Dallas Colleges: Braden Wilson
This year, a record 333 players have been invited, and the Big 12 landed 30 invitations.
Draft stock can swing wildly during the week, with the main event -- the 40 time -- often serving as the catalyst for that stock. Call it silly, and in some ways it is, but it's the reality of the process. Here's who's headed to Indianapolis from the Big 12:
- Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
- Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia
- Josh Boyce, WR, TCU
- Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State
- Anthony Cantele, K, Kansas State
- Marquise Goodwin, WR, Texas
- Chris Harper, WR, Kansas State
- Tanner Hawkinson, OL, Kansas
- Tony Jefferson, S, Oklahoma
- Lane Johnson, OL, Oklahoma
- Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
- A.J. Klein, LB, Iowa State
- Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
- Jake Knott, LB, Iowa State
- Joe Madsen, OL, West Virginia
- Stansly Maponga, DE, TCU
- Bradley McDougald, DB, Kansas
- Stacy McGee, DL, Oklahoma
- Tracy Moore, WR, Oklahoma State
- Alex Okafor, DE, Texas
- Joseph Randle, RB, Oklahoma State
- Lanear Sampson, WR, Baylor
- Quinn Sharp, K/P, Oklahoma State
- Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
- Kenny Stills, WR, Oklahoma
- Matthew Tucker, RB, TCU
- Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
- Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor
- Braden Wilson, RB, Kansas State
- Tom Wort, LB, Oklahoma
Pretty good set of players there. You can see them when the combine kicks off Feb. 20.
To me, it looks as if we have four legitimate contenders for the conference title and three possible dark horses. We'll see how the latter three develop, but I'm sold on the top four as teams that could realistically win the league next season.
1. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys will be loaded, and that's especially true if running back Joseph Randle comes back. Cornerback Justin Gilbert is returning, but we saw this season that they can win with any one of their three quarterbacks. That's a recipe for success in this league. The defense was a bit streaky; this season was the first under defensive coordinator Bill Young that the Cowboys didn't finish in the top 15 in turnovers forced. If they can get back to forcing turnovers in bunches next season, another Big 12 title could be headed to Stillwater.
2. TCU: The Frogs are growing up fast, but their spot here is assuming that quarterback Casey Pachall will be back on the field this spring to reclaim his job. The defense looks likely to be the best in the Big 12, and as much offense as this league has, you can't win it without a solid defense. TCU's offense will win it some games; its defense might win it a Big 12 title. Look out for Devonte Fields' encore.
3. Oklahoma: The Sooners look like they may lack a true star on next season's team, but they are still solid across the two-deep and will be good enough to be in the mix for a title even without quarterback Landry Jones. A wealth of losses on the defensive end is a bigger concern, but receivers Jalen Saunders and Sterling Shepard also will have to navigate a transition to a new QB after three-plus years with Jones. The Sooners ought to feature fullback Trey Millard a bit more in the offense next year.
4. Texas: Believe it or not, but David Ash is the Big 12's most experienced passer. Can he look the part on the field? We'll see, but the biggest problem for Texas is continuing its defensive improvements. Jackson Jeffcoat could be back, and Jordan Hicks will be one of the league's biggest talents if he is able to recover from a hip injury. The time is now if the Longhorns' trio of backs are going to mature into true impact players.
5. Baylor: I'm a believer in the late-season run for these guys translating to 2013. The defense made big strides, and we'll see if those continue, but the offense will be fine. I buy Bryce Petty as a big talent and the next in the long line of Art Briles' quarterback disciples. Lache Seastrunk will help him out early, too. Don't be surprised if he surpasses Randle next year as the Big 12's best back.
6. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders are a huge wild card and might have the biggest upside of any team in the bottom half of these rankings. Michael Brewer is a promising QB, and he now has Kliff Kingsbury -- the former Texas A&M offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach who helped the Aggies far surpass expectations -- as his new head coach. Could Tech do the same? The Red Raiders have tons of talent on both sides of the ball, thanks to a couple of great recruiting classes from Tommy Tuberville (who left to become the coach at Cincinnati).
7. Kansas State: No Collin Klein and Arthur Brown? You know about that, but there's no Chris Harper, Travis Tannahill, Braden Wilson, and the entire defensive line is gone, including star DE Meshak Williams. Both starting cornerbacks are gone, too. Point is, K-State's probably a bowl team next season, but to come back from that mountain of losses and be in the top half of the Big 12 is going to be a tall, tall task.
8. West Virginia: The Mountaineers' trio of wide receivers Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin and quarterback Geno Smith was outstanding this year. Not much else in Morgantown was. All three are gone, and that team only went 7-5. Coordinator Keith Patterson has got to fix this defense in the spring and apply some lessons learned in a disappointing Year 1 in the Big 12. The QB derby between Paul Millard and Ford Childress should be interesting.
9. Iowa State: Sam Richardson was severely ill while playing in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, but he still didn't inspire a lot of confidence in the future of the QB spot in Ames, despite a strong finish to the season. With linebacking pillars A.J. Klein and Jake Knott both headed to the NFL, the odds once again will be against Iowa State winning six games and getting to a bowl. Without consistency at the quarterback spot, it's going to be tough, especially with the defense likely to take a step back.
