Big 12: prove 2013

Every season, every player feels he's got at least something to prove. Otherwise, all the work wouldn't be worth it. That said, some guys have more to prove than others.

These are the guys with the most to prove on their respective Big 12 teams.

Next up: West Virginia

More guys with plenty to prove.

Plenty to prove: RB Dustin Garrison

Most fans across the Big 12 likely have no idea who Garrison is, and that's not necessarily his fault. He came out of nowhere to win West Virginia's starting running back job four games into his true freshman season, and in his first start carried the ball 32 times for 291 yards and a pair of touchdowns against Bowling Green.

Yeah, it was Bowling Green, but so much for a pass-happy offense. He finished the 2011 regular season, West Virginia's last in the Big East, with a team-high 742 rushing yards, including 87 yards and a score in a season-ending win over South Florida that clinched an Orange Bowl berth for the Mountaineers. He was also a fixture in the passing game.

However, in practices leading up to the bowl game, he suffered a knee injury. West Virginia rolled over Clemson and his absence hardly made a blip, but he rushed back from the injury after missing the first two games of 2012. He was never quite back to his old self. He never had double-digit carries in a game and topped 45 yards in a game just once.

Shawne Alston is gone, but Andrew Buie returns and talented juco newcomer Dreamius Smith further crowds the backfield. Garrison has to prove he can return to his previous form. If he doesn't, it's going to be tough to win carries and tough to help West Virginia gain the offensive balance it lacked last season. Buie logged a 200-yard game against Texas last season and has plenty of talent of his own, but Garrison's definitely got some claim to that No. 1 spot if he can prove he deserves it.
Every season, every player feels he's got at least something to prove. Otherwise, all the work wouldn't be worth it. That said, some guys have more to prove than others.

These are the guys with the most to prove on their respective Big 12 teams.

Next up: Texas Tech

More guys with plenty to prove.

Plenty to prove: TE Jace Amaro

Not long after he got the job as Red Raiders head coach, I got some time to talk with Kliff Kingsbury about his new team. Kingsbury said he wasn't too familiar with the personnel just yet -- getting tunnel-vision while coaching at another program in another conference will do that, even if it's your alma mater -- and hadn't gone back to watch any of Texas Tech's games from the previous season. He wanted to go in fresh, but said he knew a few names, and the first one he dropped was no big surprise.

Jace Amaro. He's a freak athlete with the potential to be a game-changing tight end -- and he has been that at times. Amaro's got speed uncommon for his position, great hands and a fantastic ability to use his 6-foot-5, 257-pound frame to box out defenders and free up space to use those hands. He just hasn't done it enough yet. Along the way, he's had a few bumps. Some his fault. Some not.

There was the arrest last March on alleged credit-card abuse and a bowl-game ejection for punching a defender he'd pinned on the ground. At the very least, neither is what you'd want to see out of a team leader.

A fluky hit in a blowout win over West Virginia left Amaro with an internal injury that cost him six games after the biggest one of his career -- a five-catch, 156-yard outburst against the Mountaineers. In his second season on the field, it was a flash of what he could be. This season, in what should be a high-powered offense under Kingsbury, with promising quarterback Michael Brewer at the helm, the potential is there for a breakout season for Amaro. There's certainly not a more gifted tight end in the Big 12, a player capable of being the go-to target in an offense.

Amaro can be that, but as a junior, he's got to prove he can do it, stay healthy and stay out of trouble. If he does all three, the Red Raiders will reap major benefits.

Plenty to prove: TCU Horned Frogs

June, 12, 2013
6/12/13
2:30
PM ET
Every season, every player feels they've got at least something to prove. Otherwise, all the work wouldn't be worth it. That said, some guys have more to prove than others.

These are the guys with the most to prove on their respective teams.

Next up: TCU

More guys with plenty to prove.

Plenty to prove: WR Brandon Carter

This was a really tough call since TCU's entire team has a ton to prove this season. It's the first year the Frogs really have a roster that looks capable of winning a Big 12 title. After a two-game suspension to start the season and a quiet second half of the season, defensive end Devonte Fields has plenty to prove.

And then that's that Casey fella crouched under center after returning from rehab for drug and alcohol addiction and missing the last nine games of 2012. We've written plenty about Casey Pachall this offseason, though, so I'm taking Carter as the Frog who's got the most to prove this season.

Last season, with Trevone Boykin learning on the go and clearly not quite prepared to take over TCU's offense, the production at receiver suffered. For Josh Boyce and Carter, topping 1,000 yards was difficult in a run-heavy offense with a quarterback learning to make quick decisions and struggling to be consistently accurate.

