Dallas Colleges: 2013 Big 12 final player countdown

Top 25 players in the Big 12: No. 1

January, 31, 2014
Jan 31
11:00
AM CT
With signing day approaching, we’re closing the book on the 2013 season. The last two weeks, we’ve been counting down the top 25 players in the Big 12 in 2013 through a list collaboratively selected by Jake Trotter, Brandon Chatmon and Max Olson. It’s finally time for our No. 1 player.

No. 1: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech

Previous ranking: Amaro was unranked in the blog’s preseason list of the Big 12’s top 25 players.

[+] EnlargeJace Amaro
Michael C. Johnson/USA TODAY SportsTexas Tech's Jace Amaro was unstoppable this season, setting an FBS single-season record for receiving yards by a tight end with 1,352.
Making the case for Amaro: While we considered other players in the No. 1 slot, this was actually a unanimous decision.

Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty, Kansas State playmaker Tyler Lockett, offensive linemen Cyril Richardson and Gabe Ikard and the defensive trio of Jackson Jeffcoat, Justin Gilbert and Jason Verrett all had tremendous seasons and were worthy of inclusion in the discussion.

Amaro, however, was the one player in the Big 12 who was pretty much impossible to game plan for. Because of his size and 260-pound frame, the flex tight end overpowered safeties. Because of his speed and quickness, he simply blew by linebackers. No defense figured out how to stop Amaro, even with Texas Tech rotating between two true freshmen quarterbacks.

As a result, Amaro finished with 1,352 receiving yards, which set an FBS single-season record for receiving yards by a tight end. Amaro also hauled in 106 receptions, good for second all-time among FBS tight ends. No one else in the Big 12 caught more than 83 passes.

In turn, Amaro was a unanimous All-American -- joining Richardson as the only two Big 12 players to earn such honors.

Recently, the Big 12 has enjoyed a strong tight end tradition, with Jermaine Gresham, Brandon Pettigrew, Martellus Bennett and Jermichael Finley all turning into NFL starters.

Given Amaro’s unique talents, which could make him a first round draft pick, he should very well become the next.


The rest of the list:

Top 25 players in the Big 12: No. 2

January, 31, 2014
Jan 31
10:00
AM CT
With signing day quickly approaching, it’s time to close the chapter on the 2013 season. We’re counting down the top 25 players in the Big 12 in 2013 over the next few days with a list collaboratively selected by Jake Trotter, Brandon Chatmon and Max Olson. We continue the postseason countdown with the No. 2 player in the Big 12.

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty
AP Photo/LM OteroBaylor QB Bryce Petty put up video game stats -- 32 passing TDs and 14 rushing TDs -- this season.
No. 2: Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor

Previous ranking: Petty was not ranked in the blog’s preseason list of the Big 12’s top 25 players.

Making the case for Petty: Really? Does he need a case made for him? The numbers say it all: 85.5 adjusted QBR, 250 completions out of 403 attempts for 4,200 yards, 32 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, 10.42 yards per attempt, 16.8 yards per completion, 14 rushing touchdowns. He sat atop the Big 12 in each of those categories.

Petty had an incredible season after entering the year as the main question mark on Baylor’s offense. He was accurate, confident and savvy as the Bears’ signal caller while earning Big 12 offensive player of the year honors.

Petty’s first-quarter numbers (1,428 yards, 12 TDs, 0 INT) played a major role in the Bears’ ability to get off to quick starts and run away from opponents this season, and his leadership and maturity were keys to Baylor’s Big 12 title run.

Robert Griffin III and Nick Florence were excellent, even Heisman worthy, in previous seasons under center for Art Briles crew, but Bryce Petty's 2013 season was second to none.

The rest of the list:

Top 25 players in the Big 12: No. 3

January, 31, 2014
Jan 31
9:00
AM CT
With signing day quickly approaching, it’s time to close the chapter on the 2013 season. We’re counting down the top 25 players in the Big 12 in 2013 with a list collaboratively selected by Jake Trotter, Brandon Chatmon and Max Olson. We continue the postseason countdown with the No. 4 player in the Big 12.

