Redshirt freshmen make an impact for every college football team during the course of a season, and it’s no surprise a handful of talented players are ready to push for time after sitting out the 2016 campaign. A variety of reasons could be pinpointed for the redshirt year, but the extra time could be beneficial to learn a scheme, develop physically in the weight room or help provide some space on the depth chart with a stacked group of upperclassmen departing the following year.
Which redshirt freshmen could make an impact in the Big 12 in 2017? Here are 20 names to watch:
20 Redshirt Freshmen to Watch in the Big 12 in 2017
Chase Allen, TE, Iowa State
With Allen Lazard and Deshaunte Jones returning, Iowa State should have one of the Big 12’s best receiving corps next fall. This group will only get deeper with the addition of Allen, who ranked as a three-star prospect in last year’s class. Allen caught 33 passes for 654 yards and seven scores as a high school senior in 2015. The 6-foot-6 Missouri native will be an intriguing target for quarterbacks Jacob Park and Joel Lanning.
Related: Early Big 12 Predictions for 2017
Ross Blacklock/Brandon Bowen/Isaiah Chambers, DL, TCU
TCU’s defensive line will get some extra reinforcement from three talented redshirt freshmen this spring. Blacklock, Bowen and Chambers were each regarded as four-star prospects from last year’s class and ranked among the top 300 players in the nation by the 247Sports Composite. With ends Josh Carraway and James McFarland and tackle Aaron Curry departing, expect Bowen, Chambers and Blacklock to push for snaps this spring.
De’Quan Bowman, WR, Texas Tech
Despite losing Devin Lauderdale and Reginald Davis, the Red Raiders aren’t hurting for options at receiver for new quarterback Nic Shimonek. Jonathan Giles (69 catches), Cameron Batson, Ian Sadler, Dylan Cantrell and Keke Coutee form a talented core for coach Kliff Kingsbury to build around this spring. This unit will get even deeper with the addition of Bowman. The New Jersey native was a junior college signee from Hutchinson Community College in 2016 but used last season as a redshirt year. Bowman caught 50 passes for 770 yards and five scores in 2015.
Chris Daniels/Andrew Fitzgerald, DL, Texas
The Longhorns could have the Big 12’s best defensive front next fall, and this unit is only getting deeper with the addition of Daniels and Fitzgerald. Both players ranked as four-star prospects and are ready to push for time after a redshirt year in 2016.
Zach Farrar, WR, Oklahoma
Replacing receiver Dede Westbrook is the biggest offseason concern for coordinator Lincoln Riley. Mark Andrews (31 catches) and Nick Basquine (20 catches) are the top returning targets, but the Sooners need more from those two players and the rest of the receiving corps in order to repeat as Big 12 champs. Farrar was a late-January addition to the 2016 signing class and ranked as a three-star prospect. Considering the losses and uncertainty at receiver, Farrar will have an opportunity to stake his claim for playing time in spring ball.
Brendan Ferns, LB, West Virginia
Ferns was the top recruit in last year’s haul for coach Dana Holgorsen but was forced to redshirt due to injury. The Ohio native ranked as the No. 137 recruit in the 247Sports Composite and will push for time in a linebacker unit that loses Justin Arndt but returns David Long and Al-Rasheed Benton.
Sean Foster, OL, Iowa State
Foster ranked as the top recruit in Iowa State’s 2016 signing class by the 247Sports Composite. The Illinois native was regarded as the No. 346 prospect and used the redshirt year to bulk up to 290 pounds. The 6-foot-8 tackle will help an offensive line that loses four starters and added graduate transfers Dave Dawson (Michigan) and Khaliel Rodgers (USC) for 2017.
Patrick Hudson/J.P. Urquidez, OL, Texas
The trio of Connor Williams, Patrick Vahe and Zach Shackelford provides a strong foundation for new coach Tom Herman to build around in the trenches this spring. And Herman should have no trouble finding options to fill out the other spots or building competition with Hudson and Urquidez coming off redshirt years. Hudson originally signed with Baylor but left campus after Art Briles was dismissed. He ranked as the No. 50 prospect in the 247Sports Composite. Urquidez ranked as the No. 245 prospect and could push for snaps at right tackle this spring.