Boyce is gone, though, and Pachall's got tons of experience and accuracy. There should not be an excuse this time around. Carter has to prove he can be an elite receiver in this offense if the Frogs are going to make a Big 12 title run. I'm talking something like 1,300 receiving yards by season's end.

Carter's shown an ability to make the showstopping play, but we're talking about a player who has yet to log a 600-yard season and never had more than two catches in a game in the final seven games of the season. That's just not acceptable. He snagged an 80-yard score in a close loss to Oklahoma, but that was his only catch of the day. He caught six balls for 94 yards in Boykin's first start -- a blowout loss to Iowa State -- but what the heck happened over the rest of the season?

With Pachall back in the lineup, can Carter get back to the outstanding production he had before?

In wins over Kansas and Virginia, Carter caught 13 passes for 269 yards and three touchdowns. He had just two scores the rest of the season after beating the Cavaliers. He'll have some help in guys like LaDarius Brown and Cam White, but Carter's a junior who's been a big part of this offense for two seasons. He should be ready to take the reins as one of the Big 12's best receivers. That means being consistently productive and setting an example for how receivers should carry themselves on and off the field.

If you want to win big in the Big 12, you have to be able to score points and move the ball through the air. If Carter can't step into a bigger role and easily clear 1,000 yards, you can pretty much write off TCU's Big 12 title hopes.

Plenty to prove: Texas Longhorns

June, 11, 2013
6/11/13
4:00
PM ET
Every season, every player feels they've got at least something to prove. Otherwise, all the work wouldn't be worth it. That said, some guys have more to prove than others.

These are the guys with the most to prove on their respective teams.

Next up: Texas

More guys with plenty to prove.

Plenty to prove: QB David Ash

Absolutely no competition here on the Longhorns team. Ash has as much to prove as about any player in the Big 12, much less on Texas' roster. The Longhorns' 2012 season derailed more because of defensive shortcomings -- missed tackles and an inability to stop the run top that list -- but Ash has to be much better if Texas is going to win a Big 12 title or reach a BCS bowl.

He doesn't need to be Colt McCoy or Vince Young. This Texas team doesn't need a Heisman candidate to be a Big 12 contender or even sniff the national title race, but Ash's late-season slide hurt the Longhorns quite a bit. He struggled mightily against Kansas and did the same a few weeks later against TCU, though it was later revealed he suffered a rib injury that explained the second benching. He didn't return against Kansas State, but engineered a second-half surge in a strong bowl win against Oregon State.

Simply put: Texas won't win the Big 12 if Ash completes fewer than 50 percent of his passes in three games next year like he did last year. He has to eliminate those kinds of games. For Ash, it's about proving he can play like he did against Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Texas Tech and West Virginia. If he does and the defense improves, Texas is going to be an absolute load next season. Beating them will be tough for anyone, anywhere. For the most part, Ash fixed the turnover issues last season that were a huge issue as a freshman in 2011. Can he fix the inconsistency issues heading into his junior season? He's the Big 12's most experienced quarterback now, and Texas' title hopes depend on him.

Plenty to prove: Oklahoma State

June, 7, 2013
6/07/13
11:00
AM ET
Every season, every player feels they've got at least something to prove. Otherwise, all the work wouldn't be worth it. That said, some guys have more to prove than others.

These are the guys with the most to prove on their respective teams.

Next up: Oklahoma State.

More guys with plenty to prove.

Plenty to prove: CB Justin Gilbert

I almost picked tight end/wideout Blake Jackson for this dubious honor, but considering the underwhelming season from Justin Gilbert in 2012, you have to go with the Cowboys' promising cornerback. Coach Mike Gundy didn't even wait until October was over before putting some attention on the underwhelming junior campaign Gilbert had put together.

"Could be preseason hype, could be coming out early, could be on the cover of a magazine, Fiesta Bowl MVP," Gundy said. “I just think things like that happen sometimes to kids."

He later added: "His performance before (the TCU game) was below average, in this one it was average. It needs to be considerably better for us to play at a high level and for him personally."

He never really got over the top in 2012, and was held without an interception after swiping five in 2011, including picks off Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Ryan Tannehill, all top 10 picks in the 2012 NFL draft. Gilbert was simply average as a junior. He has the physical skills and potential to be an elite corner, perhaps the best in the Big 12. There was plenty of NFL buzz surrounding Gilbert after his strong 2011 season on the way to a Big 12 title, but it mostly dissipated throughout last season.

