Big 12: BJ Finney

Watch list week continued Tuesday with the release of the Mackey Award and Rimington Trophy. The Mackey goes to the most outstanding tight end, while the Rimington is for college football's top center.

Here are the Big 12 players that made each list:

Mackey
Rimington

Monday, the Maxwell (player of the year), Bednarik (defensive player of the year) and Hornung (most versatile player) watch lists were released.

Below is the rest of the preseason watch list schedule:

Wednesday
- Lou Groza Award, best place-kicker
- Ray Guy Award, best punter

Thursday
- Bronko Nagurski Trophy, best defensive player
- Outland Trophy, best interior lineman

Friday
- Jim Thorpe Award, best defensive back

Monday, July 14
- Butkus Award, best linebacker
- Lombardi Award, best lineman

Tuesday, July 15
- Biletnikoff Award, best receiver

Wednesday, July 16
- Davey O’Brien Award, best quarterback.

Thursday, July 17
- Doak Walker Award, best running back

Friday, July 18
- Walter Camp Award, best player
A wonderful summer tradition is upon us: The college football preseason magazines have hit the newsstands. As usual, they're chocked full of info, predictions and glossy photos. As expected, no matter which one you pick up, it'll be full of love for Florida State and Alabama.

How did the Big 12 fare in this year's preseason publications? Oklahoma and Baylor have the unanimous respect of the pundits -- no surprise there -- but everyone has a different take on how the rest of the league standings will shake out. A rundown of the key predictions you'll find in each magazine:

PHIL STEELE

[+] EnlargeBob Stoops
Jackson Laizure/Getty ImagesBob Stoops' Sooners are a popular pick to make college football's initial playoff.
Ranking the Big 12:
1. Oklahoma (4th nationally)
"This year's Sooner squad is stronger on both sides of the ball with nine returning starters back on D and more stability at QB. … The Sooners are a legit national title contender."
2. Baylor (8th)
"QB (Bryce) Petty will likely lead the NCAA in passing, throwing to my No. 1 set of receivers with my No. 2 O-line and No. 2 RBs in the Big 12."
3. TCU (14th)
"If you are looking for this year's Auburn, which is a team that had just 3 or 4 wins the previous year and ends up playing for the national title, you may just have found them."
4. Texas (25th)
5. Kansas State (42nd)
6. Oklahoma State
7. Texas Tech
8. West Virginia
9. Iowa State
10. Kansas
All-Americans: WR Antwan Goodley, BAY (1st team); WR Tyler Lockett, KSU (2nd); DE Ryan Mueller, KSU (2nd); LB Eric Striker, OU (2nd); C BJ Finney, KSU (3rd); T Le'Raven Clark, TTU (3rd); T Spencer Drango, BAY (3rd); DE Devonte Fields, TCU (3rd); DE Cedric Reed, TEX (3rd)
Surprise team: Steele has TCU as his No. 4 team most likely to surprise behind Georgia, USC and Wisconsin. Texas came in at No. 10 on his list. Steele also claims the Horned Frogs will be the nation's most improved team in 2014.
Preseason No. 1: Florida State.
Playoff prediction: Florida State, Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma.
Heisman: Petty is ranked No. 4 and OU's Trevor Knight is No. 9 among Steele's 2014 Heisman favorites. Lockett also listed as a "contender."

ATHLON

Ranking the Big 12:
1. Oklahoma (4th nationally)
"These Sooners can win. And win big."
2. Baylor (10th)
"The Bears probably have too many questions marks to give Oklahoma a serious fight for the top spot."
3. Texas (17th)
"Any improvement from last year's 8-5 record would probably be seen as a good first year for [Charlie] Strong."
4. Kansas State (20th)
5. Oklahoma State (37th)
6. TCU (39th)
7. Texas Tech (41st)
8. Iowa State (66th)
9. West Virginia (67th)
10. Kansas (78th)
All-Americans: Lockett (1st team); Goodley (2nd); Striker (2nd); CB Quandre Diggs, TEX (2nd); Finney (3rd); OG Quinton Spain, WVU (3rd); Mueller (3rd); DT Malcom Brown, TEX (3rd).
Hot seat: Charlie Weis is ranked No. 4 among coaches in the most trouble entering 2014, a list that has Florida's Will Muschamp in the top spot. West Virginia's Dana Holgorsen is sixth on the hot-seat list.
Playoff prediction: Florida State, Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma.
Heisman: Petty is ranked fifth and Knight is 18th among Athlon's top 20 contenders.

