The 15 best players in the Big 12: 2015 edition
Within weeks, preseason camps across the Big 12 will open. The season creeps closer and that means it's time to tab the best players across the league. As always, my preseason least accounts for each player's entire career and does not project what will happen in the fall.
I approach it like this: If I were drafting a team of players to play college football and taking the best players available, this is how my board would look. A player's NFL future is not taken into account. Neither is his potential. Sometimes the stats tell the whole story. Sometimes they don't.
(For a refresher, here's last year's postseason list, which takes only the 2014 season into account. And for the curious, here's what last year's preseason list looked like)
Without further ado, let's get to this year's preseason list.
1. Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU: Boykin is the Big 12's best preseason Heisman hopeful since Sam Bradford in 2009. After a rocky first two years, he flourished in Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie's Air Raid, completing 61 percent of his passes for 3,901 yards, 33 touchdowns. He also corralled his happy feet, turning them into efficient, stellar mobility for 707 rushing yards and eight scores.
2. Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor: Men weighing 300 pounds should not be as agile as Billings. He's pushing the limits of human agility relative to size. The 6-2, 300-pound force up front broke out midway through last season and finished with 11.5 tackles for loss. His on-field play is finally matching his eye-popping stats off the field: He runs a 4.94 40, has a 32-inch vertical jump, squats 690 pounds and clean lifts 400 pounds.
3. Shawn Oakman, DE, Baylor: It's alarming when a 6-foot-9, 280-pound speedster off the edge with a 4.8 40 time is not the most freakish athlete on Baylor's defensive line. Oakman set the school record with 11 sacks in 2014 and had 19.5 tackles for loss. He turned down big money as a likely first-rounder last year to chase a third consecutive Big 12 title for the Bears and won preseason Defensive Player of the Year honors.
4. Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma: The Sooners' sophomore is the Big 12's second-best hope at the Heisman, behind Boykin, and perhaps excluding breakout years from Seth Russell or Mason Rudolph. Perine topped 1,700 yards as a true freshman even though OC Josh Heupel too often drifted away from using him as often as he should. A bold prediction: New OC Lincoln Riley won't repeat the sin. Perine won't have three games with 10 or fewer carries like he did last year. Expect OU to lean on him.
5. Spencer Drango, OT, Baylor: Nothing illustrated Drango's worth more than how much Baylor's offense struggled when he sat with a back injury in late 2013. He stayed healthy through 2014 and like Oakman, turned down NFL money to return to Waco. He also put up 225 pounds on the bench press 34 times. That would have been fourth most among offensive linemen at this year's combine.
6. Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State: In a sea of first-year starters at OSU last season, nobody was better. He kicked off the season with a head-turning hit on Heisman winner Jameis Winston and finished with 17 tackles for loss, most in the Big 12. He had a sack in six consecutive games last year and his 5.5 tackles for loss against Kansas were last year's single-game high across the FBS.
7. Le'Raven Clark, OT, Texas Tech: Clark has quietly been a model of consistency for the Red Raiders and helped clear the way for Tech's first 1,000-yard rusher since 1998 last year. He'll be a four-year starter and opens 2015 with 38 consecutive starts. That's nearly impossible for a lineman to do at any level of football.
8. Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia: When you go to Morgantown, keep your head on a swivel. Joseph is probably loading up the boom somewhere. He's the Big 12's most feared hitter and made 90 stops a year ago, adding an interception and two tackles for loss with three forced fumbles. Expect big improvement in his cover skills this season.
9. Eric Striker, LB, Oklahoma: Offenses have to know where he is and account for him on every single snap. Otherwise, this happens. He's got good speed off the edge, instincts and ability to free himself from blocks and it showed up in the box scores last season. He finished with 17 tackles for loss and 68 stops.
10. Kevin Peterson, CB, Oklahoma State: Peterson is the Big 12's best cover corner on what might grow into the Big 12's best defense. He broke up 11 passes last year and picked off two passes. West Virginia's Kevin White was arguably the nation's top receiver and year ago and carried a streak of seven 100-yard games into the Mountaineers' matchup with OSU. Peterson held him to 27 yards on three catches.
11. Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma: No receiver in the Big 12 is better at getting open. His groin injury might have made the most impact of any in the Big 12 last year; it completely grounded Oklahoma's passing game and left an already struggling Trevor Knight without a reliable target. Shepard only sat one game, but the injury limited and affected his play the rest of the season. After topping 100 yards in five of seven games early in the season, he went without a reception in the final four games of the regular season and sat most of a win over Iowa State after hauling in a 46-yard bomb. The Ryan Broyles comparisons for Shepard are apt. Despite the injury, he still caught 51 passes for 970 yards.
12. Pete Robertson, DE/LB, Texas Tech: Robertson is the Big 12's most underrated player, mostly because the Red Raiders' defense has struggled nearly everywhere else around him. His 12 sacks were sixth-most nationally and he added three forced fumbles. Put him on a defense in the top half of the Big 12 and a lot more people would pay him a lot more attention.
13. Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor: Coleman was overshadowed by West Virginia' Kevin White and Tyler Lockett last year, but actually averaged more receiving yards per game than White. He missed the first three games of the season with a hamstring injury but finished the year with 1,119 yards and 11 touchdowns on just 64 catches. He caught a touchdown in every game but one last year and is the Big 12's leading returning receiver.
14. Dante Barnett, S, Kansas State: K-State could quietly put together one of the Big 12's best defenses and Barnett is its experienced leader. He's started every game the last two seasons for the Wildcats and finished with 77 tackles, eight pass breakups and three interceptions in 2014.
15. KD Cannon, WR, Baylor: Cannon was bound to come to Earth as a true freshman last year after logging over 400 yards and four scores in just two games before the Bears started conference play. Tougher competition and improved health of BU's receiving corps slowed his production, but Cannon has a year under his belt and is more likely than any player outside the top 10 to be a top five player in the league this year. He finished with 1,030 yards and eight scores on 58 catches. Putting up those kinds of numbers in your first year on a college campus is preposterous.
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