment while playing under former coordinator Kevin Cosgrove's defense earlier in his career, Suh blossomed into one of the most dominant defensive players in the country last season.

Maybe it was being healthy. Or maybe it was his comfort in the new defensive philosophy. But Suh was a legitimate beast - particularly during the second half of the season when he led the Cornhuskers to a share of the Big 12 North title.

If he improves on that performance, he could develop into the kind of player who earns mention for national awards and All-America honors.

As well as likely leading the Cornhuskers to the North Division title.

Player: Ndamukong Suh
Team: Nebraska
Position: Defensive tackle
Vitals: 6-foot-4, 300 pounds; Sr.; Portland, Ore. (Grant)

Why he was picked: Suh is the anchor of the Nebraska defense, providing the Cornhuskers with a unique combination of size and strength. He can dominate the game, while providing unusual production for a player from his position. Known as "Big Suh" by Pelini, he lived up to that billing by producing a team-leading 76 tackles - the first defensive lineman to lead Nebraska in tackles since 1973. He also produced team-leading totals of 19 tackles for losses, 7½ sacks and seven quarterback hurries. Suh also is a productive short-yardage blocking back and even snagged a 2-yard TD reception to key the Cornhuskers' victory over Kansas.

What 2009 will hold: Suh's dramatic transformation after earlier career disappointments helped spur the Cornhuskers' Gator Bowl victory over Clemson as he became a Nebraska defensive linchpin with one of the most productive seasons in school history. If he makes a similar jump this season, Suh could merit legitimate mention as one of the greatest players in Nebraska history. Another big season will likely have the Cornhuskers in the hunt for their first Big 12 championship game appearance since 2006. And if he remains productive and healthy, he could be in line for a lot of money as a high first-round draft pick in the 2010 NFL draft.



The countdown:

7. Oklahoma DT Gerald McCoy
8. Oklahoma State RB Kendall Hunter
9. Oklahoma LB Travis Lewis
10. Kansas QB Todd Reesing
11. Oklahoma RB-KR DeMarco Murray
12. Oklahoma State T Russell Okung
13. Texas DE-LB Sergio Kindle
14. Oklahoma T Trent Williams
15. Missouri LB Sean Weatherspoon
16. Baylor LB Joe Pawelek
17. Oklahoma State QB Zac Robinson
18. Texas WR-KR Jordan Shipley
19. Oklahoma RB Chris Brown
20. Nebraska I-back Roy Helu Jr.
21. Texas Tech DT Colby Whitlock
22. Kansas WR-KR Dezmon Briscoe
23. Oklahoma DE Jeremy Beal
24. Kansas S Darrell Stuckey
25. Texas Tech RB Baron Batch
26. Kansas QB-WR Kerry Meier
27. Texas T Adam Ulatoski
28. Oklahoma State LB Andre Sexton
29. Missouri G Kurtis Gregory
30. Missouri RB Derrick Washington
31. Texas Tech LB Brian Duncan
32. Texas S Earl Thomas
33. Kansas State WR-KR Brandon Banks
34. Oklahoma LB Keenan Clayton
35. Baylor S Jordan Lake
36. Oklahoma State CB-KR Perrish Cox
37. Texas C Chris Hall
38. Texas Tech DE-DT McKinner Dixon
39. Kansas State DE Brandon Harold
40. Oklahoma FB Matt Clapp

OU DT Gerald McCoy checks in as Big 12's No. 7  player

April, 26, 2009
4/26/09
1:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

McCoy
No. 7

Gerald McCoy is the steadying influence who serves as the linchpin of the Oklahoma defense during both his years as a starter.

McCoy had a chance to make millions in the NFL draft, but opted to return to school for a shot at a national championship. He'll be the key player on Brent Venables' unit that returns nine starters and has a chance to develop into one of the best in school history.

If the Sooners challenge for their unprecedented fourth-straight Big 12 title, McCoy's work in the middle of the defense will be vitally important in getting them there.