LINDY'S

Ranking in the Big 12:
1. Oklahoma (3rd nationally)
"The Sooners have the look and feel of Big 12 bullies again."
2. Baylor (10th)
"The Bears' roster is dynamite, and [Art] Briles is a magician. A repeat Big 12 title would launch this program into the stratosphere."
3. Kansas State (16th)
"Kansas State has enough pieces to challenge for the Big 12 title and to make a name for itself with an early home game against Auburn."
4. Texas (22nd)
5. Texas Tech (33rd)
6. Oklahoma State (37th)
7. TCU (45th)
8. West Virginia (46th)
9. Iowa State (53rd)
10. Kansas (85th)
All-Americans: Goodley (1st team); Lockett (2nd); Drango (2nd); Reed (2nd); Striker (2nd).
Top newcomers: Lindy's predicts that Iowa State WR Allen Lazard will be the league's best instant-impact freshman. Oklahoma RB Joe Mixon is named the newcomer most likely to thrive in the NFL, and Oklahoma State LB Josh Mabin is the "top sleeper" among incoming freshmen.
Playoff prediction: Florida State, Alabama, Oklahoma, Oregon.
Heisman: Petty is ranked fourth and Knight is No. 9 among Lindy's top 10 candidates.

SPORTING NEWS

Ranking the Big 12:
1. Oklahoma (1st nationally)
"Enough pieces are in place for Oklahoma to be among the four teams in the inaugural College Football Playoff bracket."
2. Baylor (7th)
"Baylor is capable of hanging a banner after the first year in its new home."
3. Texas (23rd)
"The defense will be improved, but the Longhorns continue to be in game-management mode at quarterback."
4. Oklahoma State
5. Kansas State
6. TCU
7. West Virginia
8. Texas Tech
9. Iowa State
10. Kansas
All-Americans: Lockett (1st team); Goodley (2nd); Clark (2nd); LB Bryce Hager, BAY (2nd); Striker (2nd); Diggs (2nd); Petty (3rd); Drango (3rd); DE Charles Tapper, OU (3rd); Reed (3rd); LB Ben Heeney, KU (3rd); Carter (3rd), P Spencer Roth, BAY (3rd).
POTY: Sporting News names Petty its preseason offensive player in the Big 12 and Fields as the league's top defender, even though he didn't earn a spot on their three All-America squads.
Playoff prediction: Oklahoma, Oregon, Florida State, Alabama.
Heisman: Petty is No. 6 among Sporting News' preseason top 10 candidates.

USA TODAY

Ranking the Big 12:
1. Oklahoma (7th nationally)
"It's hard to find many faults with this team, outside of the potential for a decline in pass defense without (Aaron) Colvin on the outside."
2. Baylor (12th)
"While there's still experience aplenty, Baylor's overall youth could prevent another run to the Big 12 title."
3. Kansas State (13th)
"The pieces are there for the Wildcats to contend for the Big 12 title if they can avoid the sort of sloppy, sluggish start that cut last season down in its tracks."
4. Texas (24th)
5. Oklahoma State (35th)
6. Texas Tech (41st)
7. TCU (57th)
8. West Virginia (74th)
9. Kansas (96th)
10. Iowa State (98th)
All-Americans: Lockett (1st team); Striker (1st); T Daryl Williams, OU (1st); S Sam Carter, TCU (1st).
Big games: USA Today's top three Big 12 games for 2014 are Texas vs. Oklahoma on Oct. 11, Baylor at Oklahoma on Nov. 8 and Kansas State at Baylor on Dec. 6.
Playoff prediction: Florida State, Ohio State, Alabama, Oregon.
Heisman: Petty listed as one of eight candidates capable of dethroning Jameis Winston.
This week, we’ve been running dream and nightmare scenarios for teams in the Big 12. In other words, what a season would look like if every single imaginable domino fell into place. And conversely, if everything that could go wrong, well, did.