It could quickly return with a strong senior campaign in 2013. In the process, he could help Oklahoma State reach perennial Big 12 contender status with a second league title in three years. Gilbert's going to be a senior leader on a defense that returns seven starters. The Pokes have a chance to be one of the league's best, but without Brodrick Brown across from him, Gilbert has to lead at the position by example. The 6-foot, 200-pounder has great size and blazing speed, but none of that matters much if you can't cover. This is the weakest class of receivers we've seen in the Big 12 in a long time. The opportunity is there. Gilbert must prove that his 2011 season was closer to what he's capable of than last year's average season.
Every season, every player feels they've got at least something to prove. Otherwise, the work wouldn't all be worth it. That said, some guys have more to prove than others.

These are the guys with the most to prove on their respective teams.

Next up: Oklahoma.

More guys with plenty to prove.

Plenty to prove: LB Corey Nelson

Nelson proved himself as a guy who looks the part of a truly gifted player. He came to Oklahoma as the nation's No. 3 linebacker in the 2010 class, a late steal from Texas A&M. He earned playing time as a true freshman and has been a two-year starter, but he has yet to really emerge as the kind of guy whose production matches his physical skills.

Part of that is Oklahoma's defensive scheme, which took the linebackers off the field pretty often last year in Mike Stoops' first year as defensive coordinator. That didn't work very well, but Nelson's got a ton of speed at 215 pounds and I'd look for him to be on the field a whole lot more. He had 13 fewer tackles in 2012 than he did in his All-Big 12 honorable mention season back in 2011, with less than half as many tackles for loss and just one sack.

Nelson's good enough to be the Big 12's best linebacker, but he's got to take advantage of opportunities and make it clear that taking him off the field is unthinkable. He didn't make that happen last year. The Sooners bring in a whole lot of blue-chip talent every year, but Nelson was one of the most highly recruited. The Dallas native has been good, but not great. If he's great this year, he could end up making himself a whole lot of money in advance of next year's NFL draft, too.
Every season, every player feels they've got at least something to prove. Otherwise, the work wouldn't all be worth it. That said, some guys have more to prove than others.

These are the guys with the most to prove on their respective teams.

Next up: Kansas State.

More guys with plenty to prove.

Plenty to prove: LB Tre Walker

It was terrible to see Walker go down with a knee injury last season against Texas Tech. I was there to see it, but he was a big part of the defense and other linebackers like Justin Tuggle and Arthur Brown were a little emotional after the game when they knew it was possible his injury was serious. It was, and he missed the rest of the season. Now, he's on the way back, and joins Ty Zimmerman as the only returning starter on one of the Big 12's top defenses a year ago.

He remained around the team and helped Jarell Childs slide into his old spot and learn on the job with his role suddenly much more integral. Walker traveled to away games and played the role of cheerleader/coach on the sidelines after the injury, but he'll be back this fall with a lot to prove. He's already released a short documentary on YouTube about his comeback from the injury (I'd recommend a quick watch.) Truth is, Walker might quietly be the Big 12's best linebacker in 2013, but he's got to prove it. He's made a ton of plays over the past two seasons (none more memorable than his goal-line stand against Miami in 2011), and the 6-3, 225-pounder has 71 tackles over the past two seasons.

Knee injuries aren't as devastating as they used to be, but coming back from one is still a ton of work and a whole lot of pain in rehab. It's just as painful to have to sit on the sidelines and not play the game you love, but Walker's finally going to make his return this fall. When he does, he'll have to prove he can be the same player or better, and prove Kansas State can still field a great defense without Arthur Brown at linebacker and all new cornerbacks and defensive linemen.
Every season, every player feels they've got at least something to prove. Otherwise, the work wouldn't all be worth it. That said, some guys have more to prove than others.

These are the guys with the most to prove on their respective teams.

Next up: Kansas.

More guys with plenty to prove.

Plenty to prove: WR Justin McCay

Jake Heaps is the easy pick here, but truth be told, he showed he was capable of being a good player at time back at BYU. Kansas is hoping he's better than Dayne Crist and ushers in a new era for Kansas, but for me, Justin McCay has a whole lot more to prove.

Sometimes, careers don't work out at their first destination. The Big 12 has seen guys like Arthur Brown and Lache Seastrunk move back closer to home and revitalize their career. Brown didn't work at Miami and now finds himself in position to replace one of the greatest Hurricanes ever: Linebacker Ray Lewis on the Baltimore Ravens. It required a transfer back home to Kansas State, though.

Lache Seastrunk couldn't get on the field at Oregon, but he may be the best offensive player in the Big 12 this year. Justin McCay earned plenty of attention last year for his work on the scout team, but the one-time ESPN 150 recruit never caught a pass in two seasons at Oklahoma. The 6-foot-2, 213-pounder decided to head back home to KU, less than an hour from his hometown of Kansas City.

Can he make good on his potential? Despite Oklahoma's lack of depth at receiver when McCay was there, his lack of production was a bit of a head-scratcher. Can he join Heaps as a building block of Kansas' resurgence and a move out of the Big 12 basement?