Player: Gerald McCoy
Team: Oklahoma
Position: Defensive tackle
Vitals: 6-foot-4, 295 pounds; Jr.; Oklahoma City (Southeast)

Why he was picked: McCoy was the most productive lineman on Oklahoma's defense last season, leading the Sooners' interior linemen with 30 tackles. He ranked second on the team with 6.5 sacks, including a career-high two sacks against Texas. He was a first-team All-American selection by the Sporting News and a second-team All-American picked by the Associated Press. McCoy has been known for his knack of playing at his best in the biggest games. That was typified by his play in pass coverage in the BCS championship game, leading to his first career interception. Produced 16 unassisted tackles, including 11 for losses.

What 2009 will hold: McCoy already has talked about trying to help the Sooners develop into one of the best defenses in Big 12 history. With his production as the stimulus, the Sooners could get there. And if he progresses like he did last season, he could develop into a legitimate national honors candidate. Again, his value won't necessarily be reflected in raw statistics because he will likely face double-team blocking in almost every game.

The countdown:

8. Oklahoma State RB Kendall Hunter
9. Oklahoma LB Travis Lewis
10. Kansas QB Todd Reesing
11. Oklahoma RB-KR DeMarco Murray
12. Oklahoma State T Russell Okung
13. Texas DE-LB Sergio Kindle
14. Oklahoma T Trent Williams
15. Missouri LB Sean Weatherspoon
16. Baylor LB Joe Pawelek
17. Oklahoma State QB Zac Robinson
18. Texas WR-KR Jordan Shipley
19. Oklahoma RB Chris Brown
20. Nebraska I-back Roy Helu Jr.
21. Texas Tech DT Colby Whitlock
22. Kansas WR-KR Dezmon Briscoe
23. Oklahoma DE Jeremy Beal
24. Kansas S Darrell Stuckey
25. Texas Tech RB Baron Batch
26. Kansas QB-WR Kerry Meier
27. Texas T Adam Ulatoski
28. Oklahoma State LB Andre Sexton
29. Missouri G Kurtis Gregory
30. Missouri RB Derrick Washington
31. Texas Tech LB Brian Duncan
32. Texas S Earl Thomas
33. Kansas State WR-KR Brandon Banks
34. Oklahoma LB Keenan Clayton
35. Baylor S Jordan Lake
36. Oklahoma State CB-KR Perrish Cox
37. Texas C Chris Hall
38. Texas Tech DE-DT McKinner Dixon
39. Kansas State DE Brandon Harold
40. Oklahoma FB Matt Clapp

Hunter makes mark among top OSU running backs

April, 25, 2009
4/25/09
1:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

No. 8

It might seem that Kendall Hunter is mismatched by being the leading rusher in a conference that appears to be so pass-heavy as the Big 12.

But that's not the case. Hunter is one of the Big 12's most valuable players because of his running ability and the balance he brings to Oklahoma State.

The most notable number for Hunter is 6.5 -- his yard-per-carry average in both his freshman and sophomore seasons for the Cowboys.

If he continues to pile up yardage, he'll go down in history as one of the top running backs in history at Oklahoma State -- one of the nation's traditionally strong rushing teams. And another huge season might be enough to help catapult the Cowboys into the Big 12 title hunt for the first time in school history.

Player: Kendall Hunter
Team: Oklahoma State
Position: Running back
Vitals: 5-foot-8, 190 pounds; Jr.; Tyler, Texas (John Tyler)

Why he was picked: Hunter was the Big 12's leading rusher as a sophomore, piling up 1,555 yards to rank seventh nationally. He also scored 16 rushing touchdowns and added another touchdown reception. His average of 119.6 yards per game topped the second-place finisher Chris Brown of Oklahoma by more than 30 yards per game. Hunter was selected to the Football Writers Association of America's All-American team, becoming OSU's first All-America running back since Gerald Hudson in 1990. Hunter notched nine 100-yard rushing games and produced 15 carries of at least 20 yards last season.

