To wrap up my three part series leading up to Big 12 Media Days coming up on July 20 and 21, I give my preseason conference rankings and my picks for Big 12 offensive player of the year, defensive player of the year and newcomer of the year.
1. TCU- The Horned Frogs sit atop this list because they have talent coming back on both sides of the ball. No team in the Big 12 looks as complete as TCU does. They’re also the best hope for the Big 12 to finally win a National Championship since Texas beat USC 10 seasons ago.
2. Baylor- Baylor’s not out of the hunt here. They probably have some of the best skill position players not only in the Big 12, but in the country. The big question for the Bears is, can Seth Russell step in after the graduation of Bryce Petty and be a effective leader for the high-octane Baylor offense? Also, defensive coordinator Phil Bennett should have his unit, which is full of returners, near the top of the conference once again.
3. Oklahoma State- Oklahoma State started off last season kind of slow but once they took off they were one of the more exciting teams to watch in the Big 12. Boasting one of the more solid defensive lines in the conference and a having an embarrassment of riches at quarterback could lead the Cowboys to have one of the more intriguing seasons in the conference.
4. Oklahoma- This team is a mystery. You have to put them this high just because of the sheer talent they have returning but, Oklahoma had one of the most disappointing seasons in recent memory last season. The quarterback play was not great and the defense was not one of defensive coordinator Mike Stoops better products. The Sooners should be good. However, should, is a very dangerous word.
5. Texas- The quest to find a quarterback successor worthy of being mentioned with the likes of Vince Young and Colt McCoy continues down in Austin. If Charlie Strong can get that wrinkle figured out, this might be the year that Texas football at least achieves expectations, if not eclipses them.
6. Kansas State- K-State will most likely have one of the best defenses (especially secondaries) that defensive coordinator Tom Hayes has had the pleasure of coaching in the last several years. The Wildcats offense though is entirely unknown. K-State fans saw a lot of young offensive sparks at the spring game in April, so we’ll all be looking to see if Bill Snyder can once again light a fire with this team and surprise the country.
7. West Virginia- Another big question mark team in the conference. The Mountaineers have always been good on the offensive end during their time in the Big 12 but defense might end up being their bread and butter this season with their entire secondary returning from last season. Unfortunately, the Mountaineers lost a lot of offensive playmakers from last season which will leave a void. Depending on coaching they have the talent to finish in the top three in the conference or the deficiencies to find themselves in the bottom three.
8. Texas Tech- Head coach Kliff Kingsbury has landed some of the best talent in the country due to his “I’m a cool dude” persona and the fact that he’s coaching in the state of Texas. Unfortunately for Red Raiders fans, Kingsbury has yet make any real kind of impact in the Big 12 with that talent. Last season the Red Raiders were one of the most undisciplined teams in the Big 12 and they fielded, statistically, the worst defense in the the conference. I don’t like their odds to compete this year even with another more than decent batch of recruits.
9. Iowa State- I like Paul Rhoads. He’s fun to watch, seems likes a genuinely nice guy and hasn’t had a real threatening team in pretty much his entire tenure with the Cyclones. Iowa State has some interesting pieces returning but I don’t see them pulling it together this year. Anything can happen, but I maybe see two (tops) conference wins for Cyclones. The Big 12 will miss you Paul Rhoads.
10. Kansas- Hopefully, no one told new Jayhawk head coach David Beaty that this rebuild job would be easy because Kansas is primed for what experts are describing as one of the worst college football seasons in recent history. All of the talent that Mark Mangino recruited is now officially gone and the scars that Charlie Weis inflicted in his tenure are becoming more and more apparent. It’s going to be a train wreck folks, do your best to avert your eyes.
Preseason players of the year
Offensive Player of the Year: Trevone Boykin (TCU)- If Boykin improves his game half as much this summer as he did last summer, it’s going to be lights out in the Big 12 and the country. He has legs, he has the arm, he has the football I.Q., and he has a more than competent coaching staff and team around him to make him look that much better.
Defensive Player of the Year: Shawn Oakman (Baylor)- Oakman’s a bad dude that almost no one could stop last year. With the swagger that has consumed Baylor and by association Waco, Texas in general, Oakman is primed to have one heck of a farewell tour throughout the Big 12 during his senior season.
Newcomer of the Year: Dominique Heath (K-State)- Here’s some truth: Unless it is your job to solely cover the recruiting for all the Big 12 schools or all of the country, it’s tough to keep track of the talent that’s coming in to different programs that aren’t the one that you cover until they get on the field.
So, having said that, I picked my K-State preseason newcomer of the year, redshirt freshman wide receiver and return man Dominique Heath. He’s going to do some big things in the Big 12. I think his spring game performance was simply an appetizer to what he’s going to bring to the regular season come fall.
Be sure to keep up with the Collegian next week as it brings you exclusive coverage from Big 12 Football Media Days in Dallas.