Last season, the Big 12 had a corps of starting quarterbacks that powered monumental offensive performances. The gunslinger identity of 2012 included Geno Smith, Landry Jones, Collin Klein, Nick Florence and Seth Doege. All six of these field generals had some impressive numbers, but have now left huge voids for their schools to fill. All the uncertainty throughout the conference at quarterback has the title race wide open. The Big 12 went from a group of teams with experienced QBs, to a group of unproven QBs in 2013.
While there was only one head coaching change in the off-season, Kliff Kingsbury is now the head man at Texas Tech, there was a number of coordinator changes at Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Texas. The new faces will keep the seasons’ progression interesting, but with all the personnel and coaching changes, the Big 12 Championship is more unpredictable than last year. However, there are still plenty of breakout players waiting to aid their new teammates and coaches into a steady rhythm straight to the promise land.
- RB Lance Seastrunk: The former Oregon transfer had only 29 carries at the end of October last season, but finished at an elite level rushing for 831 yards to finish the season, a mark that was eclipsed by only one, (Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey.) With the departure of quarterback Nick Florence, there may be more of an emphasis on the ground game in 2013. Look for Seastrunk to rack up 1500 yards and possibly double-digit scores. He may not compete for the Heisman, as he will be splitting time with Glasco Martin, but with great performances against KSU, OU, UCLA and OSU, he is ready for an even better 2013.
- LB Bryce Hager: You may think when looking for a “star” on a defense that was the second to worst unit last season, it would be difficult to find a player worthy of mention. Overshadowed by a horrid allowance of over 500 yards a game was an All-Big 12 performance that included 124 tackles, four sacks and two forced fumbles from junior linebacker Bryce Hager. It may be more pleasant to chug a gallon of NyQuil than to watch the Bears’ defense do nothing to stop opposing offenses, but Hager will provide some relief.
IOWA STATE CYCLONES
- QB Sam Richardson: With full backing from the Cyclone coaching staff, sophomore quarterback Sam Richardson hopes to build on a November performance where he completed 23 of 27 passes for 250 yards and four touchdowns in route to a smack down on Kansas. Richardson is showing confidence thus far, and with only one interception in 79 attempts during his young career, he can take the reigns in Ames, and get ISU back to a bowl game.
- TE Ernst Brun: It may take some time for the new Iowa State receivers to make a big impact on the offense, but as long as Richardson makes it a habit to get senior TE Ernst Brun the ball as much as possible, the confidence will continue to build. Ernst might find himself in the NFL soon and is a guy to lean on to make plays.
- RB James Sims: The only bright spot on the 1-11 2012 Jayhawks was James Sims. Six straight 100-yard games gave Kansas fans something to be happy about. He has had a great career in Lawrence, leading the team in rushing three years straight and entering 2013 needs 1,360 yards to become the school’s all-time leading rusher. Sims was named to the preseason watch list for the Doak Walker Award, and may even be drafted come next April.
- QB Jake Heaps: Former BYU quarterback Jake Heaps is a fresh garden compared to the desolate wasteland that was Dayne Crist and Michael Cummings. The good news for Heaps is he certainly can’t be any worse. Heaps was a superstar recruit and has an arm to actually make teams account for more than just the running game. Cheer up Jayhawk fans, because the word is he has come in and impressed with his ability to grasp the complexities of the Weis system.
KANSAS STATE WILDCATS
- OT Cornelius Lucas: The entire offensive line is cause to keep an eye on. In 2012, the unit brutalized d-lines paving the way for 42 rushing TDs and allowing just 14 sacks. The anchor is All-Big 12 tackle Cornelius Lucas. He will be a key in the usual slow, control the clock Bill Snyder style, and will help keep the pressure off an overhauled defense.
- WR Tyler Lockett: This all-purpose player can impact the game as a receiver and return man. Playing man coverage on Lockett never seems to go well for defensive backs. When he is not flying down the field catching passes, he is putting the Cats in great field position returning kicks. Expect the Pre-season All-American to honor the title.