What 2009 will hold: If Hunter can stay healthy and continue his pace of his first two seasons, he will likely have a good shot at earning All-America honors for a second season. More importantly, his breakaway abilities will provide a vital balance for the OSU offense that should be one of the nation's most explosive. A big season might boost them into Big 12 title contention and produce a shot at the first BCS bowl appearance in school history.

The countdown:

9. Oklahoma LB Travis Lewis
10. Kansas QB Todd Reesing
11. Oklahoma RB-KR DeMarco Murray
12. Oklahoma State T Russell Okung
13. Texas DE-LB Sergio Kindle
14. Oklahoma T Trent Williams
15. Missouri LB Sean Weatherspoon
16. Baylor LB Joe Pawelek
17. Oklahoma State QB Zac Robinson
18. Texas WR-KR Jordan Shipley
19. Oklahoma RB Chris Brown
20. Nebraska I-back Roy Helu Jr.
21. Texas Tech DT Colby Whitlock
22. Kansas WR-KR Dezmon Briscoe
23. Oklahoma DE Jeremy Beal
24. Kansas S Darrell Stuckey
25. Texas Tech RB Baron Batch
26. Kansas QB-WR Kerry Meier
27. Texas T Adam Ulatoski
28. Oklahoma State LB Andre Sexton
29. Missouri G Kurtis Gregory
30. Missouri RB Derrick Washington
31. Texas Tech LB Brian Duncan
32. Texas S Earl Thomas
33. Kansas State WR-KR Brandon Banks
34. Oklahoma LB Keenan Clayton
35. Baylor S Jordan Lake
36. Oklahoma State CB-KR Perrish Cox
37. Texas C Chris Hall
38. Texas Tech DE-DT McKinner Dixon
39. Kansas State DE Brandon Harold
40. Oklahoma FB Matt Clapp

Explosive Murray ranks as No. 11 player in Big 12

April, 22, 2009
4/22/09
5:41
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

No. 11

DeMarco Murray blossomed in his first full season as a starter for Oklahoma, becoming the most productive running back in Sooner history in terms of total yardage.

Murray and Chris Brown form the conference's most feared rushing attack. And while it's reasonable to wonder what either of them could do as a featured back, the fact that they are a combination probably boosts the overall production.

After struggling early last season, Murray blossomed late in the year. And his injury that occurred on the opening kickoff of the Big 12 championship game had some catastrophic effects for the Sooners as he was unable to play in the BCS title game.

Oklahoma fans always will wonder how the Sooners would have fared if Murray had been healthy for that game. But he'll have a chance to make his claim as one of Oklahoma's greatest backs as he runs behind a retooled offensive line.


Player: DeMarco Murray
Team: Oklahoma
Position: Running back/kick returner
Vitals: 6-foot-1, 205 pounds; Jr.; Las Vegas, Nev. (Bishop Gorman)

Why he was picked: One of the nation's most explosive running threats, Murray rushed for 1,002 yards and 14 touchdowns last season and also added 31 receptions for 395 yards and returned 28 kickoffs for 774 yards. Murray is the fastest Sooner (4.42 time in the 40-yard dash) and has incredible burst as a rusher and receiver. He amassed a school-record 2,171 total yards last season and rushed for 100 yards in five games last season.

What 2009 will hold: Murray likely will never be able to pile up yards like many featured backs because of the presence of Brown. But he still provides Oklahoma with a legitimate breakaway threat every time he touches the ball. It will be interesting to see both run behind a line that will feature four new starters. Big seasons by both Oklahoma backs will be critical if the Sooners are able to challenge for an unprecedented fourth-straight Big 12 title.