Our scouts compared him to Michael Floyd, but we haven't had a chance to see much of this kind of stuff from him. Or really any chance, I should say:
Offensively, he uses his frame and long arms to position himself and gain an advantage, particularly on the deep ball. He is the type of player that climbs to top speed, but once he gets going, he shows very good top-end speed and can prove to be very difficult to handle one-on-one. Shows some explosiveness for a player of his size and a sneaky second gear in the open field, especially in a straight line. He is an outstanding red-zone player. Really has a feel for timing his jumps and extending above his head to attack the ball at its highest point.

That sounds to me like a guy with a whole bunch to prove. McCay's got loads of potential and should be an immediate upgrade for a KU receiving corps that infamously went all 12 games last season without a touchdown catch. Once the Jayhawks get in the red zone this season, McCay's a great possibility to end that curse.
Every season, every player feels they've got at least something to prove. Otherwise, the work wouldn't all be worth it. That said, some guys have more to prove than others.

These are the guys with the most to prove on their respective teams.

Next up: Iowa State.

More guys with plenty to prove.

Plenty to prove: QB Sam Richardson

Honestly, I was shocked to hear Jared Barnett announce his transfer in January, electing to play out the final two seasons of his career at Illinois State instead of Iowa State. He had his issues, but even with Richardson's emergence at the end of the season, I still thought Barnett had a great chance to earn some playing time and maybe even start quite a bit over the next two seasons.

Apparently, that wasn't enough. In the process, he laid down a whole lot of pressure on Richardson, who all of a sudden claimed the quarterback reins for the foreseeable future in Ames. He looked like the future in an amazing performance against Kansas, completing 23 of 27 passes for 250 yards and four touchdowns, adding 43 rushing yards and a score. After that, though, he really struggled. Inexperience was part of it. Perhaps Kansas simply had no tape and no way to scout Richardson, who was told he would play just before the game by coach Paul Rhoads.

In his two starts following that Kansas game, he was largely ineffective, even though he's got a more refined passing motion than Barnett or the graduated Steele Jantz. He completed less than 50 percent of his passes and left a bitter taste at the end of the season in a blowout loss to Tulsa. Iowa State simply cannot take that famed "next step" beyond scrapping together six wins and going to a middling bowl game without great quarterback play. Rhoads wants more. His players do, too. Richardson's got a lot on his shoulders and a decent talent in Grant Rohach behind him on the depth chart. It's Richardson's team for now, but he's got a lot to prove after a full spring and a fall camp as the team's unquestioned No. 1. It's the first time he's gone through either getting the majority of the first-team reps, but he needs to show improvement. He's not going to have to put up the kind of numbers he did against Kansas every week, and he won't. He just can't put up the kind of numbers he did in the final two games of the season against defenses nowhere close to the best he'll see this year and expect this to be his team for very long.

Plenty to prove: Baylor Bears

May, 29, 2013
5/29/13
4:00
PM ET
Every season, every player feels they've got at least something to prove. Otherwise, the work wouldn't all be worth it. That said, some guys have more to prove than others.

These are the guys with the most to prove on their respective teams.

First up, the Baylor Bears.

Plenty to prove: RB Lache Seastrunk

Is there a player in the entire Big 12 with this much to prove? It boils down to two things, really. Among things that really matter, it's a need for Seastrunk to prove that his six-game outburst to close the season was more than just a flash in the pan. Seastrunk absolutely has the physical attributes, but he averaged 138 yards a game over that stretch. How does that compare to what we can expect to see from Seastrunk next season? He's explosive and is the league's most dangerous player with the ball in his hands. Seastrunk being even more productive for 13 games next season isn't out of the question. Still, Seastrunk struggled to get on the field for the first half of the season and left Oregon after a frustrating season buried on the depth chart.

He toted his confidence back to Texas and enrolled at Baylor, less than 100 miles from his hometown of Temple, Texas, and he made big headlines and gave himself even more to prove when he dropped this choice quote to Sporting News back in December before the bowl game:
"I feel like there's no back who can do what I do," he told the publication. "I know I'm the fastest back in the country. I know I'm the best back in the country. Nobody's going to work harder. ... "I'm going to win the Heisman. I'm going to win it in 2013. If I don't, I'm going to get very close. I'm shooting for that goal. I will gladly say it."

Art Briles knows that's Seastrunk's personality and reiterated several times to ESPN.com and in other interviews that he doesn't want players on his team with any other attitude.

We'll see how close Seastrunk gets to a Heisman this year or next year, but there's no doubt about it: Nobody on Baylor's roster has more to prove this fall.

SPONSORED HEADLINES