Dallas Colleges: Terrance Williams
Baylor’s Tevin Reese and Antwan Goodley, however, have a chance to top that list.
But Reese and Goodley aren’t the only big-time duos in the Big 12 this year.
Kansas State’s Tramaine Thompson and Tyler Lockett have been lighting it up since returning from injury. The last two weeks the two have totaled five touchdown catches.
Jalen Saunders and Sterling Shepard lead the Sooners with five touchdowns apiece. Texas Tech’s Eric Ward and Jakeem Grant are fifth and sixth in the league in receiving. Oklahoma State’s Josh Stewart and Tracy Moore are beginning to warm up with Clint Chelf at QB. And Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis have been stalwarts in this league for years.
But who are the best tandems ever to play Big 12? We lay it out below.
Tight ends were not included (sorry Jermaine Gresham and Chase Coffman). The tandems were evaluated on what they accomplished together, not on whether their careers simply overlapped (eliminating Jeremy Maclin and Danario Alexander, for example); and, this is a list for duos, not singles, trios or quartets (apologies to Rashaun Woods, and the 2008 Oklahoma and 2010 Baylor receiving corps).
To the list:
1. Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin, West Virginia (2012): In their only year in the league, this tandem was one-two in the Big 12 in receiving, combining for 224 receptions and 2,914 receiving yards. Bailey himself had 25 receiving touchdowns; nobody else in the league had more than 13. Austin, meanwhile, also rushed for 344 yards in one game at running back. As Bailey tweeted out earlier Monday morning on this topic, “case closed.”
2. Michael Crabtree and Danny Amendola, Texas Tech (2007): Crabtree got all the headlines in 2007 on his way to winning his first of two Biletnikoff awards. But out of the slot, Amendola quietly put up 109 receptions for 1,245 yards, as Tech went 9-4.
3. Jordan Shipley and Quan Cosby, Texas (2008): Shipley and Cosby starred on one of the three best Big 12 teams that didn’t win a conference title. The two each had 1,000 receiving yards and double-digit TDs from QB Colt McCoy, as the Longhorns finished the year 12-1, their only loss coming on Crabtree’s game-winning touchdown in the final seconds in Lubbock. The two were also prolific on special teams, with Shipley’s kick return touchdown sparking Texas’ 45-35 comeback win over Oklahoma.
4. Justin Blackmon and Josh Cooper, Oklahoma State (2011): As with Crabtree-Amendola, Blackmon got all the attention on his way to a second Biletnikoff award. But Cooper was a pivotal piece in OSU’s first Big 12 title team, as he racked up 71 receptions out of the slot. Blackmon, of course, had a monster year with 121 catches and 18 touchdowns.
5. Kendall Wright and Terrance Williams, Baylor (2011): Reese was actually the third wheel to this duo, which shined with RGIII at quarterback. Wright was an All-American with 108 catches, 1,663 yard and 14 touchdowns. Williams was big time, too, finishing fifth in the Big 12 in receiving before taking over the No. 1 role in 2012.
6. Ryan Broyles and Kenny Stills, Oklahoma (2010): Broyles led college football with 131 receptions on his way to becoming the all-time FBS leader in career catches. Stills broke OU’s freshman single-season receiving record, as the Sooners stormed back to capture the Big 12 crown after a pair of midseason losses.
7. Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe, Kansas (2008): It might be difficult to remember now, but the Jayhawks used to play some ball. Meier tied Crabtree for second in the league with 97 receptions. Briscoe trailed only Dez Bryant with 1,402 receiving yards. This was an underrated duo.
8. Quincy Morgan and Aaron Lockett, Kansas State (1999): On one of the first passing teams in the Big 12, Morgan and Lockett shined. Morgan had 42 receptions for 1,007 yards and nine touchdowns and was a first-team all-conference selection. Lockett, Tyler Lockett's uncle, was a second-team all-league pick for the Wildcats, who went 11-1 and finished the year ranked sixth in the polls.
