Big 12: under the radar 2012

Under the radar: West Virginia Mountaineers

June, 27, 2012
6/27/12
4:00
PM ET
Time for the final team in our series examining one player at each Big 12 school who will enter 2012 with a profile that doesn't quite match his worth.

In other words, they're coming in under the radar. Click here for more players under the radar.

Next up: the West Virginia Mountaineers.

Under the radar: Cornerback Brodrick Jenkins

In West Virginia, all the attention is on the offense this offseason, but don't forget about the 11 guys on the other side of the ball. Looking for a guy whose name has almost zero recognition across the Big 12? Look no further than Jenkins.

The 5-foot-10, 186-pounder was one of five West Virginia defenders with two or more interceptions, but Jenkins also broke up eight passes, four more than any returning Mountaineer defender. The first-year starter had a strong sophomore campaign, but he's due to be tested much further in the Big 12, a league where the offensive talent dwarfs that of the Big East.

West Virginia won the Big East last year, but the Mountaineers ranked second in the Big East in pass defense, giving up just over 203 yards a game. That number is bound to grow in the pass-happy Big 12 in 2012, but the physical Jenkins will be a big factor in trying to keep it as low as possible. The Mountaineers gave up 24 fewer yards per game than the third-best pass defense in the Big East, but Texas led the Big 12 by giving up just under 210 yards per game through the air.

Nobody in the league would make the argument that West Virginia's corners are on the level of Texas', but Jenkins is a strong player with a lot of upside. He'll get lots and lots (and lots) more chances to prove himself in 2012. WVU faced just 448 passes in 2011, more than all but one Big East team. Seven Big 12 teams defended more than 448 passes last season.

Time for Jenkins to shine.

Under the radar: Texas Tech Red Raiders

June, 26, 2012
6/26/12
10:30
AM ET
Time for the next team in our series examining one player on each Big 12 school who will enter 2012 with a profile that doesn't quite match his worth.

In other words, they're coming in under the radar. Click here for more players under the radar.

Next up: the Texas Tech Red Raiders.

Under the radar: Linebacker Terrance Bullitt

Bullitt, an All-Name teamer among All-Name teamers, played strong safety last season in Chad Glasgow's 4-2-5, but did so close to the line of scrimmage.

Now, he's moving to linebacker, and it's a great move that fits exactly what's needed for Big 12 defenses. Bullitt has good size, and is putting some weight on his 206-pound frame. Texas Tech's defense struggled last season, but Bullitt showed a penchant to make big plays, and he just may be the most talented player on the Red Raiders' defense this year.

He made 56 tackles (fourth-most on the team) and made 9.5 tackles for loss, 11th most in the Big 12.. He broke up four passes, forced a fumble and also blocked a kick. He earned just honorable mention from the coaches on last year's All-Big 12 team, and didn't receive any recognition from the media, but that may change in 2012. Tech's defense under Art Kaufman this year needs playmakers to emerge.

Bullitt, a versatile, experienced defender with two years of experience on the field, fits the bill as the most likely to become one of the league's breakout playmakers.

Under the radar: TCU Horned Frogs

June, 22, 2012
6/22/12
9:00
AM ET
Time for the next team in our series examining one player on each Big 12 team who will enter 2012 with a profile that doesn't quite match his worth to the team.

In other words, they're coming in under the radar. Click here for more players under the radar.

Next up: the TCU Horned Frogs.

Under the radar: DE Stansly Maponga

It's time to redefine "under the radar" for TCU, a Big 12 newcomer. You don't need to tell anyone from Fort Worth about Maponga, a 6-foot-2, 265-pound beast on the defensive line for the Frogs. But in the Big 12? Maponga may be a first-team All-Big 12 talent and I'd bet 95 percent of the league's fans have never even seen the guy play.

Mistake.

Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor may be the league's top two defensive linemen by the time the season's done, but if anybody's going to crash the league's burnt-orange monopoly at the position, it's going to be Maponga.

