- Jake Trotter, ESPN Staff Writer
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Over the next two weeks, we'll be evaluating who the 10 best players are on every Big 12 roster this spring.
Again, these lists don't include junior college or freshman signees who have yet to arrive on campus. We're only looking at players currently with their teams this spring. These rankings are sure to change, but here's our best assessment for the moment. We continue the series with the upstart Oklahoma State Cowboys:
1. DE Emmanuel Ogbah: Last year in his first as a starter, Ogbah became the first Cowboys player ever to earn Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year honors, as he finished second in the conference with 11 sacks and third with 17 tackles for loss. This year, he'll have a chance to become Oklahoma State's first All-American defensive lineman since Leslie O'Neal in 1985.
2. CB Kevin Peterson: Peterson will be a four-year starter, and for the second straight year the ace of the Cowboys' secondary. Underscoring his ability to go toe-to-toe with any receiver in college football, Peterson limited likely top-10 pick Kevin White to just three receptions in last season's matchup with West Virginia.
3. QB Mason Rudolph: This ranking might be aggressive based on only three games, but it's difficult ignore the promise Rudolph flashed after his redshirt was pulled late last year. Given a poise and savvy that defy his age, Rudolph could emerge this season as the Big 12's best quarterback outside of TCU's Trevone Boykin.
4. WR Brandon Sheperd: Once Rudolph stepped in at quarterback late last season, Sheperd took off as his go-to receiver. Sheperd was dominant in Oklahoma State's upset rally of Oklahoma to cap the regular season, hauling in seven catches for 156 yards and two touchdowns. He also added another touchdown in the bowl game. With Rudolph entrenched at quarterback, Sheperd is a good bet to give Oklahoma State its first 1,000-yard receiver in three years.
5. SS Jordan Sterns: After West Virginia's Karl Joseph, there might not be a harder-hitting safety in the league. Sterns led all Big 12 defensive backs last season with 103 tackles. With him and Peterson, Oklahoma State boasts one of the best safety-cornerback combos in the conference.
6. OT Zachary Crabtree: Rudolph gets much of the credit for Oklahoma State's 2014 turnaround. But the return of Crabtree from a midseason injury had a significant impact, too. In games without Crabtree last year, the Cowboys' offense averaged 13.4 points and 284.2 yards per game. In games with Crabtree, they averaged 36.5 points and 438 yards. With Crabtree anchoring the right bookend and UAB transfer Victor Salako manning the left, the Cowboys should be in terrific shape at tackle heading into the season.
7. LB Ryan Simmons: Having started on the outside and then last year in the middle, Simmons brings versatility, speed and tackling to the linebacker position. He was second on the defense last year with 96 tackles and finished ninth in the league with 12 tackles for loss.
8. WR James Washington: Washington gets the nod ahead of hard-nosed slot receiver David Glidden, who could've also cracked this list, after leading the Cowboys with six touchdown receptions as a true freshman last year. Washington, who was just a two-star recruit out of high school, has the potential to be a star, just like another former two-star recruit named Justin Blackmon.
9. LB Seth Jacobs: Whether he remains on the weak side or slides over to the "star" nickelback spot, Jacobs will play an integral role for the Cowboys defense again. Like Simmons, Jacobs is a versatile linebacker and is effective dropping back against the pass or stepping in to make a tackle against the run.
10. QB J.W. Walsh: In his only full game of the 2014 season, Walsh nearly quarterbacked the Cowboys to an upset of then top-ranked Florida State. A foot injury the following week cleared the way for Rudolph to ultimately take over for good. But that doesn't mean the dual-threat Walsh, who has 11 career starts, won't be valuable. He'll serve as a mentor and seasoned backup to Rudolph. And he'll give the offense a short-yardage boost out of a special package being installed for him this spring.
Continue the series on who the 10 best players are on every Big 12 roster, with a look at the upstart Oklahoma State Cowboys.