9. Jarrett Hicks and Joel Filani, Texas Tech (2005): Neither might be a household name around the Big 12 anymore, but these two were both first-team All-Big 12 selections in ’05 along with Iowa State WR Todd Blythe.
10. Mark Clayton and Travis Wilson, Oklahoma (2004): Clayton carried the moniker of best receiver in OU history until Broyles came around. Because of Adrian Peterson, Clayton’s numbers dipped in ’04, but he was still an All-American with 66 catches. Wilson led the Sooners with 11 TD grabs, as OU advanced to a second consecutive national championship game.
Here's more on my criteria.
Let's move on with the list:
No. 17: Tevin Reese, WR, Baylor
2012 numbers: Caught 53 passes for 957 yards and nine touchdowns. Also had four carries for 21 yards.
Most recent ranking: Reese was unranked in our postseason list of the Big 12's top 25 players.
Making the case for Reese: I don't know why, time and time again, safeties seemed to underestimate Reese's speed. The 5-foot-10, 165-pounder got over the top of defenses as much as any receiver not named Terrance Williams in the Big 12 last season. With big-armed Bryce Petty stepping into a starting role this season, there's a good chance he'll do it again. Reese's eight catches for longer than 40 yards last season are the most for any returning player in the league, and he'll showcase again why he has a case as the fastest player in the Big 12.
With Williams gone, he has to prove he can shoulder more responsibility in the passing game. But with Jay Lee, Antwan Goodley and Levi Norwood still around, as well as newcomer Robbie Rhodes, he'll have plenty of help to distract defenses from keying in on him and stopping him from getting beyond the last line of defense.
The Bears love to stretch the field and make defenses cover as much ground as possible, and Reese is the guy who should help them do it most this season. He averaged almost 20 yards a catch and among players with at least 30 catches last season, he averaged over a yard and a half more per catch than any other receiver in the league.
The rest of the list:
- No. 18: Calvin Barnett, DT, Oklahoma State
- No. 19: Jalen Saunders, WR/PR, Oklahoma
- No. 20: Quandre Diggs, CB/PR, Texas
- No. 21: Tyler Lockett, WR/KR, Kansas State
- No. 22: Justin Gilbert, CB/KR, Oklahoma State
- No. 23: Le'Raven Clark, OG, Texas Tech
- No. 24: Shaun Lewis, LB, Oklahoma State
- No. 25: Damien Williams, RB, Oklahoma
2012 Big 12 record: 4-5
Returning starters: Offense: 6; defense: 7; kicker/punter: 1
Top returners: OL Cyril Richardson, RB Lache Seastrunk, S Ahmad Dixon, WR Tevin Reese, LB Eddie Lackey, DE Chris McAllister, LB Bryce Hager, K Aaron Jones
Key losses: WR Terrance Williams, QB Nick Florence, WR Lanear Sampson, S Mike Hicks, C Ivory Wade, DT Gary Mason Jr.
2012 statistical leaders (*returners)
Passing: Nick Florence (4,309 yards)
Rushing: Lache Seastrunk* (1,012 yards)
Receiving: Terrance Williams (1,832 yards)
Tackles: Bryce Hager* (124)
Sacks: Chris McAllister* (6)
Interceptions: Eddie Lackey* (4)
1. Bryce is the guy. It was going to take a lot for Bryce Petty to lose his starting spot, but he looked like a guy who suited up for his fourth spring this year and cemented his status as the heir apparent to a crazy-good quarterback tradition under Art Briles. He'll follow Robert Griffin III and Florence, who both set school records for passing yards.
2. Defense changes its identity. The Bears didn't have a ton of speed in the secondary last season, and as a result, relied heavily on zone and didn't play a lot of tight coverage. To start fixing the problem, Dixon moved back to traditional safety, and as the defense's most physically skilled talent, that was a wise decision. Baylor wants to play more man and play tighter this year, and we'll see if it pays off in the fall.