The Carrollton, Texas, native will only be a junior in 2011, but as a sophomore, he was one of just four players in college football to rank in the top 20 in sacks and in the top 10 in forced fumbles. He made nine sacks (which would have ranked second in the Big 12 and that's the most of any returning defender in the league. Those five forced fumbles were one more than any player in the Big 12 last season, too.

He recovered two fumbles and made 13.5 tackles for loss, which would have tied for sixth in the Big 12.

Yes, we know, he did it in the Mountain West. Count me as one more vote who doesn't care. He's one productive beast you do not want to mess with. Ignore him at your own peril. When your team plays TCU and that annoying No. 90 keeps driving you nuts, don't say you weren't warned.

Under the radar: Texas Longhorns

June, 21, 2012
6/21/12
1:30
PM ET
Time for the next team in our series examining one player on each Big 12 team who will enter 2012 with a profile that doesn't quite match his worth to the team.

In other words, they're coming in under the radar. Click here for more players under the radar.

Next up: the Texas Longhorns.

Under the radar: RB Joe Bergeron

Texas' identity is clear heading into 2012. They're going to play absolutely stingy defense, and run the ball until you prove you can stop it. Will Big 12 defenses be able to stop it in 2012?

Texas had only moderate success running the ball in 2011, but an older offensive line, an older backfield and a better quarterback to relieve some pressure may make life harder on those trying to defend Texas this fall.

In that backfield, though, the Longhorns have a pair of headline-makers. Malcolm Brown was the nation's No. 2 running back in the 2011 class before leading Texas in rushing as a true freshman. The nation's No. 1 running back in the 2012 class, Johnathan Gray, arrived on campus this summer and coach Mack Brown already made it clear that he didn't sign with Texas to redshirt. He's going to play.

Those two soak up all the attention, but Joe Bergeron very well may be better than both of them this season. Even if he's not, he's still solid, and maybe the most underrated running back in the entire Big 12. The 6-foot-1, 230-pound running back rumbles with an absolute mean streak, and is a bit more explosive than Brown. What will Gray bring to the table? We'll find out. For now, Bergeron's shown his worth, running for 463 yards and five touchdowns on just 72 carries. That's an average of 6.43 yards a touch. Only two running backs in the Big 12 were better last year: Oklahoma State's Jeremy Smith and Mizzou's Henry Josey.

Those five scores were ninth-most by a freshman in school history, and three came in a romp over Texas Tech, tying a freshman school record. His freshman season was marred by injuries that kept him and Brown both shuffling in and out of the lineup, but Bergeron rolled through Texas Tech for 191 yards on 29 carries, just a week after rushing for 136 yards on just 13 carries against Kansas.

Bergeron doesn't have to carry the load. If he did, though, he'd be able to handle it. Even still, he's way, way under the radar in the Big 12.

Under the radar: Oklahoma State

June, 20, 2012
6/20/12
9:00
AM ET
Time for the next team in our series examining one player on each Big 12 team who will enter 2012 with a profile that doesn't quite match his worth to the team.

In other words, they're coming in under the radar. Click here for more players under the radar.

Next up: the Oklahoma State Cowboys

Under the radar: LB Caleb Lavey

Shaun Lewis is the superstar recruit turned Big 12 Freshman of the Year. Alex Elkins is the scrappy linebacker with the amazing story that began on an open call for walk-ons at a junior college. Lavey? Well, he seems to be the forgotten man in Oklahoma State's linebacking corps.

As a first-year starter following a quiet freshman season, Lavey was all over the place for the Cowboys, making 74 tackles to tie for third on the team, with senior safety Markelle Martin in that stat. He intercepted a pass, and made five tackles for loss. One of those came in overtime in the Fiesta Bowl win over Stanford. He also made a sack and forced a fumble last season.

Lavey, a 6-foot-3, 240-pound Celina, Texas native, makes up the forgotten third of a very talented, very experienced set of linebackers for the Cowboys who should emerge as the leaders of a solid defense in 2012. He started every game as a sophomore, making a career-high 12 tackles in the road win over Texas and 10 more in the season-changing, comeback win at Texas A&M.

