Dallas Colleges: 2012 Super Seniors

Big 12 Super Seniors of 2012: Part II

December, 24, 2012
We ran down the first half of my list of the Big 12's Super Seniors last week. Now, we'll tackle Part II. These guys have invested four or five years into their respective programs and earned a spot as one of the greats after providing some big-time senior leadership.

[+] EnlargeLane Taylor
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsLane Taylor's steady play has helped Oklahoma State's offense put up dazzling numbers during recent seasons.
Lane Taylor, OL, Oklahoma State: Taylor's seen a whole lot in his time at Oklahoma State, from a huge season-opening win that landed OSU on the cover of Sports Illustrated to Dez Bryant's suspension and the eventual arrival and departure of offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen. He broke through as a redshirt freshman to earn a starting spot in 2009 and he hasn't let go since. He's seen some fantastic offenses through the air and on the ground with talents like Kendall Hunter, Joseph Randle, Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon. He'll leave as one of the most experienced linemen in school history and a consistent All-Big 12 performer.

Alex Okafor, DE, and Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas: Both players worked their way past an odd incident in the offseason to earn team captain designation and both players have remained consistent and productive despite moving positions. Vaccaro's jumped around to nickel back and traditional safety and Okafor moved from defensive end to tackle to end but helped Texas' defense turn in some fantastic performances over the course of their careers. The Longhorns' defense wasn't what most expected this season, but it wasn't Okafor and Vaccaro's fault. They're a pair of super seniors.

Blaize Foltz, OL, TCU: The Frogs were a young, young team this season, but Foltz played the part of the old guy for the Fort Worth Tadpoles. He's been a constant along the offensive line for some big games since 2009. There were mammoth showdowns against Boise State, a win in the Rose Bowl and the entrance into the Big 12 this season. Along the way, he helped pick up some all-conference nods, too. The Rose Hill, Kan., native helped the Frogs weather that transition to the Big 12 and maintain their spot as one of college football's growing programs.

Cody Davis, S, and Seth Doege, QB, Texas Tech: There's no differentiating between these two, even on a team with tons of senior leaders. Davis was a national scholar-athlete and a nominee for the Campbell Trophy, or the Academic Heisman. Doege fought through knee injuries in high school and a wait to take over the quarterback spot at the school he grew up loving. Once he took the reins in 2011, he racked up 66 touchdown passes while Davis established himself as a four-year starter and never finished lower than second on the team in tackles over that four-year period. Making 352 tackles is no small task, and Davis still has one more game to go.

Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia: Smith always strives for more, even early in the season when he was on a record-setting pace in a five-game stretch that was definitely the best we've ever seen in this league. That attitude carries over to his teammates, and the artistic Smith is one of the brightest players in the league, too. That helped fashion him into one of the best leaders in the conference and a player any coach would love to have on his roster.

The Big 12's Super Seniors of 2012

December, 20, 2012
This week, we're taking a look at guys who have invested four or five years into their respective programs, and earned a spot as one of the greats after providing some big-time senior leadership.

[+] EnlargeNick Florence
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesNick Florence has stepped up when called upon during his career at Baylor.
Nick Florence, QB, Baylor: Florence is a great story of what college football is all about. When Baylor needed him, he stepped in and was ready to play as a true freshman in 2009 when Robert Griffin III tore his ACL. Then, when Griffin went down in 2011 with a concussion, Florence stepped in and tossed two long touchdown passes to help beat Texas Tech and preserve a 10-win season and a Heisman Trophy for RG III. With that game, though, he sacrificed his redshirt. Did he complain once? Nope. He gave it up when his team needed it, and this year he was honored as a member of the NFF Scholar-Athlete class, nominated for the Campbell Trophy, commonly known as the Academic Heisman.

Jake Knott, LB, Iowa State: Knott's got my nod as the toughest player in the entire Big 12, but a serious shoulder injury that required surgery finally kept him off the field. He's been a three-year starter for the Cyclones, but even opponents recognized the kind of player and teammate he was. Texas coach Mack Brown sent a personalized letter to Knott after his season ended. Knott broke his arm in spring practice and less than 24 hours later was back on the practice field encouraging his teammates. He's the same guy who dislocated his shoulder three times against Baylor last year and had a career game anyway. This year, he knew his shoulder needed surgery, but suited up one last time at home and helped beat the Bears and end his career in the right way.

Tanner Hawkinson, OL, Kansas: Hawkinson's seen a lot in his four years at KU. He's been under three different coaches and never got to play in a bowl game, but he's still remained one of the most consistent talents in the Big 12 and may have an NFL future to show for it. He started a school-record 48 games in four years along the Jayhawks' offensive line, and even helped recruit quarterback Dayne Crist to transfer to KU this year. More players like Hawkinson will help KU get back into Big 12 respectability and the postseason.

Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State: What else is there to say about Klein? He's put K-State on his back the past two seasons and helped Kansas State win its first Big 12 title since 2003 and notch 21 wins in two seasons. This year, he'll get to finish his career in the Fiesta Bowl against Oregon, and a win would basically seal the deal for the 2012 team as the greatest in Kansas State history. Klein began his career with a position move to receiver, earned spot duty alongside Carson Coffman in 2010, but showed he was more than ready to lead the team in 2011. He was better than anyone could have ever guessed, and his leadership on and off the field endeared himself to his teammates.

Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma: Jones' career began with a panic. A 2009 season began with national championship aspirations and a returning Heisman winner at quarterback in Sam Bradford. Jones was supposed to be in the background with a clipboard and a headset, learning from Bradford. Before halftime of the season opener at Cowboys Stadium, a banged-up Bradford led Jones right to center stage. He didn't win that game, but he's won a whole bunch since, including a pair of Big 12 titles. He's had up and downs in his career and made his share of mistakes on the field, but he'll leave the Sooners as a guy who matured greatly over his final three years and likely will have thrown for more passing yards than all but two quarterbacks in the history of FBS football.

Keep an eye out for Part II later this week.