3. Offense finds its playmakers. Williams is gone and so is Sampson, two of the team's top three receivers. Reese returns, but Antwan Goodley and Jay Lee emerged to win starting spots this spring, and both look like big-time targets for one of college football's best offenses. Count on those guys and Clay Fuller to keep the tradition going.
1. Can the defense prove itself? The Bears were definitely one of the best defenses in the Big 12 over the last month of the season. The same unit, however, was also a big reason why Baylor limped to an 0-5 start in conference 12 play before ripping off four wins to end the season. The defensive line should be improved and young talents like Javonte Magee and Shawn Oakman could make names for themselves this fall.
2. Is the offensive line deep enough? Baylor's history under Briles at this position makes me pretty confident, and the Bears have a solid starting five. But losing Troy Baker this spring is a big knock, and the Bears only had 10 healthy offensive linemen this spring. Come fall, more injuries could force the Bears to force inexperienced players into the rotation. This was probably the biggest concern for Briles all spring.
3. Just how good is Petty? He looks good for now, and was productive and impressive during the spring. That's also the spring. RG3 and Florence broke school records for passing yards in consecutive seasons, though, so the bar is sky-high. There's every reason to believe in Petty, but expectations are high and reaching them won't be easy. The good news is he has a huge talent in Seastrunk and a solid receiving corps around him to support his efforts.
He says Cleveland will make Geno Smith the first Big 12 talent off the board at No. 6, making life a little nerve-racking for another Big 12 quarterback: Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden, who had an underwhelming rookie season.
Lane Johnson is projected a pick later to the Arizona Cardinals at No. 7. Will he build on his potential and become the player NFL scouts are projecting him to become?
West Virginia's Tavon Austin had a stellar college career and a combine performance that gave his stock a big boost. If Tampa Bay picks him with the 13th pick like McShay says it would, could he be the Big 12's best talent from this class in the NFL?
What about another guy with a great career: Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro? He was one of the league's biggest hitters, and McShay says he'll give the Dallas Cowboys' secondary a boost with the No. 18 pick. Could he stay in-state and become a fan favorite?
In McShay's mock draft 4.0, he didn't have any Big 12 talents going in Round 2, but we'll throw Baylor receiver Terrance Williams in the mix, too.
How will the nation's leading receiver's career play out? Will he make the transition and become the Big 12's best? Vote in our poll.
Schedule: The first of Baylor's practices will be today, concluding with a spring game in Waco on April 6. The Bears usually hold a controlled scrimmage at the practice field as part of a day-long festival, rather than a game at Floyd Casey Stadium.
What's new: Not a whole lot beyond the loss of skill position talent, which is welcome news for the Bears. There weren't any staff changes for Baylor this offseason, and we'll talk a bit more later about the factors that could make Baylor a dangerous team carrying the Big 12's longest winning streak (four games) into the 2013 season. No one else in the league has a streak of more than one game.
New faces: Baylor is welcoming four players onto the practice field this spring as early enrollees from its 2013 recruiting class. Junior college transfer Gus Penning brings some size to the tight end spot at 6-foot-5 and 245 yards, and he's joined by quarterback Chris Johnson, the nation's No. 5 dual-threat passer. Receiver Kiante' Griffin and linebacker Brian Nance are also suiting up this spring.
Getting defensive: This is Year 3 under Phil Bennett, but we saw some major, major improvement late in 2012. The Bears had a similar jump in 2011, but it didn't stick through 2012. The pieces are in place with guys like Chris McAllister, Bryce Hager, Eddie Lackey and Ahmad Dixon, but every time I visit Waco in the spring, the defense gets worked over. We may get an idea of their progress this spring in scrimmages and workouts. Progress has to happen now if Baylor's ever going to take the leap to Big 12 title contender.
Question marks: Does Baylor have enough firepower at receiver to keep its offense rolling? We'll talk about quarterbacks later, but the Bears lose Terrance Williams and Lanear Sampson, and I don't necessarily buy Tevin Reese as a ton more than a deep threat who stretches the field. Can guys like Levi Norwood or Antwan Goodley become big threats underneath? Look out for tight ends Jordan Najvar and Jerod Monk to play a bigger role in the offense, too. They've got tons of experience.
Breaking out: LT Spencer Drango. He had a great first season on Baylor's offensive line, but look out for the former blue-chip recruit to start looking like one of the Big 12's best offensive linemen alongside Cyril Richardson. He's already solid, but he may blossom into a star this offseason.
Much to prove: RB Lache Seastrunk. He turned heads and produced headlines when he predicted he'd win the Heisman next season, but Baylor's got a solid group of backs and we'll see how he handles the bulk of the first-team reps and the attention that comes with his bold proclamation. He's got the skills to back it up, but it'll be interesting to see what kind of tone he strikes in interviews this spring.
All eyes on: QB Bryce Petty. If Baylor's going to continue this run, it simply has to be excellent at quarterback. I'm not ready to completely write off Seth Russell, but I love what I've seen from Petty in my visits to practice in Waco the past couple springs. He's got a big, NFL-quarterback body at 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds, and a big arm, but decision-making and ability to move the offense is something you can't tell until it's time to take over the team. That time is now for Petty.
Two Big 12 receivers were the biggest head-turners on Sunday as the skill position players went through their workouts in Indianapolis at the NFL scouting combine.
Texas' Marquise Goodwin is hoping his 4.27 40 time -- the fastest of any player at the combine -- is enough to outweigh his lack of production throughout his career and convince an NFL team to see his potential. He was well ahead of a trio tied for second at 4.34, a group that included West Virginia's Tavon Austin. The two earned a whole lot of buzz early in the morning when they tied for 4.25 unofficial 40 times, just one-hundredth of a second slower than Chris Johnson's 4.24 time in 2008, the fastest of any player in combine history.
Goodwin caught just 26 passes for 340 yards and three scores last year, which certainly makes one wonder about how well he was used in Texas' offense. The Olympic long jumper was way out in front of the pack in the 40, though, and his time is the second fastest in combine history.
TCU receiver Josh Boyce and Oklahoma receiver Kenny Stills tied with the sixth-fastest time at 4.38. Those are two really strong times, and Stills definitely turned heads.
Baylor's Lanear Sampson was 13th overall with a 40 time of 4.46. Here are some other top performers at the combine from the Big 12, according to NFL.com. You can see the full results here on the NFL's very cool searchable database.
- West Virginia QB Geno Smith: 4.59 seconds, fastest among quarterbacks.
- Kansas State QB Collin Klein: 4.78 seconds, fifth among quarterbacks
- Oklahoma QB Landry Jones: 5.11 seconds, 13th among quarterbacks
- Texas WR Marquise Goodwin: 11 feet, second overall
- TCU WR Josh Boyce: 10 feet, 11 inches, fourth overall
- Oklahoma WR Kenny Stills: 10 feet, four inches, 13th overall
- West Virginia QB Geno Smith: 10 feet, four inches, 13th overall
- Boyce: 6.68 seconds, third-fastest
- West Virginia WR Stedman Bailey: 6.81 seconds, 12th fastest
- Austin: 4.01 seconds, third overall
- Bailey: 4.09 seconds, 10th overall
- Boyce: 4.1 seconds, 12th overall
- Boyce: 11.26 seconds, third overall
- Baylor WR Terrance Williams, 11.5 seconds, 12th overall
You can see top performers in every event by position at that database, too, so check it out.
We're in the top 10 now, so it's about to get heated, I'm sure. If you've got complaints, I've got a mailbag. Let's hear it.
The official list is locked away in a vault in an undisclosed location, but we'll be revealing one player a day moving forward.
On with the show ...
No. 3: Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor
2012 numbers: Caught 97 passes for 1,832 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Most recent ranking: Williams was ranked No. 23 in our preseason list of the Big 12's top 25 players.
Making the case for Williams: It's really just this simple: Hundreds of receivers played college football this season. Absolutely zero had more receiving yards than Williams. He grew up fast with Kendall Wright gone to the NFL and helped Nick Florence finish second nationally in total offense by constantly stretching the field and being the nation's pre-eminent deep threat all season long. He caught 32 balls longer than 20 yards, which was eight more than Stedman Bailey, the nation's No. 2 in the stat. He had 22 catches longer than 30 yards, six more than No. 2 Bailey. He topped USC's Marqise Lee by three with 14 catches longer than 40 yards. Nobody seemed to be able to stop him over the top all season long and the 6-foot-2, 205-pound pass-catcher made it clear that he's worth spending a first-round pick on with a season-long exhibition that was better than any receiver in the Big 12, and in the country. He earned my vote for the Biletnikoff Award and earns my vote for the Big 12's best pure receiver.
The rest of the list:
- No. 4: Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia
- No. 5: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
- No. 6: Devonte Fields, DE, TCU
- No. 7: Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State
- No. 8: Meshak Williams, DE, Kansas State
- No. 9: Gabe Ikard, OL, Oklahoma
- No. 10: A.J. Klein, LB, Iowa State
- No. 11: Alex Okafor, DE, Texas
- No. 12: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
- No. 13: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
- No. 14: Trey Millard, FB/RB/TE, Oklahoma
- No. 15: Cyril Richardson, OL, Baylor
- No. 16: Joseph Randle, RB, Oklahoma State
- No. 17: Tony Jefferson, S, Oklahoma
- No. 18: Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
- No. 19: Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor
- No. 20: Jake Knott, LB, Iowa State
- No. 21: James Sims, RB, Kansas
- No. 22: Aaron Colvin, CB, Oklahoma
- No. 23: Josh Stewart, WR, Oklahoma State
- No. 24: Nick Florence, QB, Baylor
- No. 25: Quinn Sharp, K/P/KOS, Oklahoma State
A few things you can watch for from the Big 12's talents this week:
Who's the No. 1 quarterback? USC's Matt Barkley isn't throwing at the combine workouts, but West Virginia's Geno Smith surprised some by announcing that he planned to give it a try. If he performs well, he could definitely ascend to the No. 1 spot. He's already close behind Barkley, but his combine performance will have an impact. But in the new NFL where mobile quarterbacks are en vogue, Smith's versatility that WVU didn't use could come into play. He'll put up some very interesting measurables, and his accuracy will show up if he calms his nerves. If not, NC State's Mike Glennon or Arkansas' Tyler Wilson could jump over him in the pecking order.
What about the No. 1 receiver? Baylor's Terrance Williams will be in the house and so will West Virginia's Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson is widely accepted as the top prospect, but could any of the Big 12's heavyweights make some noise with solid workouts and fight their way into first-round status?
Fixed up, but not quite ready to go. Jake Knott is still healing from his shoulder surgery this fall, but TCU's Stansly Maponga and Matthew Tucker should be all healed up from nagging ankle injuries. Knott won't be able to fully work out, but he'll do well in the interview process and was one of the most respected players in the league. It'll be interesting to see what NFL folk have to say about him after this week, despite not being able to see him work out.
Klein catching anyone's eyes (or their passes)? Collin Klein's Senior Bowl snub had fans around the Big 12 fired up and wondering how the Heisman third-place finisher could be left out of the premier postseason exhibition for scouts, but he doesn't quite fit the NFL mold. He's been working with former Denver Bronco Jake Plummer over the past few weeks, though he struggled in his one postseason all-star game experience. Could he build some buzz this week, either at quarterback or another position (receiver, tight end?) and convince an NFL team to fall for him? He'll knock his interviews out of the park.
Fastest man in the building. Could Austin take home the title? What about Marquise Goodwin? We may finally get some answers about who truly is the fastest man in the Big 12, and perhaps all of college football. The combine tells all, and the 40 times are always reliable. Seeing what those two put on the board will be interesting. How close to 4.3 could we see?
Time is money. Tony Jefferson has big-time instincts and plays physically, but he could help himself out in a big way by posting a great 40 time. His straight-line speed is his biggest knock, but he's spent the last month or so working out, and we'll see how much his work has paid off. Some of that speed work is so specifically tailored to 40 times that sometimes it doesn't show up on the field, but silliness aside, Jefferson has a ton to gain in that workout.
Big moving day? Every year somebody wows at the combine and ascends from out of nowhere to becoming a consensus first-round pick. Call it silly if you'd like, but that's the truth. Could any Big 12 talents be that guy this year? Keep an eye out. The Big 12 is likely to be shut out of the top 10 and may only have two to four first-round picks. That could change this week. Here's a few guys who might make that happen.
No. 4: Baylor WR Terrance Williams vs. West Virginia
Date: Sept. 29, 2012
Why it's on the list: This game makes another appearance on the list after showing up at No. 10. Williams hauled in a ridiculous 17 catches for 314 yards and two touchdowns. Those 17 grabs were two more than any player in the Big 12 all season. His 314 yards were 11 more than any other player had in a game all season, though Stedman Bailey at No. 10 on the list was that 303-yard game. West Virginia's defense may have helped a bit in this game. But catches are catches, and Williams was unstoppable against the Mountaineers, putting together the best performance from a receiver in 2013.
The rest of the list:
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.
Here's what you've missed so far: Terrance Williams, Baylor: Williams led the nation in receiving yards, with 1,832 yards and 12 touchdowns on 97 catches. He can do whatever you want him to do. He's big enough to box out defenders and be a possession receiver who fights for the ball, but he's speedy enough to stretch the field and break the big play. NFL first-round talent.
3. Tavon Austin, West Virginia: Let me be clear about this: I think you could arrange the top three on this list in any order and have a really, really compelling case. Don't let me stop you. I think Austin is a better overall player than anybody on this list, but this is a ranking of guys as receivers. When we're talking pure receiving talent, I've got to go with Austin at No. 3. That's nothing to be ashamed of. The guys ahead of him were Biletnikoff finalists. He also caught 114 passes, for 1,289 yards and 12 scores.
4. Josh Stewart, Oklahoma State: I've written a lot about Stewart this offseason, but he was probably the most improved and underrated player in the league. OSU needed a No. 1 target, and that was Stewart last season. He finished with 101 catches for 1,210 yards and seven scores.
5. Darrin Moore, Texas Tech: Moore's probably the most physical guy on this list. The 6-foot-4, 216-pounder hauled in 13 touchdown catches and caught 92 balls for 1,032 yards to become the first Tech receiver to surpass 1,000 yards since Crabtree back in 2008.
6. Eric Ward, Texas Tech: Granted, Ward did that whole 1,000-yard thing in Lubbock, too. He caught 82 balls for 1,053 yards and 12 touchdowns. He's not quite as physically gifted as Moore, but he's been Tech's most consistent receiver throughout his career there.
7. Kenny Stills, Oklahoma: Stills was disappointed with his season -- and it was a touch underwhelming -- but he still had a solid showing in a receiving unit that lacked a truly elite target but had a handful of very good receivers for Landry Jones. Stills caught 82 balls for 959 yards and 11 scores before electing to leave for the NFL early. He had a good career at OU, but never cracked the 1,000-yard threshold.
8. Chris Harper, Kansas State: Harper's numbers don't tell you the full story. He's one of the best route-runners in the entire league and might have the best hands, too. K-State's offense limits his targets, but he still caught 58 balls for 857 yards and three touchdowns.
9. Tevin Reese, Baylor: Reese was the most dangerous deep threat in the league outside of teammate Williams. Austin did his damage after catching the ball, but Reese caught eight passes longer than 40 yards this season. That was third in the league, and he finished with 58 catches for 857 yards and three touchdowns.
10. Mike Davis, Texas: Davis broke out in his junior season and could be due for a big senior year after catching 57 balls for 939 yards and seven scores. His 16.5 yards per catch were third among receivers with at least 30 catches, and Davis clearly helped (and benefited from) David Ash's growth as a passer and confidence to stretch the field.
Honorable mention: Jalen Saunders, Oklahoma; Josh Boyce, TCU; Tramaine Thompson, Kansas State; Jaxon Shipley, Texas; Justin Brown, Oklahoma; Tyler Lockett, Kansas State.
Baylor's Terrance Williams is already blowing up, and looked the part of the best receiver at the entire event, writes colleagues Todd McShay and Steve Muench . Scouts loved his "elite speed" and ability to catch the ball over his shoulder and pluck it out of the air, as well as the ability to make defenders miss. He's not shifty, as you saw last year, but his straight-line speed is giving defenders fits.
Landry Jones stood out as the "best arm" of the South's quarterbacks, but drew criticism for holding on to the ball too long, even though our scouts cited some nice throws during team drills.
Our own Kevin Weidl came away impressed with Texas DE Alex Okafor's performance out at the North practice. There was some inconsistency, but Weidl loved his length, power and use of his hands, even if he lacks some explosiveness, too.
One other tough note from Mobile? West Virginia receiver Tavon Austin was one of five players who canceled in the 72 hours before the game, reports our trio .
They called those decisions "immature" and something that angers scouts, and will necessitate later explanation.
The official list is locked away in a vault in an undisclosed location, but we'll be revealing one player a day moving forward.
Let's keep this train rolling.
No. 24: Nick Florence, QB, Baylor
2012 numbers: Completed 286 of 464 (61.6 percent) passes for 4,309 yards, 33 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Ran 139 times for 568 yards and 10 touchdowns. Also punted twice for an average of 46.5 yards.
Most recent ranking: Florence was unranked in our preseason list of the Big 12's top 25 players.
Making the case for Florence: It feels a little wrong to have the Big 12's leading passer this low on the list, a guy who averaged over 9.0 yards a pass attempt this season. He had tons of help in the form of the Big 12's best two deep threats, Terrance Williams and Tevin Reese, but Baylor needed someone to fill the shoes of Robert Griffin III. Florence was outstanding. He struggled at times early in the conference season, but he was a big part of Baylor's late-season surge and four-game winning streak to close the season. His questionable decision-making at times kept him from finishing higher on this list, but it's clear that Art Briles did it again: He found, developed and started a fantastic quarterback to make his high-flying offense run. Florence finished second nationally in total offense, at over 375 yards a game. Only Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M averaged more, but last year RG III averaged only nine more per game. This season, Florence even broke Griffin's school record for passing yards, topping RG III by 16 yards with a strong performance in the Bears' bowl win over UCLA.
The rest of the list:
- No. 25: Quinn Sharp, K/P/KOS, Oklahoma State
Here are my picks for the Big 12's most improved players:
Kerry Hyder, DL, Texas Tech: Hyder was arguably the biggest reason for Texas Tech's defensive resurgence this season, racking up 14 tackles for loss to rank fifth in the Big 12. A year ago, he had just five among his 42 tackles. This year, he made 56 stops, but had 5.5 sacks alone and broke up four passes.
Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor: Williams was a really good receiver a year ago, putting together maybe the quietest 900-yard receiving season ever. This year, though, he was better than anyone could have predicted. I voted for him for the Biletnikoff Award after leading the nation with 1,832 yards and 12 scores on 97 catches, up from 59 a year ago. He made the jump from great player to true superstar. He'll be an NFL first-rounder.
Jason Verrett, CB, TCU: Verrett had a nightmare start to 2011, getting burned by Robert Griffin III in a painful loss in Waco to begin the season. This year, he was unquestionably the Big 12's best shutdown corner and arguably one of the best in the country. Ask any Big 12 receiver. He's fast, physical and his great hands helped him grab six interceptions (fifth-most nationally) and break up a ridiculous 16 passes. That's 22 pass defenses. No other Big 12 player had more than 15.