- RB Damien Williams: The Sooners do have some nice depth at the running back position, but it would be wise to get Williams the ball consistently. The feeling in Norman is that the Sooner offense will be more run oriented no matter who starts at QB. While Williams was known for grinding it out on runs, he also showed the ability to make defenders miss against Texas.
- DB Aaron Colvin: The charge needs to be led by Aaron Colvin. He proved last season that he can make the big plays and has the athleticism to keep up with the high-octane offenses in the conference, but others need to follow suit. Colvn led the team last season with 11 broken up passes and racked up four picks.
OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS
- QB Clint Chelf: The Cowboys have enjoyed a plug and play model on offense and you could argue that whoever is behind center will put up big passing numbers. The receiving group is loaded led by Josh Stewart, so does it even matter who takes the snaps? Chelf may not be the most talented choice, but he has the production to make head coach Mike Gundy confident going into the season opener. Fully backing one QB goes a long way mentally and if this continues, Chelf may be able to help the Cowboys take a wide open race.
- WR/KR Josh Stewart: If the QB situation turns into another carousel in 2013 at least Josh Stewart can act as a security blanket for the main man. With 101 catches and over 1,200 yards last season any QB just needs to get the ball to Stewart in the open field and he will do the rest.
- QB David Ash: There is nothing wrong with some competition. It can propel players to achieve maximum productivity and instill a humble nature. But when Texas head coach Mack Brown continued on last season with a ludicrous QB battle well into the regular season, it was no wonder neither Ash or McCoy felt any confidence. Ash is busy proving to his teammates that he is ready to lead the offense. Despite some inconsistencies throwing down field in 2012, David Ash was still much improved from 2011, and now with the full backing from Brown maybe he can actually learn from his mistakes instead of being told to run away.
- DE Jackson Jeffcoat: A pectoral injury derailed Jeffcoat’s campaign in 2012, but the NFL talent is a key part in the pass rush and will need to put the pressure on in a big way to help the DBs. Coming off the injury Jeffcoat has much to prove during his senior season and has plenty of fuel to motivate a dominating run.
TCU HORNED FROGS
- QB Casey Pachall; Move on from last year’s controversy. Applaud the guy for admitting a problem and taking the necessary steps to improve his situation. Many Feel Pachall can be a good pro quarterback and coming into his senior year, you can bet Pachall is out for revenge on what he missed in 2012. Don’t forget, the Frogs were 4-0 before Pachall left the team and he was having the start of a great season. He was averaging 9.8 yards per attempt with 10 touchdowns and just one interception.
- CB Jason Verrett: He dominated the defensive backfield with 16 broken up passes and six picks. The bottom line with Verrett is teams may stay away from him this year, but that seems like the best impact a player can have.
TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS
- WR Eric Ward: Many see Ward catching passes in the NFL and since the air-raid is coming back to Lubbock, he should see similar numbers to 2012. He will be given plenty of chances to shine being the No. 1 receiver. This is what he came to the Red Raiders for.
- QB Michael Brewer: He brings the ability to run if need be. Think about the damage Brewer could do when the pass heavy offense is covered, but there is open space for him to capitalize and produce on the ground as well. Brewer doesn’t have a big arm, but his style is making smart choices with the football. And that can be more deadly than a 60 yard bomb.
WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS
- S Karl Joseph: The defense was optional, but Joseph was on cue all season recording over 100 tackles as a freshman. He never seemed to miss a tackle. The next step in his game is to produce more picks, but now that he has the ability to lead a defense, his confidence will only improve and that is the recipe for making the big plays.
- RB Andrew Buie: No more Geno Smith may mean more relying on Buie to carry the offense. The Mountaineers will have talent behind the center, however, there may be a bit of uncertainty as the season progresses. Enter Andrew Buie. Expect to see him eclipse 1,000 yards, especially if the comfort at QB is still being worked out. Buie is primed for a big year if he is used enough, but if he isn’t the biggest play maker on the field, that won’t necessarily be a bad thing depending on the QB progression.
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