Look for him to have plenty more double-digit tackle performances in 2012 and land on the radar of plenty of offenses by the time conference play comes around.

Under the radar: Oklahoma Sooners

June, 19, 2012
6/19/12
10:30
AM ET
Time for the next team in our series examining one player on each Big 12 team who will enter 2012 with a profile that doesn't quite match his worth to the team.

In other words, they're coming in under the radar.

Next up: the Oklahoma Sooners.

Under the radar: CB Demontre Hurst

Sooners fans know Hurst well after he burst on the scene during spot duty in his freshman year in 2009. The rest of the league, though? Most are painfully in the dark on what Hurst has to offer.

Other corners like Carrington Byndom and Quandre Diggs at Texas, Brodrick Brown at Oklahoma State and Nigel Malone at Kansas State get a whole lot more press, but Hurst very well could prove he's better than all of them during his senior campaign in 2012.

Jamell Fleming took his talents to the NFL, but Hurst will be the team's top cornerback, with loads of experience to pass down to the team's younger players.

Hurst led the Sooners with 11 pass breakups last season, but earned just second-team All-Big 12 honors, his first appearance on the All-Big 12 squad. He returned his only interception of the season for a touchdown against Texas, but also recovered two fumbles. Hurst has all the pieces to be a shutdown corner in this league, and spent two seasons going head to head in practice against Ryan Broyles, one of the toughest players to cover in the history of the Big 12. He'll be teaching the Sooners' receivers a thing or two this summer and in fall camp, but Hurst is fast, and he's shown the instincts necessary to be a star since he stepped on campus. The Lancaster, Texas, native is under the radar a bit for now, but that'll change quickly for fans of the Big 12 as 2012 kicks off. If you think Hurst is under the radar among the league's wide receivers, you're sorely mistaken.

Under the radar: Kansas State Wildcats

June, 13, 2012
6/13/12
4:00
PM ET
Time for the next team in our series examining one player on each Big 12 team who will enter 2012 with a profile that doesn't quite match his worth to the team.

In other words, they're coming in under the radar.

Next up: the Kansas State Wildcats

Under the radar: DE Meshak Williams and RB John Hubert

Both players deserved a nod, and I couldn't pick one over the other.

Quarterback Collin Klein's 1,000-yard rushing season and 27 touchdowns earned all the attention on Kansas State's offense, but Hubert quietly emerged in the wake of Bryce Brown's rather spectacular flame out early in the 2011 season. Brown proved to be all hype and little substance, but Hubert was the exact opposite.

The little-known Waco, Texas, native rushed for 970 yards last season, giving Kansas State two of the Big 12's top three returning rushers in 2012. He's not physically imposing, but he's a huge part of Kansas State's relentless rushing attack. If Klein didn't beat you, Hubert did. He rushed for 166 yards in a razor-thin win over Miami, and added 126 yards as Kansas State put Mizzou on ice.

Meanwhile, Williams emerged as a breakthrough player in 2011 on the defensive line. He notched seven sacks as a junior, and Texas' Jackson Jeffcoat is the only returning Big 12 talent with more, save TCU newcomer Stansly Maponga. The juco transfer joins Hubert in being undersized for their positions, but the 6-foot-3, 245-pound Williams wasn't slowed by his stature. He wreaked havoc on Big 12 defenses, notching 10 tackles for loss and forcing a fumble.

It'll be tough for Hubert to surpass Klein as the team's leading rusher, but don't overlook Williams as a dark horse for the Big 12's Defensive Player of the Year. Sounds hard to believe, but it's a distinct possibility.

Under the radar: Kansas Jayhawks

June, 7, 2012
6/07/12
10:30
AM ET
Time for the next team in our series examining one player on each Big 12 team who will enter 2012 with a profile that doesn't quite match his worth to the team.

In other words, they're coming in under the radar.

Next up: the Kansas Jayhawks.