Bronson Massie, DL, Kansas State
Jordan Willis is gone and leaves big shoes to fill off the edge, but Kansas State has a good starting point at end with Reggie Walker and Tanner Wood. Three linemen from the 2016 signing class – Massie, Kaelin Kay and Jordon Robertson – did not record a snap from the school’s game log last fall. Massie was the highest-rated recruit out of that trio, ranking as a three-star prospect in the 247Sports Composite. Massie should help contribute depth at end in 2017.
Breontae Matthews, OL, Kansas State
Even though guard Terrale Johnson (13 starts) expired his eligibility, Kansas State’s offensive line is still in good shape with the return of three other players who started in all 13 contests last season. Matthews is an interesting prospect for coach Bill Snyder, as he joined the team after two years at Fullerton College but did not enroll in time for the spring semester. After sitting out a year, Matthews should at least provide depth for the Wildcats this fall.
Houston Miller, DL, Texas Tech
The Red Raiders have surrendered over 40 points a game in each of the last three seasons, and the rebuilding effort for coordinator David Gibbs didn’t get any easier this offseason with the departure of lineman Breiden Fehoko. Miller is a player that should work his way into the defensive line rotation after a year to develop within the scheme. Miller was regarded as Texas Tech’s top defensive prospect from the high school ranks in last year’s class and ranked as the No. 873 player in the nation by the 247Sports Composite.
Ian Peterson, CB, Kansas
The Jayhawks are set to lose seven key contributors from last year’s secondary, which should open the door for Peterson to compete for snaps this spring. The three-star prospect from Texas was rated as the No. 4 recruit in last season’s signing class for Kansas by the 247Sports Composite.
Steven Smothers, WR, West Virginia
Despite the departure of Daikiel Shorts and Shelton Gibson, new West Virginia quarterback Will Grier isn’t hurting for options at receiver. Ka’Raun White (48 catches), Jovon Durante (35) and junior college recruit (and former Mountaineer) David Sills is a good trio to build around. Smothers ranked as a four-star prospect and the No. 278 recruit in last year’s class and figures to compete with Gary Jennings, Marcus Simms and Sills for snaps.
Tyriek Starks, QB, Kansas
Junior college recruit (and former Washington State quarterback) Peyton Bender is the favorite to start under center for the Jayhawks in 2017. But the backup job is up for grabs after the offseason transfers of Ryan Willis, Montell Cozart and Deondre Ford. Starks was a three-star recruit in the 247Sports Composite and finished his high school career in New Orleans by throwing for more than 4,000 yards and 40 scores.
Raleigh Texada, CB, Baylor
Baylor’s recruiting class was hit hard by departures following Art Briles’ dismissal in May, and the Bears utilized most of their freshmen due to depth issues last year. Texada was one of the few players who redshirted. He was regarded as a three-star prospect by the 247Sports Composite and will provide help for a secondary losing cornerbacks Tion Wright and Ryan Reid, along with safety Orion Stewart.
Rodarius Williams, CB, Oklahoma State
The Cowboys are set to lose two of their top cornerbacks from last season, as Lenzy Pipkins and Ashton Lampkin expired their eligibility following the Alamo Bowl win over Colorado. Ramon Richards (3 INTs) is the top returning option at cornerback for coordinator Glenn Spencer, but the Pokes can never have enough depth at this position in the offensive-minded Big 12. Williams ranked as the No. 4 recruit in Oklahoma State’s 2017 signing class by the 247Sports Composite. The Louisiana native picked off nine passes in his final two years in high school.
Others to Watch
Tyrell Alexander, WR, Oklahoma State
LD Brown, RB, Oklahoma State
Noah Jones, DL, Texas Tech
Matt Kegel, OL, Oklahoma State
Nick McCann, DL, Texas Tech
Erik Swenson, OL Oklahoma
Jon-Michael Terry, LB/DL, Oklahoma
Oge Udeogu, OL, Iowa State (Junior College Redshirt)
Deonte Williams, LB, Baylor