The countdown:

12. Oklahoma State T Russell Okung
13. Texas DE-LB Sergio Kindle
14. Oklahoma T Trent Williams
15. Missouri LB Sean Weatherspoon
16. Baylor LB Joe Pawelek
17. Oklahoma State QB Zac Robinson
18. Texas WR-KR Jordan Shipley
19. Oklahoma RB Chris Brown
20. Nebraska I-back Roy Helu Jr.
21. Texas Tech DT Colby Whitlock
22. Kansas WR-KR Dezmon Briscoe
23. Oklahoma DE Jeremy Beal
24. Kansas S Darrell Stuckey
25. Texas Tech RB Baron Batch
26. Kansas QB-WR Kerry Meier
27. Texas T Adam Ulatoski
28. Oklahoma State LB Andre Sexton
29. Missouri G Kurtis Gregory
30. Missouri RB Derrick Washington
31. Texas Tech LB Brian Duncan
32. Texas S Earl Thomas
33. Kansas State WR-KR Brandon Banks
34. Oklahoma LB Keenan Clayton
35. Baylor S Jordan Lake
36. Oklahoma State CB-KR Perrish Cox
37. Texas C Chris Hall
38. Texas Tech DE-DT McKinner Dixon
39. Kansas State DE Brandon Harold
40. Oklahoma FB Matt Clapp

Okung returns to school, checks in as No. 12 player in Big 12

April, 21, 2009
4/21/09
4:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

No. 12

With all of the skill-position weapons on Oklahoma State, one of the biggest keys for the Cowboys is massive tackle Russell Okung.

Okung's value will never be more apparent than this season, when we'll see if he can help the Cowboys contend for their first South Division title and first BCS berth in school history.

It's a big challenge, but the Cowboys' biggest and most powerful offensive lineman should be up for it.

Player: Russell Okung
Team: Oklahoma State
Position: Tackle
Vitals: 6-foot-6, 305 pounds; Sr.; Fort Bend, Texas (Bush)

Why he was picked: The linchpin of Oklahoma State's offensive line, Okung has made 34 consecutive starts, a streak that dates to his freshman season. He was one of the major reasons why the Cowboys racked up their third straight Big 12 rushing title, top 10 rankings in scoring and total offense and ranked among the top 20 nationally in fewest sacks allowed. Okung led the Cowboys with 71 knockdown blocks and 27 "dominating" blocks. He was in for 874 snaps last season.

What 2009 will hold: The Cowboys' hopes for contending for the Big 12 championship started when Okung decided to return for his senior season. If he can build on his strong college career, he will likely become one of the top offensive linemen in OSU history and a high first-round NFL draft selection.

The countdown:

13. Texas DE-LB Sergio Kindle
14. Oklahoma T Trent Williams
15. Missouri LB Sean Weatherspoon
16. Baylor LB Joe Pawelek
17. Oklahoma State QB Zac Robinson
18. Texas WR-KR Jordan Shipley
19. Oklahoma RB Chris Brown
20. Nebraska I-back Roy Helu Jr.
21. Texas Tech DT Colby Whitlock
22. Kansas WR-KR Dezmon Briscoe
23. Oklahoma DE Jeremy Beal
24. Kansas S Darrell Stuckey
25. Texas Tech RB Baron Batch
26. Kansas QB-WR Kerry Meier
27. Texas T Adam Ulatoski
28. Oklahoma State LB Andre Sexton
29. Missouri G Kurtis Gregory
30. Missouri RB Derrick Washington
31. Texas Tech LB Brian Duncan
32. Texas S Earl Thomas
33. Kansas State WR-KR Brandon Banks
34. Oklahoma LB Keenan Clayton
35. Baylor S Jordan Lake
36. Oklahoma State CB-KR Perrish Cox
37. Texas C Chris Hall
38. Texas Tech DE-DT McKinner Dixon
39. Kansas State DE Brandon Harold
40. Oklahoma FB Matt Clapp

Multi-positional Kindle ranks as No. 13 among Big 12 players

April, 20, 2009
4/20/09
8:07
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

No. 13

Texas' biggest weakness coming into the season is a defensive front that loses three starters. That's why the development of converted linebacker Sergio Kindle will be so critical for the Longhorns this season.

Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp has challenged Kindle to fill the role that Brian Orakpo provided as the Longhorns' top pass-rushing threat.

Kindle, a converted high-school running back, is one of the most athletic players in the conference. His development will be critical in the Longhorns' Big 12 title hopes.

Player: Sergio Kindle
Team: Texas
Position: Defensive end/linebacker
Vitals: 6-foot-4, 255 pounds; Sr.; Dallas (Woodrow Wilson)

Why he was picked: Kindle is one of the conference's most devastating pass-rushing threats, either at linebacker or defensive end. Kindle produced 53 tackles and ranked second on the team with 10 sacks and 14 tackles for losses by playing both positions. He also produced 15 quarterback pressures, forced two fumbles and broke up two passes. His production seemed to pick up at defensive end, where he should receive the majority of his playing time during the upcoming season.

What 2009 will hold:The Longhorns desperately need production from their defensive line and Kindle must emerge as their top pass rusher if they have any legitimate Big 12 title hopes. Kindle has been productive in the past, but notched a season-high of only six tackles twice last season. Those numbers will have to improve this season when he will be counted as one of the Longhorns' defensive leaders.

If he can do that, Kindle's national profile could mirror that of Orakpo. Coming into the 2008 season, Orkapo's college career had largely been a disappointment marked by inconsistency and injuries. But a huge senior season boosted him into an consensus All-American who will be drafted among the top eight or 10 players in the NFL draft. Kindle can do the same thing with a monster season in a similar role.

The countdown:

14. Oklahoma T Trent Williams
15. Missouri LB Sean Weatherspoon
16. Baylor LB Joe Pawelek
17. Oklahoma State QB Zac Robinson
18. Texas WR-KR Jordan Shipley
19. Oklahoma RB Chris Brown
20. Nebraska I-back Roy Helu Jr.
21. Texas Tech DT Colby Whitlock
22. Kansas WR-KR Dezmon Briscoe
23. Oklahoma DE Jeremy Beal
24. Kansas S Darrell Stuckey
25. Texas Tech RB Baron Batch
26. Kansas QB-WR Kerry Meier
27. Texas T Adam Ulatoski
28. Oklahoma State LB Andre Sexton
29. Missouri G Kurtis Gregory
30. Missouri RB Derrick Washington
31. Texas Tech LB Brian Duncan
32. Texas S Earl Thomas
33. Kansas State WR-KR Brandon Banks
34. Oklahoma LB Keenan Clayton
35. Baylor S Jordan Lake
36. Oklahoma State CB-KR Perrish Cox
37. Texas C Chris Hall
38. Texas Tech DE-DT McKinner Dixon
39. Kansas State DE Brandon Harold
40. Oklahoma FB Matt Clapp

Nebraska I-back Helu is Big 12's No. 20 player

April, 13, 2009
4/13/09
5:43
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

No. 20

Today marks the halfway point of our top 40 list of Big 12 players with the addition of Nebraska I-back Roy Helu Jr. at No. 20.

  Helu

With the departure of Marlon Lucky from last year's team, Helu and Quentin Castille will have a chance to emerge as the featured ball carriers for the Cornhuskers.

Helu has added more weight over the winter to become a solid interior threat. He hopes to improve on his strong finish from last season, when he rushed for the highest rushing average by a Nebraska player in seven seasons.

With an untested quarterback and wide receivers and a veteran offensive line surrounding him, Helu might have one of the best opportunities for a running back in the conference.

Now, he just has to make the most of it.

Player: Roy Helu Jr.
Team: Nebraska
Position: I-back
Vitals: 6-foot-0, 215 pounds; Jr.; Danville, Calif. (San Ramon Valley)

Why he was picked: In limited playing time last season, Helu rushed for 803 yards on 125 carries, averaging 6.4 yards per carry. He was the first Cornhusker with at least 100 carries to average six yards per carry since 2000. And he was also a versatile receiver with 25 receptions for 266 yards. Helu really came on at the end of the season, rushing for 510 yards over the final four regular-season games. Included in the late binge were three 100-yard games during that span, topped by a career-high 166 yards in the Cornhuskers' comeback victory over Colorado.