10. Kansas: Gotta prove something before the Jayhawks move out of the basement. Charlie Weis is bringing in tons of juco talent, but after the Dayne Crist experiment didn't work, BYU transfer Jake Heaps simply must be better for KU to begin its climb back to the postseason.
2. Texas A&M: The Aggies might have been the hottest team in the country at the end of the 2012 season. Maybe defenses will have a little better handle on Johnny Manziel the second time around, but Johnny Football will have a little better handle on defenses, too. If offensive tackles Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews return for their senior seasons, look out. Losing Damontre Moore on defense will hurt, but the Aggies like their young talent.
QB: Nick Florence, Baylor
When was the last time the nation's leader in total offense struggled to even sniff a nod on an All-Big 12 team? The Big 12 quarterback pool is deep this year, but Florence deserves plenty of recognition for a huge season, even if it featured a few too many interceptions. He led the league in passing yards, too.
RB: Damien Williams, Oklahoma
Williams' home-run hitting was much needed for the Sooners, whose season may have looked very different without some huge runs from Williams in wins over UTEP and TCU. Not to mention his 95-yard highlight against Texas, which didn't necessarily change the outcome but provided an unforgettable moment.
RB: James Sims, Kansas
Sims just might be the best back in the Big 12 and didn't even receive a first-team nod from the league's coaches. KU has zero help or support by way of a passing game for Sims. Everybody in the stadium knows he's getting the ball, and yet, he remained productive this season, his best yet.
FB: Braden Wilson, Kansas State
Wilson's a quiet member of one of the league's best rushing attacks. How has Kansas State had Collin Klein and John Hubert each over 895 yards rushing in each of the past two seasons? Ask Bill Snyder to talk about Wilson some time. He'll stop about 45 minutes later.
WR: Josh Stewart, Oklahoma State
Stewart doesn't get the same respect as elite receivers in the Big 12 like Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey or Terrance Williams, but he's really not all that far off. OSU throws it around to a lot of different receivers, but Stewart racked up 96 receptions this season. Only two other receivers in the league had more.
WR: Eric Ward, Texas Tech
Ward doesn't get the respect from media, fans or even defenses as other guys on his team, but he's been the most consistent receiver for the past two years for Ward. He led the Red Raiders in receiving last year and did it again this year with 974 yards and 11 scores. Look for him to hit 1,000 yards in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas.
WR: Tevin Reese, Baylor
Reese is one of the league's most dangerous deep threats, and that alone puts him on this list. He's got eight touchdown catches this season, and averaged 50.8 yards on those eight scores. Ridiculous.
OL: Tanner Hawkinson, Kansas
Hawkinson's calling card is his consistency. Not many guys have played four seasons without missing a game, but Hawkinson racked up 48 starts in four bowl-less seasons for the Jayhawks. He's been consistently one of the league's better linemen. There are more talented guys, but he's been solid and doesn't get the recognition because of KU's struggles.
OL: Lane Johnson, Oklahoma
My lasting memory of Johnson was an impactful one: He completely erased Devonte Fields from the season-ending, Big 12 title share-clinching win in Fort Worth over TCU. Fields, arguably the league's best pass rusher, made just two tackles and none for loss. Johnson has one of the most unbelievable stories in the league, transforming from junior college quarterback into Big 12 offensive tackle (with stops at tight end and defensive end along the way), but he's been solid for the Sooners this season.
OL: Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech
Clark had a big impact on the Red Raiders' line in his first year as a freshman starter after redshirting in 2011. He was as good as any freshman lineman in the league, and his profile's going to rise quickly next season and beyond. He's got NFL written all over him.
OL: Mason Walters, Texas
Walters might actually be the best offensive player on Texas' entire team. Guys like Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray might have more potential or get more pub, but he's been unbelievably solid since earning a starting spot as a freshman. He's started 37 consecutive games for the Longhorns.
OL: Ivory Wade, Baylor
Wade has a decent case as the Big 12's best center, but got surpassed this season by guys like B.J. Finney at Kansas State and Joe Madsen in West Virginia. Regardless, all Wade did was have a really solid season alongside stud Cyril Richardson blocking for the nation's No. 1 offense.
Mel Kiper unleashed his top five returning players for 2012, the top prospects at their positions in next year's draft.
Lots of interesting names. Here's where the Big 12 talents sit.
Collin Klein/John Hubert in 2011. One of the Big 12's toughest players.
Nick Florence throwing him the ball instead of Robert Griffin III. Williams could become a star.
Austin always struck me as an undersized player, but there's no denying his playmaking ability. Few can match his game-breaking ability with the ball in his hands.
- No. 5: Tanner Hawkinson, Kansas
- No. 4: Ben Habern, Oklahoma
- No. 1: Alex Okafor, Texas
- No. 4: Arthur Brown, Kansas State
- No. 4: Demontre Hurst, Oklahoma
- No. 2: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
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