[+] EnlargeJackson Jeffcoat
John Albright/Icon SMIA finally healthy Jackson Jeffcoat lived up to the hype he had entering Texas, leading the Big 12 with 13 sacks and 22 tackles for loss.
No. 3: Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas

Previous ranking: Jackson was ranked 10th in the blog’s preseason list of the Big 12’s top 25 players.

Making the case for Jeffcoat: He’d shown flashes of what he was capable of doing in the past, most notably in six games in 2012 before a season-ending torn pectoral muscle. But this was the season Jeffcoat finally put it all together. He was finally healthy and a heck of a problem for opposing offenses.

Jeffcoat came back for his senior season with unfinished business on his mind, and that decision paid off with a treasure chest of trophies. A consensus All-American and the winner of the Ted Hendricks Award, Jeffcoat became the Big 12’s best defensive player in his final season.

He led the conference with 13 sacks and 22 tackles for loss and added 86 tackles, three fumble recoveries and a game-clinching interception at Iowa State. All but one of those sacks came in Big 12 play, and Jeffcoat was the only FBS lineman to lead his team in tackles this season.

With Jeffcoat coming off one edge and Cedric Reed on the other, Texas had one of the nation’s more formidable pass rushes. And when the Longhorns began the year 1-2, Jeffcoat was one of the seniors who pulled the team together and saved the season.

The rest of the list:

Top 25 players in the Big 12: No. 4

January, 30, 2014
Jan 30
4:00
PM CT
With signing day quickly approaching, it’s time to close the chapter on the 2013 season. We’re counting down the top 25 players in the Big 12 in 2013 over the next few days with a list collaboratively selected by Jake Trotter, Brandon Chatmon and Max Olson. We continue the postseason countdown with the No. 4 player in the Big 12.

[+] EnlargeJames Franklin, Justin Gilbert
AP Photo/Brandon WadeJustin Gilbert was not only a lockdown cornerback for Oklahoma State, but also a devastating return man.
No. 4: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

Previous ranking: Gilbert was No. 22 in the blog’s preseason list of the Big 12’s top 25 players.

Making the case for Gilbert: He took his game to another level as a senior, earning All-American honors as arguably the Big 12’s top defender. Gilbert’s coverage skills and playmaking ability changed games, and his interception returns for touchdowns against Iowa State and Texas were momentum-changing plays in those victories. Gilbert’s speed, acceleration and ball skills made it unwise for Big 12 quarterbacks to throw his way.

Overall, Gilbert allowed OSU’s defense to be creative knowing he could take an opposing receiver out of the game. And his kick-return prowess was second to none. He finished with 42 tackles, seven interceptions, seven passes broken up and two interception returns for touchdown along with his 25.17 yards per kick return which included one touchdown.

Gilbert finally realized the promise he showed during his first three years in Stillwater, Okla., and became an elite cornerback who impacted games with his unique talent and playmaking skills.

The rest of the list:

Top 25 players in the Big 12: No. 5

January, 30, 2014
Jan 30
2:00
PM CT
With signing day quickly approaching, it’s time to close the chapter on the 2013 season. We’re counting down the top 25 players in the Big 12 in 2013 with a list collaboratively selected by Jake Trotter, Brandon Chatmon and Max Olson. We continue the postseason countdown with the No. 5 player in the Big 12.

[+] EnlargeCyril Richardson
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsGuard Cyril Richardson was the muscle behind a Baylor offense that was virtually unstoppable in 2013.
No. 5: Cyril Richardson, OG, Baylor

Previous ranking: Richardson was ranked No. 2 in the blog’s preseason list of the Big 12’s top 25 players.

Making the case for Richardson: Unanimous All-American, undisputed best lineman in the Big 12, unapologetic monster.

Richardson came into his senior season with great expectations and once again raised his game. The conference's Offensive Lineman of the Year for a second straight season, he led Baylor with 89 knockdown blocks and got the job done nearly 90 percent of the time according to BU coaches.