What 2009 will hold: It's not out of the question that Helu could challenge for the Big 12 rushing championship, although the presence of Castille might limit his carries. But the veteran offensive line and new quarterback and receivers breaking in for the Cornhuskers could provide an opportunity for both of them to receive ample playing time. It's not inconceivable for Helu to rush for 1,000 yards and add 40 receptions -- even with Castille in place. His emergence as a prime offensive weapon will be critical if the Cornhuskers have any legitimate hope of claiming the North Division title.

21. Texas Tech DT Colby Whitlock
22. Kansas WR/KR Dezmon Briscoe
23. Oklahoma DE Jeremy Beal
24. Kansas S Darrell Stuckey
25. Texas Tech RB Baron Batch
26. Kansas WR-QB Kerry Meier
27. Texas T Adam Ulatoski
28. Oklahoma State S Andre Sexton
29. Missouri G Kurtis Gregory
30. Missouri RB Derrick Washington
31. Texas Tech LB Brian Duncan
32. Texas S Earl Thomas
33. Kansas State WR Brandon Banks
34. Oklahoma LB Keenan Clayton
35. Baylor S Jordan Lake
36. Oklahoma State CB/KR Perrish Cox
37. Texas C Chris Hall
38. Texas Tech DE/DT McKinner Dixon
39. Kansas State DE Brandon Harold
40. Oklahoma FB Matt Clapp

Kansas' Meier ranks as Big 12's 26th best player

April, 7, 2009
4/07/09
4:33
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

No. 26

  Meier

Kerry Meier could have pouted when asked to make a position switch to wide receiver from quarterback. Instead, he became one of the most productive players in school history after moving to his new position.

Meier has flourished at wide receiver, setting a school record for receptions last season. And he still keeps busy as a quarterback, playing the position in the pinch for his team.

Player: Kerry Meier
Team: Kansas
Position: Wide receiver/quarterback
Vitals: 6-foot-3, 220 pounds; Sr.; Pittsburg, Kan.

Why he was picked: Coaches thought that Meier could become a "serviceable" wide receiver after he switched from quarterback in 2007. Instead, he blossomed beyond their wildest dreams, producing a school-record 97 catches last season in his first full year at the position. He also amassed 1,045 yards receiving (fourth-most in school history) and eight touchdowns.

Meier finished 2008 with a flourish, notching a school-record 14 receptions in the regular-season finale against Missouri and getting 10 more catches (and a touchdown pass he threw on a reverse) in the Jayhawks' Insight Bowl triumph over Minnesota. Meier is still officially considered Kansas' backup quarterback, although all three passes he threw last season came from the wide receiver position. Coming into the 2009 season, he has a streak of 13 consecutive completions dating to the middle of the 2007 season. And he also is the holder for Kansas' kicking game and is the Jayhawks' backup punter.

What 2009 will hold: Meier could become even more proficient this season if he can move full time to wide receiver. That will depend on the development of projected backup quarterback Kale Pick. An even bigger season could be expected for Meier if he spends most of his time working with the Kansas receivers coming into the season instead of bouncing back and forth to quarterback meetings. A big season from Meier will be critical if the Jayhawks have any hopes of winning their first North Division championship.

The countdown:

27. Texas T Adam Ulatoski
28. Oklahoma State S Andre Sexton
29. Missouri G Kurtis Gregory
30. Missouri RB Derrick Washington
31. Texas Tech LB Brian Duncan
32. Texas S Earl Thomas
33. Kansas State WR Brandon Banks
34. Oklahoma LB Keenan Clayton
35. Baylor S Jordan Lake
36. Oklahoma State CB/KR Perrish Cox
37. Texas C Chris Hall
38. Texas Tech DE/DT McKinner Dixon
39. Kansas State DE Brandon Harold
40. Oklahoma FB Matt Clapp

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