Examining which Big 12 players are poised for a breakout season
The Big 12 lost some of its top players from last season after Oklahoma's Kyler Murray and Iowa State's David Montgomery and Hakeem Butler left for the NFL, while West Virginia's Will Grier and David Sills finished their eligibility in Morgantown. However, the Big 12 has plenty of new faces set to emerge as breakout players in 2019. Selecting which players will have a breakout season is no easy assignment. The definition of a breakout player varies from each analyst to fanbase. However, with the start of the season less than 30 days away, Athlon Sports wanted to take a look at some names as breakout candidates around the Big 12 this season.
Big 12 Football Breakout Players for 2019
Quarterback – Alan Bowman, Texas Tech
Bowman had an impressive true freshman campaign for the Red Raiders last season, throwing for 2,638 yards and 17 touchdowns to seven picks before suffering a season-ending injury in early November. New coach Matt Wells and coordinator David Yost should help the sophomore take the next step in his development and increase his profile on the national stage.
Quarterback – Brock Purdy, Iowa State
With running back David Montgomery off to the NFL, the focal point of Iowa State’s offense should shift to Purdy. He’s more than capable of leading the way for coach Matt Campbell’s group, as Purdy passed for 2,250 yards and 16 touchdowns to seven picks as a true freshman last fall. He will benefit from a full offseason to work as the No. 1 quarterback and learn under play-caller Tom Manning.
Quarterback – Spencer Sanders, Oklahoma State
Sanders looks like the next star quarterback for coach Mike Gundy. The Texas native ranked as the No. 171 overall prospect by the 247Sports Composite in the 2018 signing class and used a redshirt year in his first fall on campus. With a strong supporting cast in place, Sanders could be one of the top freshmen quarterbacks in the nation for 2019.
Running Back – Trestan Ebner, Baylor
Ebner should be one of the Big 12’s top all-purpose weapons on offense this season. The Texas native ran for 413 yards (5.99 ypc) over 69 attempts and caught 29 passes for 348 yards last fall. A major uptick in carries seems unlikely with John Lovett and JaMycal Hasty returning. However, Ebner should be able to find more touches in Baylor’s offense this fall.
Running Back – Ta’Zhawn Henry, Texas Tech
At 5-foot-7 and 170 pounds, Henry may not see 30 carries a week, but the Houston native is poised to take on a bigger role in 2019. As a true freshman last fall, Henry ran for 341 yards and eight touchdowns over 86 attempts and caught 22 passes for 196 yards and a score.
Running Back – Keaontay Ingram/Jordan Whittington, Texas
Texas could use more pop out of its running game after averaging only 3.8 yards per carry last fall. With Tre Watson out of eligibility, Ingram should slide into the No. 1 role after rushing for 708 yards and three scores last fall. However, expect coach Tom Herman to utilize Whittington – a five-star prospect – early and often in 2019.
Running Back – Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State
With Justice Hill sidelined at the end of the 2018 season, Hubbard took over as Oklahoma State’s No. 1 back and recorded three 100-yard performances over the final four games. Hubbard gashed Missouri for 145 yards on 18 carries in the Liberty Bowl and posted 134 against West Virginia. A 1,000-yard season seems likely for the sophomore.
Wide Receiver – Taye Barber, TCU
TCU needs a No. 2 receiver to emerge to help take some of the pressure off Jalen Reagor, and coach Gary Patterson’s team probably won’t have to look far for an answer. Barber finished second on the team with 32 catches last season and seems primed to take a step forward with a full offseason under his belt.
Wide Receiver – Charleston Rambo, Oklahoma
Rambo has to hold off three talented freshmen from the 2019 signing class, but the former four-star prospect showed flashes of potential (three catches for 74 yards and a touchdown) in the Orange Bowl loss to Alabama.
Wide Receiver – Sam James/T.J. Simmons, West Virginia
West Virginia must replace its top four statistical receivers from last season. Simmons or James is likely to slide into the No. 1 role for coach Neal Brown. Simmons – a transfer from Alabama – caught 28 passes for 341 yards and a touchdown in 2018. James caught two passes before taking a redshirt year. He flashed potential in the spring and is primed for a big role this fall.