Under the radar: D.J. Beshears, WR

Kansas needs big playmakers on offense, and Beshears is the most likely candidate to provide it in the passing game next season. The Jayhawks had 30 fewer plays longer than 10 yards than any team in the Big 12 last season, and that has to change if Kansas is going to compete at a legitimate level in the league.

Fellow receivers Daymond Patterson and Kale Pick should be productive with a new quarterback in Dayne Crist, but Beshears looks like the big hitter of the bunch. Kansas hasn't had a quarterback who could sling it since Todd Reesing, but Beshears has shown his gamebreaking ability in the return game, returning a kick for a score in 2010 and averaging better than 20 yards a return last year.

Beshears quietly led the team in receiving last year while Patterson redshirted because of injury, but look for him to shoot past his 437 receiving yards last season very early this year. Running deep routes or even medium routes was unproductive with Jordan Webb throwing the ball, or KU's revolving door of quarterbacks in 2010. Almost no receiver could have been productive in that slot.

Things have changed. KU's got a quarterback now. The receivers will flourish. None more than Beshears.
Time for the next team in our series examining one player on each Big 12 team who will enter 2012 with a profile that doesn't quite match his worth to the team.

In other words, they're coming in under the radar.

Next up: the Iowa State Cyclones.

Under the radar: James White, RB

Folks around Ames know White well, but does anyone else? I highly doubt it. White earned a place in Cyclone lore for a memorable run to clinch a three-overtime win against rival Iowa in the second game of the season. After Shontrelle Johnson suffered a season-ending neck injury against Texas, White became the team's featured back He carried a hefty load all season, exploding for his first 100-yard game in a loss to Baylor, and adding his second in a blowout win against Texas Tech in Lubbock.

White seems to have a flair for the dramatic. His first touchdown reception came in overtime against Oklahoma State, setting up the Cyclones' eventual upset, the biggest of the season in college football.

Johnson might return this season. He might not. It's still up in the air. White will be there, though, and don't be surprised if he cracks 1,000 yards quietly for the Cyclones, who have tons of uncertainty at quarterback entering the season. White slowed down the stretch, but proved early on that he can be productive and finished with 743 yards and eight touchdowns. He might build on that production as a junior in 2012.

Under the radar: Baylor Bears

June, 4, 2012
6/04/12
4:00
PM ET
Today, we'll kick off a new series on the Big 12 examining one player who will enter 2012 with a profile that doesn't quite match their worth to the team.

In other words, they're coming in under the radar.

First up, the Baylor Bears.

Under the radar: CB K.J. Morton

Baylor is starved for a true defensive star, and while it may not have one yet, Morton could be due for a breakout year in 2012. His name doesn't come up on anyone's short list for the conference's best corner, but he proved he has an ability to be a playmaker late in the season.

He became the starter in the Bears' third game of the season, and by season's end, had earned honorable mention All-Big 12 status. In the regular season's final three games, he intercepted four passes, moving him to fourth in the conference. That included interceptions against Oklahoma's Landry Jones and Texas Tech's Seth Doege. Both of his interceptions against Texas in the season finale gave Baylor's offense the ball in the red zone.

What's the biggest reason he could make a jump in Year 2? The opportunity for offseason growth. Morton didn't transfer to Baylor until late August, and had to rush to learn the new defense under Phil Bennett. Bennett's system is in its second year, and Morton should have a much greater understanding of the position by now. Additionally, he faces top-tier talent at receiver in practice every day against an offense that puts a lot of stress on defensive backs.

Morton doesn't command the same respect as guys like OSU's Brodrick Brown, Texas' Carrington Byndom or Oklahoma's Demontre Hurst.

Don't be shocked if that has changed by December.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

BIG 12 SCOREBOARD

Saturday, 12/20
Monday, 12/22
Tuesday, 12/23
Wednesday, 12/24
Friday, 12/26
Saturday, 12/27
Monday, 12/29
Tuesday, 12/30
Wednesday, 12/31
Thursday, 1/1
Friday, 1/2
Saturday, 1/3
Sunday, 1/4
Monday, 1/12