He was the leader of an offensive line that protected the nation's No. 1 scoring and total offense and a key figure in keeping new starting quarterback Bryce Petty clean and thriving. The mammoth 6-foot-5, 340-pound lineman is as dominant a player as the Big 12 has had in recent years, and his impact on these Bears shouldn't be underestimated.

Now he's the No. 1-ranked guard prospect in the NFL draft. Whoever selects Richardson is getting a road grader with a mean streak and an impeccable résumé.

The rest of the list:

Top 25 players in the Big 12: No. 6

January, 30, 2014
Jan 30
10:00
AM CT
With signing day quickly approaching, it’s time to close the chapter on the 2013 season. We’re counting down the top 25 players in the Big 12 in 2013 over the next few days with a list collaboratively selected by Jake Trotter, Brandon Chatmon and Max Olson. Up next is our No. 6 player.

[+] EnlargeJason Verrett
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsJason Verrett battled injuries, but was still one of the Big 12's best defenders.
No. 6: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU

Previous ranking: Verrett was No. 1 in the blog’s preseason list of the Big 12’s top 25 players.

Making the case for Verrett: The fact Verrett still made the top 10 on this list underscores just how good a player he is.

Verrett was banged up most of the season with a nagging shoulder injury while playing on a struggling team that won only four games. But down to the very last game, Verrett gutted out several big-time performances.

TCU sputtered offensively all season, especially after losing quarterback Casey Pachall to a broken forearm. Defensively, the Horned Frogs weren’t quite the same as they’d been the previous few years either after losing preseason All-American defensive end Devonte Fields to a suspension, then a season-ending foot injury.

As a result, TCU went 4-8. But thanks in large part to Verrett’s tenacity, the Horned Frogs were able to still hang tough in every game.

Even though opposing quarterbacks rarely threw his way, Verrett led the Big 12 with 16 pass breakups. And when matched up with league’s best wide receivers, he was usually at his best.

Texas Tech’s Eric Ward, who finished fifth in the Big 12 in receiving, went without a reception against Verrett.

Then in TCU’s season finale, Verrett held Antwan Goodley, the league’s leading receiver, to just one catch for 12 yards, as the Horned Frogs nearly toppled the eventual Big 12 champions.

Though TCU failed to make a bowl, Verrett was named the Big 12 Co-Defensive Player of the Year and a Walter Camp first-team All-American.

Since getting burned by Baylor QB Robert Griffin III in the 2011 season opener, Verrett has come a long way. And even though he only had two years in the Big 12, he'll go down as one of the better corners ever to play in the league.

The rest of the list:

Top 25 players in the Big 12: No. 7

January, 29, 2014
Jan 29
4:00
PM CT
With signing day quickly approaching, it’s time to close the chapter on the 2013 season. We’re counting down the top 25 players in the Big 12 in 2013 with a list collaboratively selected by Jake Trotter, Brandon Chatmon and Max Olson. We continue the postseason countdown with the No. 7 player in the Big 12.

No. 7: Gabe Ikard, C, Oklahoma

Previous ranking: Ikard was No. 4 in the blog’s preseason list of the Big 12’s top 25 players.

Making the case for Ikard: The Sooners’ senior made his strongest case behind closed doors, in the halls of the Switzer Center, OU’s football complex. Then he went onto the field and more than held his own, earning All-Big 12 first-team honors for the third-straight season.

Ikard was the anchor of an OU offensive line that paved the way for the Sooners to average 223.9 rushing yards per game and provided a consistent on-field voice for an offense that saw three different quarterbacks take snaps in 2013.

Ikard brought intelligence, durability and competitiveness to the offensive line along with his leadership, which helped the Sooners win 11 games, including a Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama. The offensive line was the foundation of the Sooners’ success and Ikard was the foundation of it.

OU would not have found a way to win 11 games and earn a BCS bowl berth without Ikard anchoring the middle of its offensive front and bringing strong leadership to the locker room.