Offensive Line – Connor Galvin, Baylor
Galvin was pressed into action as a true freshman last fall and started the final six games at left tackle. The Texas native checked in at 279 pounds on Baylor’s first depth chart for 2018 but bulked up to 295 by the end of the season. The added weight should help Galvin continue to develop in his second year as a starter and push for All-Big 12 honors.
Offensive Line – Adrian Ealy/Marquis Hayes, Oklahoma
Oklahoma has to replace four starters in the trenches, but coach Bill Bedenbaugh is one of the nation’s best offensive line coaches and should ensure the drop off isn’t significant. Ealy and Hayes saw snaps as reserves as redshirt freshmen last fall and are poised to step into starting roles for 2019.
Defensive Line – Keondre Coburn, Texas
Texas defensive coordinator Todd Orlando has several new faces set to step into bigger roles up front. Coburn – a four-star prospect – played in three games as a true freshman last fall and used a redshirt for the remainder of the season. The 340-pound tackle should emerge as a key cog up front.
Defensive Line – Wyatt Hubert, Kansas State
Hubert was an impact addition to Kansas State’s defense as a redshirt freshman last fall. He played in all 12 games (with seven starts) and collected 4.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for a loss. He should take those totals even higher in 2019.
Defensive Line – Ochaun Mathis, TCU
TCU coach Gary Patterson will be looking for new playmakers up front after Ben Banogu and L.J. Collier expired their eligibility after the 2018 season. Mathis recorded four tackles in four appearances as a true freshman last fall. With an offseason to work under Patterson and develop, Mathis seems poised to become a difference maker at end this year.
Defensive Line – Ronnie Perkins, Oklahoma
Perkins should emerge as one of Oklahoma’s top defenders under new coordinator Alex Grinch. The Missouri native recorded a team-high five sacks and also collected eight tackles for a loss as a freshman in 2018.
Linebacker – VanDarius Cowan, West Virginia
West Virginia’s defense was hit hard by injuries at linebacker last season and enters 2019 looking to replace standout David Long. Cowan – a transfer from Alabama – sat out 2018 due to NCAA rules and is poised to make an impact for new coach Neal Brown’s defense this fall.
Linebacker – Blake Lynch, Baylor
Lynch has played all over the field during his Baylor career but settled in at linebacker at the end of the 2018 season He recorded two tackles for a loss, one sack and five stops against Vanderbilt in the Texas Bowl and finished the year with 47 overall tackles. Assuming Lynch continues to settle in at linebacker, he will form a solid duo at this position with standout Clay Johnston for coordinator Phil Snow.
Linebacker – Will McDonald, Iowa State
In addition to this list of breakout players, McDonald should make plenty of preseason impact freshman write-ups. The Wisconsin native saw limited snaps as a true freshman last fall and used a redshirt year after playing in just four contests. McDonald shifted from defensive line to linebacker this offseason, with the move expected to help Iowa State’s pass rush.
Cornerback – Anthony Johnson, Iowa State
Replacing Brian Peavy and D’Andre Payne at cornerback won’t be easy, but Johnson is ready to step up into the No. 1 role. According to Pro Football Focus, Johnson allowed only 0.57 yards per cover snap in 2018. The Florida native played in 12 games and recorded 28 tackles and five pass breakups last fall.
Cornerback – Jalen Green, Texas
Despite losing Kris Boyd, Davante Davis and P.J. Locke III, the cupboard isn’t bare at cornerback for coordinator Todd Orlando. Green – a top-50 prospect in the 2018 signing class – played in 11 games and picked up two tackles as a freshman last fall. He’s primed to take on a bigger role at cornerback for 2019.
Cornerback – Corione Harris, Kansas
Harris was a big-time pickup on the recruiting trail in the 2018 signing class and didn’t disappoint in his first year on campus. He played in all 12 games and recorded 43 stops and six pass breakups. The Louisiana native will be a key cog in a secondary that should be the strength of Kansas’ defense.
Safety – