- Jake Trotter, ESPN Staff Writer
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With the 2014 season just a month away, we’re going to spend this week ranking the Top 25 players in the Big 12.
All three Big 12 reporters weighed in on this list, with the slant focused on a projection of who we think the 25 best players will be this season.
Unlike past years, we’ll be releasing these in groups of five, not individually.
Before getting started, we need to address the two “asterisk” players: TCU defensive end Devonte Fields and Oklahoma wideout Dorial Green-Beckham. Even though they’re Top-25-caliber players, we opted to leave Fields and Green-Beckham off this list because their statuses for this season currently remain unclear (Fields is “separated” from TCU pending an assault charge; Green-Beckham is still waiting to see if he’ll get an eligibility waiver).
Now, without further delay, the first five names in the countdown ...
25. Tyreek Hill, RB, Oklahoma State: Hill is the only player to make this list having never played a down in the FBS. But the preseason pick to win Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, who doubled as a track star in the spring, has as much big-play potential as any offensive skill player in the league. Considering Mike Gundy is planning to give him 20-plus touches a game, Hill could be in for a huge year as the Tavon Austin-like weapon in the Oklahoma State attack.
24. Jake Waters, QB, Kansas State: From the North Dakota State loss in the opener to the Michigan victory in the bowl, Waters developed into a completely different quarterback over the course of the 2013 season. In fact, while leading K-State to wins in six of its final seven games, Waters actually produced a higher Adjusted QBR in the same stretch than the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, Bryce Petty. With a year of experience behind him -- and Daniel Sams no longer around to take away snaps -- Waters should open this season with the same confidence he finished the past.
23. Jakeem Grant, WR, Texas Tech: Despite being the third receiving option in an offense that rotated true freshman quarterbacks last year, Grant still finished sixth in the league in receiving yards per game. Now he’s the No. 1 option. And he’ll be catching passes from a rapidly improving passer in Davis Webb. Grant is electric with the ball in his hands. Unfortunately for opposing defenses, he should have the ball plenty this season.
22. E.J. Bibbs, TE, Iowa State: Coach Paul Rhoads believes Bibbs can be an All-American tight end, and all the tools are there for the 6-foot-3, 261-pounder to be just that. There’s no better pass-catching tight end in the league, and with wideouts Quenton Bundrage and Allen Lazard flanking him, Bibbs should have more chances this season for big pass plays down the seam.
21. Daryl Worley, CB, West Virginia: The West Virginia coaching staff has spent this summer repairing the confidence of top wideout Mario Alford. That’s because Worley completely destroyed it while blanketing him in the spring. The Mountaineers haven’t enjoyed a first-class lock-down corner since Adam “Pacman” Jones a decade ago. But Worley, who has emerged as the leader of the defense despite being just a second-year player, has the skill and attitude to be just that.
Coming Tuesday: Nos. 20-16 ...
3dSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information
4dTom VanHaaren and Erik McKinney