Next up in the best- and worst-case scenario series: the Kansas State Wildcats:

BEST CASE

[+] EnlargeTyler Lockett
Peter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesIf he gets some help, Tyler Lockett could be primed for a remarkable season.
From Michael Bishop to Darren Sproles, there have been some phenomenal playmakers in the Bill Snyder era. But Tyler Lockett becomes the greatest of them all, stringing together a series of games for the ages. Lockett warms up with two touchdown catches in an easy win in Farmageddon. Then, with a Thursday night national ESPN audience tuning in, Lockett crushes Auburn with more than 300 yards receiving, three touchdown catches and a kickoff return touchdown as K-State takes down the defending SEC champs to land the Big 12 its fist marquee victory of the playoff era.

The rest of the offense rounds into form, too. Jake Waters builds off his strong close to last season and comes out even sharper in 2014. He throws just five interceptions all season and fulfills his No. 1 obligation, which is putting the ball on the money to Lockett. True freshman Dalvin Warmack continues the K-State tradition of prolific diminutive rushers, and he quickly takes over as the Wildcats’ featured running back. BJ Finney and Cody Whitehair produce first-team All-Big 12 seasons up front, and juco transfer Andre Davis finally emerges in October as a competent complement at receiver opposite Lockett.

Defensively, Dante Barnett picks up where Ty Zimmerman left off. Ryan Mueller leads the nation with 18 sacks. Travis Britz plugs the middle. And coveted juco transfers D’Vonta Derricott and Terrell Clinkscales lived up to the hype and solidify the rest of the front seven.

On Oct. 18, the 5-0 Powercats head south and knock off Oklahoma in Norman for the second straight time to jump into the top 10 of the polls. The Lockett-train keeps rolling the following week, as he hauls in another three touchdowns in K-State’s 28-point plastering of Texas.

The Powercats take an 11-0 record into the regular-season finale. And this time they don’t falter in Waco, as K-State avenges the loss two years ago with a 44-41 victory over Baylor in a showdown that decides the Big 12 championship.

Still, all good things must come to an end, and the magic runs out in the first round of the inaugural playoff, as K-State can’t pull off the Yellowhammer sweep with a heartbreaking defeat to Alabama.

With 19 touchdowns, Lockett places third in the Heisman voting. Snyder signs the nation’s five-best juco recruits. Daniel Sams quarterbacks McNeese State to an upset of Nebraska in the opener. Kansas basketball gets bounced from the first round of the NCAA tournament.

WORST CASE

K-State can’t harness the momentum that it finished with last fall and opens the season sloppy again. Waters starts throwing interceptions, and with no Sams to turn to for a spark, the Wildcats lose in Farmageddon for just the first time since 2007. The Thursday night clash with Auburn offers an opportunity to get the season back on the track. But K-State is never in the game, and with no other receiver commanding attention, the Tigers limit Lockett to just two catches.

As a freshman, Warmack isn’t ready yet, and the rushing attack turns out to be a disaster. After Finney and Whitehair, the offensive line has three gaping holes. Derricott and Clinkscales fail to break into the starting lineup, and the Wildcats desperately miss Zimmerman’s calming presence at the back end.

After falling to Texas Tech and Oklahoma back-to-back, the Wildcats get off to another 2-4 start. But this time, they can’t rally the rest of the way. Texas overpowers the Wildcats with 300 yards on the ground, and two weeks later, TCU’s powerful defense shuts them out in Fort Worth.

The Wildcats hobble into Waco needing a win to become bowl-eligible. Instead, they end the season with a 40-point humiliation.

Snyder decides he’s done with coaching and retires. The Wildcats don’t sign a single top 50-juco player. Nebraska makes the playoffs. Kansas basketball goes back to the Final Four.

Previous posts

June 16: Baylor
June 17: Iowa State
June 18: Kansas
Only one Big 12 player is projected to be an first-team All-American on Phil Steele’s Preseason All-American teams, which were released on ESPN.com on Friday.

The conference had 13 players earn honors on the four preseason All-American squads selected by Steele. Here’s a look at the honorees:

First team

WR Antwan Goodley, Baylor

Second team

WR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
DE Ryan Mueller, Kansas State
LB Eric Striker, Oklahoma

Third team

C B.J. Finney, Kansas State
T Le’Raven Clark, Texas Tech
T Spencer Drango, Baylor
DE Devonte Fields, TCU
DE Cedric Reed, Texas

Fourth team

QB Bryce Petty, Baylor
CB Quandre Diggs, Texas
S Sam Carter, TCU
K Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma

Some quick thoughts:
  • Goodley and Lockett are essentially 1A and 1B in the battle to be considered the top receiver in the conference. Goodley earned the spot from Steele thanks to Petty and the Bears’ stat-stuffing offensive attack.
  • Kansas State and Baylor each have three players on the list, tied for tops in the conference.
  • A strong argument could be made for Petty to be the first-team quarterback, but it’s hard to find fault in Steele’s choices of Marcus Mariota (Oregon), Jameis Winston (Florida State) and Braxton Miller (Ohio State), as all three quarterbacks ahead of Petty are the foundation of their team’s success.
  • Even though the Big 12 has three different defensive ends on the list, a strong argument could be made for Baylor’s Shawn Oakman and Oklahoma’s Charles Tapper to have a place on one of the four teams.
  • Zero Big 12 running backs made the list, a sign of the relative inexperience at the position across the conference. Baylor’s Shock Linwood, Texas’ Malcolm Brown and Oklahoma State’s Desmond Roland have the strongest argument for a spot on one of those teams.
  • Hunnicutt is on the fourth team but is second to none nationally, particularly with his accuracy on field goals inside the 40-yard line. He is 62 of 72 field goal attempts heading into his senior season.
  • Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Kansas and West Virginia didn't have anyone make the list. It's not a huge surprise as those teams and players must enter the season having to earn respect.
On Wednesday, we ranked the Big 12 position-by-position from strongest to weakest.

Last season the strongest position of the league was defensive back, headlined by Justin Gilbert, Jason Verrett, Ahmad Dixon, Aaron Colvin and Ty Zimmerman, among others.

But those players are all gone. So what will be the strongest position in 2014?

With such players such as TCU’s Devonte Fields, Oklahoma’s Charles Tapper and Texas’ Cedric Reed returning, we believe it will be defensive line.

SportsNation

What will be the Big 12's strongest overall position in 2014?

  •  
    32%
  •  
    12%
  •  
    8%
  •  
    11%
  •  
    37%

Discuss (Total votes: 3,613)

But do you agree?

Maybe you think it will be another position such as receiver, which includes All-American hopefuls Antwan Goodley and Tyler Lockett, and a host of potential 1,000-yard threats such as Texas Tech’s Jakeem Grant, Oklahoma’s Sterling Shepard, Iowa State’s Quenton Bundrage, Oklahoma State’s Jhajuan Seales and Texas’ Jaxon Shipley.

Perhaps it’s your opinion that the strength of the Big 12 will be at linebacker, where Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia, Kansas and TCU bring their entire units back, and virtually everyone else has at least one proven performer returning.

Maybe the conference’s best unit is the offensive line, with experienced centers BJ Finney (Kansas State), Dominic Espinosa (Texas) and Tom Farniok (Iowa State); talented tackles Spencer Drango (Baylor), Le'Raven Clark (Texas Tech) and Daryl Williams (Oklahoma); and versatile stalwarts Cody Whitehair (Kansas State), Quinton Spain (West Virginia) and Daniel Koenig (Oklahoma State).

Or with Baylor’s Bryce Petty, Kansas State’s Jake Waters, Texas Tech’s Davis Webb and Oklahoma’s Trevor Knight, do you believe quarterback is on its way back to becoming the dominant position in a league that not long ago was the nation’s preeminent conference for that position?

Tell us by voting in the weekly Big 12 poll.
Two weeks ago, we ranked every team in the Big 12 position-by-position coming out of the spring. Putting that together, we’ve ranked the overall league position-by-position. In other words, what is the league’s strongest position? What is its weakest?

[+] EnlargeCedric Reed
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesCedric Reed will anchor Texas' defensive line.
In 2013, there’s no doubt the strength of the league was in the defensive backfield. Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert and TCU cornerback Jason Verrett were the league’s two first-round picks. Safety Ahmad Dixon earned All-American honors and Texas cornerback Carrington Byndom, West Virginia safety Darwin Cook, Kansas State safety Ty Zimmerman and Oklahoma cornerback Aaron Colvin were longtime stalwarts in their defensive backfields.

Here’s how the positions of the league rank going into 2014:

1. Defensive line: This was easily the most difficult position to rank by team, as line figures to be the defensive strength of TCU, Oklahoma, Baylor, Texas, Kansas State and Oklahoma State. The Horned Frogs had the league’s best run defense last season, and on top of returning basically the entire unit, will be adding back 2012 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Devonte Fields. The Sooners are also loaded, led by All-Big 12-caliber ends Geneo Grissom and Charles Tapper and tackle Jordan Phillips, and the could also go three-deep across the board next year. The Longhorns have two potential first-round picks up front in tackle Malcom Brown and end Cedric Reed. And Baylor coach Art Briles is already on record stating his D-line could go toe-to-toe with any in the country. Collectively, this should be the best the conference has been at the position since Gerald McCoy and Ndamukong Suh roamed the middle five years ago.

2. Wide receiver: The league has two superstars at receiver in Baylor’s Antwan Goodley and Kansas State’s Tyler Lockett, who have the résumés to garner preseason All-American consideration. But they aren’t the only prolific playmakers here. Texas Tech’s Jakeem Grant, Oklahoma’s Sterling Shepard, Iowa State’s Quenton Bundrage, Oklahoma State’s Jhajuan Seales and Texas’ Jaxon Shipley are all capable of 1,000-yard receiving seasons. Baylor might feature the best receiving corps in the country, Oklahoma State is a solid nine deep and West Virginia returns its entire starting lineup from last season. Even Kansas has the nation’s second-leading receiver from 2011 in Miami (Ohio) transfer Nick Harwell. Assuming the league’s quarterbacks can get them the ball, this could be another banner year for the Big 12’s pass-catchers.

3. Linebacker: Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia, Kansas and TCU return virtually their entire linebacker units from last year. And from Texas Tech’s Pete Robertson and Kansas State’s Jonathan Truman to Baylor’s Bryce Hager and Oklahoma State’s Ryan Simmons, the rest of the league basically has at least one proven linebacker coming back, too.

4. Offensive line: The strength of the Big 12's offensive lines resides in experienced centers and talented tackles. Kansas State’s BJ Finney, Texas’ Dominic Espinosa and Iowa State’s Tom Farniok are all four-year starters with a combined 113 career starts. At tackle, Baylor’s Spencer Drango, Texas Tech’s Le’Raven Clark and Oklahoma’s Daryl Williams have NFL futures. The league also boasts three other very stout and versatile players up front in Kansas State’s Cody Whitehair, West Virginia’s Quinton Spain and Oklahoma State’s Daniel Koenig, all three of which can man either guard or tackle.

[+] EnlargeDavis Webb
Donald Miralle/Getty ImagesDavis Webb seems like one of the few sure things at QB in the Big 12.
5. Quarterback: The Big 12 has one Heisman candidate in Baylor’s Bryce Petty, a proven performer in Kansas State’s Jake Waters and two budding stars in Texas Tech’s Davis Webb and Oklahoma’s Trevor Knight. The rest of the league is a big fat unknown at the game’s most-critical position. But if Oklahoma State’s J.W. Walsh and Texas’ David Ash regain their forms from two seasons ago, Iowa State’s Grant Rohach builds off his strong 2013 finish, Clint Trickett can stay upright at West Virginia, and transfer Matt Joeckel and sophomore Montell Cozart prove to be the answers at TCU and Kansas, the Big 12 could be on the way back to becoming the preeminent conference for quarterbacking once again.

6. Running back: Half the teams lost their leading rushers from last season, and that doesn’t include Texas Tech’s Kenny Williams switching positions to linebacker. The Longhorns pose a potentially devastating one-two punch in Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray, and the Mountaineers could go five-deep with Dreamius Smith, Wendell Smallwood, Rushel Shell, Dustin Garrison and Andrew Buie. But the rest of the league will be leaning on potential more than past performance. That said, there is a lot to like in Baylor’s Shock Linwood, Iowa State’s Aaron Wimberly, TCU’s B.J. Catalon, Oklahoma State’s Tyreek Hill and Oklahoma’s Keith Ford.

7. Defensive back: With Gilbert, Verrett, Dixon, Colvin, Zimmerman, Cook and Byndom all gone, this position took a major attrition hit. Thanks to Sam Carter, Chris Hackett and Kevin White, TCU remains well stocked in its secondary. Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas have veterans back, too. Everywhere else, there is rebuilding to be done. But the next wave of secondary stars appears to be on its way. Cornerbacks Nigel Tribune (Iowa State), Justis Nelson (Texas Tech) and Daryl Worley (West Virginia) all started as true freshmen. So did Oklahoma State corner Kevin Peterson and West Virginia safety Karl Joseph, who are now both juniors. It might not be long before defensive back is a strength of the league again like it was last season.
Over the next two weeks, we’ll be analyzing the depth charts of every Big 12 team coming out of the spring, continuing Friday with Kansas State’s projected post-spring depth chart.