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Top 25 players in the Big 12: No. 9

January, 29, 2014
Jan 29
10:00
AM CT
With signing day quickly approaching, it’s time to close the chapter on the 2013 season. We’re counting down the top 25 players in the Big 12 in 2013 over the next few days with a list collaboratively selected by Jake Trotter, Brandon Chatmon and Max Olson. We continue the postseason countdown with the No. 9 player in the Big 12.

[+] EnlargeAhmad Dixon
John Rivera/Icon SMISafety Ahmad Dixon was the enforcer behind a Baylor defense that helped the Bears to their first Big 12 title.
No. 9: Ahmad Dixon, S, Baylor

Previous ranking: Dixon was not ranked in the blog’s preseason list of the Big 12’s top 25 players.

Making the case for Dixon: A true leader of a Baylor defense that enjoyed a serious rise in 2013, Dixon moved over from his nickel “Bear” role and shined as a safety in his senior season.

His stats were solid -- 81 tackles, six pass breakups, one interception -- but if you watched this Baylor team, you recognized he was a game-changer. Opposing coaches knew that, and it was no surprise that Dixon was named a first-team All-American by the AFCA in addition to his consensus All-Big 12 honors.

In the Bears defense, Dixon played the role of the hit man. At times that led to penalties (and an ejection against TCU) but that enforcer mentality made Dixon a major weapon in defensive coordinator Phil Bennett’s scheme, and the Waco, Texas, native played up to the potential he showed as one of the nation’s top recruits.

He’s as passionate and hard-nosed a player as Baylor had during its resurgence, and, love him or hate him, any Big 12 program would have wanted him patrolling their secondary this season.

The rest of the list:

Top 25 players in the Big 12: No. 10

January, 28, 2014
Jan 28
4:00
PM CT
With signing day quickly approaching, it’s time to close the chapter on the 2013 season. We’re counting down the Top 25 players in the Big 12 in 2013 over the next few days with a list collaboratively selected by Jake Trotter, Brandon Chatmon and Max Olson. We continue the postseason countdown with the No. 10 player in the Big 12.

[+] EnlargeSaunders
Richard Rowe/USA TODAY SportsJalen Saunders might not have been the biggest player on the field, but the Sooners receiver/returner was one of the best.
No. 10: Jalen Saunders, WR, Oklahoma

Previous ranking: Saunders was No. 19 in the blog’s preseason list of the Big 12’s Top 25 players.

Making the case for Saunders: He was often the smallest player on the field. And, just as often, he made game-changing plays that sparked the Sooners’ run to the Allstate Sugar Bowl. His quickness and ability to change direction made him nearly impossible to cover in the open field. His two-touchdown performances in OU’s 33-24 Bedlam win over Oklahoma State and against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl were the perfect way for him to end his college career.

With inconsistent quarterback play hampering his opportunities, Saunders finished with 61 receptions for 729 yards and eight touchdowns with 57.4 percent of his receptions going for first downs. And he averaged 15.4 yards per punt return with returns of 20 yards or more in five different games.

As a receiver and returner, Saunders proved size doesn’t matter. Talent and will to win does.

The rest of the list:

Top 25 players in the Big 12: No. 11

January, 28, 2014
Jan 28
2:00
PM CT
With signing day quickly approaching, it’s time to close the chapter on the 2013 season. We’ll continue counting down the Top 25 players in the Big 12 in 2013 over the next few days with a list collaboratively selected by Jake Trotter, Brandon Chatmon and Max Olson. We continue the postseason countdown with the No. 11 player in the Big 12.

No. 11: Antwan Goodley, WR, Baylor

Previous ranking: Goodley was not ranked in the blog’s preseason list of the Big 12’s Top 25 players.

Making the case for Goodley: Baylor players used to joke that Goodley was their best-kept secret of the offseason and that they knew what he was really capable of, but good luck convincing anyone you saw this coming from the junior wide receiver with 19 career receptions entering 2013.