Tony Pierson, RB, Kansas: Pierson was a great complement to power back James Sims, and ranked 10th in the league with 760 yards on just 117 carries. While Sims was suspended to begin the season, he had a pair of 120-yard games and topped 200 yards against Texas Tech, but his yards per carry (6.5) gets him on this list. Among the 25 Big 12 backs with at least 75 carries this year, only Seastrunk had a higher yards-per-carry average.
Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma: Johnson was a good tackle last season, but he made a decent argument for being the best in the Big 12 this year. He was solid all season long, but seeing him shut down Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Devonte Fields in the regular season finale made a big impact on me. He also played well against possible top-five pick Damontre Moore, who was largely quiet in the Cotton Bowl loss to Texas A&M.
Bryce Hager, LB, Baylor: Hager's tackle numbers are a little inflated because of Baylor's early defensive struggles, but he led the Big 12 with 124 stops after making just 13 in limited duty a year ago as a freshman. If you watched him late in the year against K-State or UCLA, you saw how good Hager and his partner in crime at linebacker, Eddie Lackey, could be. It seemed like he was in Collin Klein's face all day, and the game may have been different without him.
There were 35 1,000-yard receivers this season across college football, but six came from the Big 12. Here's how I picked them from the Big 12 this year.
1. Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia: Austin did what we all thought he would do: Had a huge senior season. He validated his status as one of the Big 12's most dangerous players and was third in the league with 1,289 yards and 12 scores.
2. Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia: Bailey was a touchdown machine this year, hauling in 25 touchdowns, seven more than any other player in the country. He was a nominee for the Biletnikoff Award and racked up 1,622 yards on his league-high 114 catches. Both WVU receivers were anything but overrated this year. Studs, the both of them.
3. Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor: I said there was a good shot Williams could crack 1,000 yards easily, but I never thought he'd make it look this easy. I had high hopes for Williams, but he far exceeded them, leading the nation with 1,832 yards on 97 catches with 12 scores. What a year.
4. Kenny Stills, WR, Oklahoma: I picked Stills to crack his first-ever 1,000-yard season, but he came up short in a year he even admitted was a bit disappointing. He finished seventh in the league with 959 yards, just 41 short of a 1,000-yard season. He'd have cleared 1,000 yards if he had 50 yards receiving against TCU's stingy defense. He did have 11 scores, including four against West Virginia.
5. Josh Boyce, WR, TCU: Boyce likely would have cleared 1,000 yards if Casey Pachall stayed on the team. He took a bit of a step back this year, though, with only two 100-yard games this season and finishing with 891 yards and seven touchdowns. He had 998 yards and nine scores last season in the MWC.
Sadly, though, I missed three of the Big 12's 1,000-yard receivers this season. I did give Darrin Moore and Josh Stewart my apologies in the preseason post, but I predicted the touches would be too spread out for either player to top 1,000 yards. Shows what I know.
Here are the guys I didn't get:
Josh Stewart, WR, Oklahoma State: Stewart was the biggest breakout star in the Big 12 this year and will be the Big 12's leading returning receiver in 2012. He caught 101 passes for 1,210 yards this season, with seven touchdowns. Heck of a year, and high hopes for his junior campaign, especially considering he racked up those numbers with three different quarterbacks playing about a third of the season each.
Darrin Moore, WR, Texas Tech: Tech hadn't had a 1,000-yard receiver since Michael Crabtree won his second Biletnikoff Award back in 2008. The Red Raiders had two this year, and Moore led the team in receptions (92) and touchdowns (13).
Eric Ward, WR, Texas Tech: Ward took home the Red Raiders' receiving title and elected to stay in Lubbock for his senior season, too. He caught 82 balls for 12 touchdowns and 1,053 yards. Great season, and he'll be a huge help for Michael Brewer next year.
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