OFFENSE (projected starter in bold)

QB: Jake Waters (Sr.), Jesse Ertz (RFr.)

[+] EnlargeJake Waters
Peter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesJake Waters' emergence late last season solidified Kansas State's offense and has the Wildcats set up for a big 2014.
Waters becomes the unquestioned leader and main man behind center with Daniel Sams' move to receiver. The senior was one of the conference’s top quarterbacks during the final month of the 2013 season and gives the Wildcats plenty of confidence as a trigger man of the offense. Ertz showed good potential in the spring and could be the future at the position. KSU is one of the few Big 12 squads with a settled and productive starter and quality depth, as Sams is able to line up behind center at any point if need be.

RB: Charles Jones (So.), Jarvis Leverett (So.), DeMarcus Robinson (Sr.)

The battle to become John Hubert's successor remains wide open. Jones and Leverett had solid spring games while Robinson sat out, but none of the Wildcats running backs currently on campus distanced himself from the competition in the spring. The summer will bring new competitors into the mix, including true freshman Dalvin Warmack.

FB: Glenn Gronkowski (So.), Zach Nemechek (Sr.)

Gronkowski could be ready to stake his claim as the Big 12’s top fullback. He’s an solid runner, receiver and blocker and should continue to see his role in the offense expand as a sophomore. Nemechek has been a special teams performer and provides a solid backup option at the position.

WR: Tyler Lockett (Sr.), Curry Sexton (Sr.), Deante Burton (So.), Andre Davis (Jr.), Judah Jones (RFr.), Daniel Sams (Jr.), Kyle Klein (So.)

Lockett could be considered the Big 12’s best receiver and gives Waters a consistent target when he’s healthy. Sams is a proven playmaker, but it remains to be seen if he can transfer his explosiveness to his new position. Sexton was solid in his role last season and could be a key target during his final season. Keep an eye on Jones, who impressed with a strong spring showing and could be a much-needed playmaker alongside Lockett. If at least two additional targets emerge to join Lockett, this could be one of the conference’s top groups.

TE: Zach Trujillo (Sr.), Cody Small (RFr.)

Trujillo is a returning starter and a veteran in KSU’s offense. He won’t break the Big 12 record for pass receptions but is a productive player who could be a big target in the passing game and a key to the Wildcats' offense.

C; BJ Finney (Sr.), Reed Bergstrom (Jr.)

G: Boston Stiverson (Jr.), Drew Liddle (Sr.), Luke Hayes (Jr.), Will Ash (So.)

T: Cody Whitehair (Jr.), Matt Kleinsorge (Jr.), Reid Najvar (RFr.), Ajhane Brager (RFr.)

Bill Snyder’s desire to get the best five offensive linemen on the field means this group will likely remain fluid with veterans such as Whitehair, who has moved from guard to tackle, and Finney as the foundation of the line. Overall, the Wildcats should have a pretty solid and deep group of offensive linemen despite losing several seniors off last year’s front.

DEFENSE

DE: Ryan Mueller (Sr.), Marquel Bryant (Jr.), Laton Dowling (Sr.)

DT: Travis Britz (Jr.), Valentino Coleman (Sr.), Will Geary (RFr.)

[+] EnlargeTravis Britz
Bo Rader/Wichita Eagle/MCTK-State's opponents will have their work cut out for them in trying to block junior defensive tackle Travis Britz.
Much like the offensive line, K-State has a veteran and productive group along the defensive front. There are still jobs left to be won, but Mueller and Britz are among the Big 12’s best at their positions and provide consistent production. Add ESPN JC 50 defensive tackle Terrell Clinkscales into the mix and this defensive line group should be a big reason to consider Kansas State a conference title contender.

LB: Jonathan Truman (Sr.), Will Davis (So.), Dakorey Johnson (Sr.), Charmeachealle Moore (Jr.)

Truman returns after breakout junior season which featured 89 tackles in 13 starts for the Wildcats. Davis appears ready to slide into the starting lineup after impressing as a redshirt freshman, while Johnson and Moore should provide solid depth at the position but will have to battle to maintain their roles with ESPN JC 50 linebacker D'Vonta Derricott arriving in the summer.

