Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Unearthing the Big 12's rising young talents
By David Ubben
Time to take a look at a few of the under-the-radar young talents across the Big 12.
Three underclassmen to watch:
Jackson Jeffcoat, Soph., DE, Texas: Jeffcoat might be the most exciting sophomore in the entire league. A solid Longhorns defensive line last year already had true freshman Jeffcoat emerge as perhaps the team's best pass-rusher, never more impressive than in an early-season win over Texas Tech. A high ankle sprain, however, derailed any hopes of an All-Big 12 season. This year, that could change in a Big 12 without any truly elite talents on the defensive line.
As a freshman last season, Texas defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat appeared to be on his way to an all-Big 12 season before an ankle injury.
Corey Nelson, Soph., LB, Oklahoma: Nelson was referred to as the most impressive player in Oklahoma's spring after a quiet freshman year. Now, the Sooners are bending over backwards to try and get Nelson's talent on the field in the midst of a loaded group of linebackers. An earlier experiment featured Nelson at the nickel back spot, and co-Defensive Big 12 Freshman of the Year Tony Jefferson moving from his home at nickel back to free safety alongside sophomore Aaron Colvin, a converted corner, at strong safety. Now, however, with Travis Lewis likely out to begin the season, Nelson will move back to weakside linebacker where he had backed up Lewis, and Jefferson will be back at nickel back.
Ahmad Dixon, Soph., S, Baylor: Dixon was a hometown blue-chip recruit for the Bears, and looks to become one of its biggest playmakers in his first year under new coordinator Phil Bennett. Bennett loves to emphasize speed, and Dixon will take over at nickel back, playing closer to the line of scrimmage in a role that coach Art Briles says is perfect for his skill set.
Three freshmen to watch:
Malcolm Brown, RB, Texas: Brown is probably the biggest name to enter the Big 12 this season, and he'll be worth watching. A physical, bruising, 220-pound runner, Brown may be called upon to help an anemic Texas running game looking for a punch under new coordinator Bryan Harsin.
Donnie Baggs, LB, Texas A&M: Baggs was a relatively unheralded recruit coming out of high school, but made an immediate impact for the Aggies defense after enrolling early and taking part in spring practice. He should be in the conversation for starter at one of the Aggies' inside linebacker spots where Michael Hodges left a void. Baggs may be called upon heavily in fall camp after one of the other contenders at inside linebacker, Kyle Mangan, was arrested last weekend.
Quandre Diggs, CB, Texas: The Longhorns put a second player in this group in Diggs, a freshman who made big noise in spring camp after enrolling early. The depth chart in Austin is still in flux and won't be anything close to concrete until game week approaches, but it'd be shocking if Diggs didn't contribute right away. The secondary lost three NFL corners from last year's team, and there aren't many more experienced players ahead of Diggs that could keep his natural sensibilities for the position off the field.