Goodley went above and beyond in his breakthrough season, emerging as the Bears’ next star receiver and the league’s most prolific wideout. He caught 71 passes for 1,339 yards and a Big 12-best 13 touchdowns. He led the league in receiving for most of the season and was Bryce Petty's wildly successful go-to target.

Not only were his final stats strong, but you can’t say he disappeared in big games. He went for 80 yards and two TDs vs. Oklahoma, 101 yards and a TD on four catches vs. Texas Tech, caught 10 for 118 and a score at Oklahoma State, and had eight receptions for 114 yards and another score to beat Texas. And he scored in each of Baylor’s first six games.

To call Goodley a system receiver or dismiss his feats as being a byproduct of the Baylor offense isn’t fair. He has the build of a running back -- 5-foot-10, 225 pounds -- and the breakaway speed to burn any defense that misses the first tackle. The question now is, what can he do for an encore in 2014?

The rest of the list:

Top 25 players in the Big 12: No. 12

January, 28, 2014
Jan 28
10:00
AM CT
With signing day quickly approaching, we're closing the chapter on the 2013 season by counting down the Top 25 players in the Big 12 in 2013 with a list collaboratively selected by Jake Trotter, Brandon Chatmon and Max Olson. We’re down to the Big 12's No. 12 player.

No. 12: Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor

Previous ranking: Seastrunk was No. 5 in the blog’s preseason list of the Big 12’s Top 25 players.

Making the case for Seastrunk: Seastrunk’s midseason groin injury played a major part in him dropping seven spots from the preseason ranking. But even though he didn’t have the Heisman-caliber season he’d hoped for, Seastrunk still had a very productive final season in Waco.

He led the Big 12 with 1,177 rushing yards and was the only player in the league to average more than 100 yards rushing per game. Seastrunk also topped the Big 12 averaging 7.45 yards per carry. The only other running back in the league with an average above 6.0 was teammate Shock Linwood, who filled in admirably when Seastrunk was injured.

The balance of Seastrunk, quarterback Bryce Petty and receivers Antwan Goodley and Tevin Reese spurred Baylor to feature the top-scoring offense in college football. With defenses focused on slowing Seastrunk and Baylor’s running game, Goodley and Reese got plenty of opportunities in man coverage downfield. As a result, Baylor led the country in 30-, 40- and 50-yard plays from scrimmage.

Seastrunk wasn’t the only prolific performer on Baylor’s offense. But he was an important one, and, when healthy, one of the most unstoppable forces in the Big 12.

The rest of the list:

Top 25 players in the Big 12: No. 15

January, 27, 2014
Jan 27
10:00
AM CT
With signing day quickly approaching, it’s time to close the chapter on the 2013 season. We’re counting down the Top 25 players in the Big 12 in 2013 over the next few days with a list collaboratively selected by Jake Trotter, Brandon Chatmon and Max Olson. We continue the postseason countdown with the No. 15 player in the Big 12.

No. 15: Anthony Fera, K/P, Texas

Previous ranking: Fera was not ranked in the blog’s preseason list of the Big 12’s top players.

Making the case for Fera: Texas has had more than its fair share of elite kickers -- ever heard of Justin Tucker or Phil Dawson? -- and yet its latest will go down as the most decorated in school history.

Fera became the Longhorns’ first-ever Lou Groza Award finalist and earned consensus All-America honors as a senior. The recognition was well-deserved. Fera made 20 of his 22 field goal attempts in 2013, with the only misses coming on kicks tipped at the line. He enjoyed a streak of 15 consecutive makes during the season, was 14-of-14 from inside 40 and 14-of-15 on kicks with the game within seven points.

In addition, the former Penn State transfer was one of the league’s most effective punters, pinning more than 42 percent of his kicks inside the 20 with only three touchbacks. And he took care of point-after duties. Fera was indisputably one of Texas most valuable contributors, both for its offense and defense, and that’s why he’s 15th in our rankings.