CB: Randall Evans (Sr.), Morgan Burns (Jr.), Nate Jackson (Jr.), Cre Moore (RFr.), Danzel McDaniel (Jr.), Corey Jackson (RFr.)

Burns was one of KSU’s stars of the spring and appears to have settled into the No. 1 cornerback spot. The rest of the Wildcats cornerbacks are battling for the other starting spot outside of Evans, who started 11 games as KSU’s nickelback in 2013 and is lone returning starter of the group. While KSU lost experience at corner, the Wildcats might have upgraded in terms of overall talent.

S: Dante Barnett (Jr.), Dylan Schellenberg (Sr.), Sean Newlan (RFr.), Weston Hiebert (Sr.)

Barnett is a star and one of the more underrated defenders in the Big 12, while Schellenberg got plenty of experience when Ty Zimmerman was sidelined by injury last season. Barnett is probably the only safety with a secure spot in KSU’s defensive plans, so expect the battle for playing time to continue deep into August.
We're counting down to the beginning of the season with the top 25 players in the Big 12. The official list is locked away in a vault in an undisclosed location, but we'll be revealing players from the bottom of the list all the way to No. 1.

Here's more on my criteria.

Let's move on with the list:

No. 14: BJ Finney, C, Kansas State

2012 numbers: Helped Kansas State rush for 2,522 yards and pass for 2,701 yards while giving up just 14 sacks.

Most recent ranking: Finney was unranked in our postseason list of the Big 12's top 25 players.

Making the case for Finney: Bill Snyder, y'all. Kansas State had arguably the best offensive line in the Big 12 last season, and Finney was the best player on it. He was a second-year starter who'll enter his third year as the middle of the Wildcats' line.

Most impressive? He began his career as a walk-on and has matured into one of the Wildcats' leaders. K-State has been 21-5 with him snapping the ball to Collin Klein, and even though K-State will be breaking in a new quarterback this fall, Finney and the four guys flanking him (including No. 16 on this list, LT Cornelius Lucas) will provide a strong performance up front. Finney, a 6-foot-4, 303-pound native of Andale, Kan., was a freshman All-American back in 2011 and figured to keep improving.

Back when he was being recruited, he had his heart set on playing for Frank Solich at Ohio. Then the Bobcats suddenly ran out of scholarships. Finney's family couldn't afford college, and he had to earn a scholarship in two years or his career would be over. Sure enough, he made it happen. It's an amazing story, but Finney is more than just a great story. He's a great player.

The rest of the list:
We wrapped up our list of the Big 12's top 25 players in 2012 on Monday, but let's take a look at the guys who just missed making the list. In no particular order:

BJ Finney, OL, Kansas State: Finney has grown from a walk-on to a starter and emerged as one of the league's best offensive linemen as a sophomore. He was one of the biggest pieces of one of the Big 12's best offensive lines and the 6-foot-4, 303-pounder is one of the best stories of what players can become under Bill Snyder.

Eric Ward, WR, Texas Tech: Ward has been Texas Tech's most consistent receiver of late, finishing this past season with 82 catches for 1,053 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Red Raiders. He's back for more in 2013. Expect to see him on the preseason list.

Ty Zimmerman, S, Kansas State: Zimmerman was a big-time ball hawk for an opportunistic K-State defense, snatching interceptions in four consecutive Big 12 games for the Wildcats. He finished with 50 tackles and three tackles for loss after breaking a bone in his leg and missing a few late-season games.

Kenny Cain, LB, TCU: Cain quietly put together one of the best seasons of any Big 12 linebacker this past season. He's not the most physically gifted player in the group, but led the Big 12's best defense with 86 tackles and had 5.5 tackles for loss as a senior leader for the unit.

Darrin Moore, WR, Texas Tech: Moore joined Ward as the Red Raiders' first 1,000-yard receivers since 2008, grabbing 92 passes for 1,032 yards and 13 scores. He was a dangerous target in the red zone all season long, and the 6-foot-4, 216-pounder was consistently one of the most physical players in the league at his position.

Shaun Lewis, LB, Oklahoma State: Lewis is another solid linebacker in the Big 12 with 58 tackles and 7.5 tackles for loss. He also broke up four passes and has one more season left to add a crescendo to a promising career.

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