Who are the new youngsters to watch in the Big 12 this fall?
Of late, the Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year hasn’t been nearly as impressive as the Defensive Freshman of the Year. Devonte Fields kept a line of elite defensive talents to win Frosh of the Year going in the Big 12. Quandre Diggs, Tony Jefferson, Shaun Lewis, Aldon Smith and Travis Lewis have all won the honor of late.
Meanwhile, J.W. Walsh, last year’s Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year, might not even start this fall for Oklahoma State.
And if Big 12 recruiting continues to struggle the way it did during the 2013 cycle, both awards will lack star power. The entire conference signed just four top-100 players this year — or 11 fewer Athlon Consensus 100 prospects than Alabama’s 15.
That said, there are still some bright new faces to watch in this league. And many of these youngsters will play pivotal rolls on championship-caliber teams.
Robbie Rhodes, WR, Baylor
Rhodes might be the most gifted athlete in a long line of elite Baylor wide receivers. Tevin Reese has one starting spot locked down but the big, physical Rhodes should sneak his way into the starting lineup almost immediately. He brings a bigger frame than Terrance Williams and as much athletic ability as Kendall Wright — a scary combination.
Hatari Byrd, S, Oklahoma
The rumors about Byrd starting for the struggling Sooners defense have long run rampant in Norman. But as the season inches closer, those rumors are turning into facts as Byrd has seen time with the first-team defense at corner, safety and nickel back. He has great instincts and a big frame (6-1, 200) and will make a big impact in 2013.
Tyrone Swoopes, QB, Texas (pictured)
No, Swoopes won’t relegate David Ash to the bench. But the talk out of camp about the raw physical ability of the 6-foot-4, 245-pounder has been hard to ignore. He could be used in Wildcat situations, short-yardage, trick plays and even as a slot, H-back-type pass-catcher. Look out for this kid.
Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor
The No. 2 recruit in the Bears class was this local product from Waco High School. At 6-foot and over 300 pounds, he is physically ready to compete with the Big 12’s O-line. Billings will need to adjust to the pace of play before he can start but that shouldn’t take long for this weight room warrior.
Shelton Gibson and Devonte Mathis, WR, West Virginia
Both youngsters appear to be slotted into, well, the slot. Tavon Austin made this position a marquee location in the West Virginia offense and these two have the potential to replace that production. Both are bigger and more physical than Austin but will have to fight their way into the starting lineup.
Ford Childress, QB, West Virginia
No, Childress likely won’t win the starting QB gig but the coaches haven’t been shy about how much they love the upside of the massive redshirt freshman. Clint Trickett and Paul Millard have much more experience but the 6-foot-5, 235-pound Childress is the long-term plan under center in Morgantown.
Alex Ross and Keith Ford, RB, Oklahoma
The redshirted Ross and true frosh Ford won’t start for the Sooners but will see plenty of reps this fall. Ross (209 pounds) will be one of the top replacements for Damien Williams and Brennan Clay. Both have gotten rave reviews from the coaches and Bob Stoops tends to play a lot of backs.
Related: Top Big 12 Heisman Trophy Candidates
Adrian Colbert, S, Texas
A bunch of names will be in the mix to replace Kenny Vaccaro.
Dondre Daley and P.J. Harris, WR, Iowa State
Both redshirt freshmen should see chances to earn starting time.
Reginald Davis and D.J. Polite-Bray, WR, Texas Tech
Both could be asked to step up early and produce behind Eric Ward.
Will Davis, LB, Kansas State
Totally reworked front seven could see a boost from the talked-about Davis.
Kyle Hicks, RB, TCU
Talented star running back is down the depth chart but loaded with talent.
Demonte Hoods, DT, Kansas State
This 300-pounder from Texas has a chance to be a key early contributor on rebuilt line.
L.J. Moore and Zack Sanchez, CB, Oklahoma
Byrd gets the headlines but both Moore and Sanchez will see early time on the outside.
Jerel Morrow, CB, Oklahoma State
Leads a deep and talented freshman corner class for the Pokes.
Curtis Riser, OL, Texas
Talented recruit redshirted last fall and will be a top backup along the line.
Ra’Shaad Samples, WR, Oklahoma State
Small (5-10, 170), speedy slot talent who could provide a quick boost.
Ahmad Thomas, S, Oklahoma
Will get plenty of looks like the rest of the young Sooner defensive backs.
D.J. Ward, DE, Oklahoma
Along with Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and Matt Dimon, Ward will factor into the rotation.
Davis Webb, QB, Texas Tech
Michael Brewer has been banged up and Webb could be called upon earlier than expected.
Tanner Wood, DE, Kansas State
True frosh was one of the top players in the state and has size (6-5, 240) to play early.
Courtney Arnick, LB, Kansas
Greg Allen and Tevin Shaw, S, Kansas
Deante Burton, WR, Kansas State
Xavien Howard, CB, Baylor
Trevor Knight, QB, Oklahoma
Noble Nwachukwu, DE, West Virginia
Dee Paul, DB, Texas Tech
Ryan Reid and Orion Stewart, S, Baylor
Seth Russell, QB, Baylor
Jhajuan Seales, WR, Oklahoma State
Zac Veatch, OL, Oklahoma State
Keenon Ward, S, Texas Tech
Darius White, LB, Iowa State
Derrick Woods, WR, Oklahoma