The rest of the list:

Top 25 players in the Big 12: No. 16

January, 24, 2014
Jan 24
3:00
PM CT
With signing day quickly approaching, it’s time to close the chapter on the 2013 season. We’re counting down the top 25 players in the Big 12 in 2013 over the next few days with a list collaboratively selected by Jake Trotter, Brandon Chatmon and Max Olson. We continue the postseason countdown with the No. 16 player in the Big 12.

No. 16: Aaron Colvin, CB, Oklahoma

Previous ranking: Colvin was No. 6 in the blog’s preseason list of the Big 12’s top 25 players.

Making the case for Colvin: Kansas State receiver Tyler Lockett made a better case than anyone else could. With Colvin nursing injuries and playing part-time, Lockett had six receptions for 206 yards and three touchdowns in the first half against the Sooners.

The Sooners coaching staff had seen enough, inserting Colvin full-time in the second half. Lockett caught six passes for 72 yards in the second half but didn’t score another touchdown.

Colvin’s contribution to the Sooners defense was unparalleled. He brought excellence, experience and leadership to a secondary that began the season with uncertainty and with Colvin as the only returning starter playing the same position he played in 2012. A great coverage cornerback who was willing to stick his nose in the running game, Colvin did it all for OU as a senior. He finished with 55 tackles, including five tackles for loss, and one interception in 11 games.

The rest of the list:

Top 25 players in the Big 12: No. 17

January, 24, 2014
Jan 24
10:00
AM CT
With signing day quickly approaching, it’s time to close the chapter on the 2013 season. We’re counting down the top 25 players in the Big 12 in 2013 over the next few days with a list collaboratively selected by Jake Trotter, Brandon Chatmon and Max Olson. We continue the postseason countdown with the No. 17 player in the Big 12.

No. 17: Caleb Lavey, LB, Oklahoma State

[+] EnlargeCaleb Lavey
Peter G. Aiken/USA TODAY SportsOklahoma State linebacker Caleb Lavey had 92 tackles and four interceptions.
Previous ranking: Lavey was unranked in the blog’s preseason list of the Big 12’s top 25 players.

Making the case for Lavey: The best Oklahoma State defense in Mike Gundy’s nine years as head coach wasn’t a one-man show. Calvin Barnett was a load at defensive tackle. Shaun Lewis was a versatile playmaking linebacker. And Justin Gilbert was one of the best cover corners in the country. But Lavey was the glue at middle linebacker that kept the Big 12’s best defense together.

Lavey paced the Cowboys with 93 tackles, and led all Big 12 linebackers with four interceptions. He was also sixth in the league with 12.5 tackles for loss and tied for third with three forced fumbles.

With Lavey spearheading the effort, the Cowboys ranked first in the Big 12 in a host of “next level” defensive statistics, including red-zone defense, points per drive allowed, turnovers forced, touchdown drive percentage and opponent quarterback rating.

Lavey, an outgoing senior, wasn't the fastest linebacker. Or the biggest. But he always ended up around the football -- something that won’t be easily replaced in Stillwater.

The rest of the list:

Top 25 players in the Big 12: No. 18

January, 23, 2014
Jan 23
3:00
PM CT
With signing day quickly approaching, it’s time to close the chapter on the 2013 season. We’re counting down the top 25 players in the Big 12 in 2013 over the next few days with a list collaboratively selected by Jake Trotter, Brandon Chatmon and Max Olson. We continue the postseason countdown with the No. 18 player in the Big 12.

No. 18: Eddie Lackey, LB, Baylor

Previous ranking: Lackey was not ranked in the blog’s preseason list of the Big 12’s top 25 players.

Making the case for Lackey: Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Bennett was adamant Lackey should've received All-American honors after what he provided for this Bear defense, and Bennett might have a point. The All-Big 12 senior led the team with 108 tackles and 13 tackles for loss and added 4.5 sacks and three interceptions.

He not only put up big numbers, but he did so with consistency and was a leader when Baylor needed him most, especially after fellow linebacker Bryce Hager went down with a groin injury. The former junior college transfer finished his career with 212 tackles and 23.5 TFLs in two seasons.

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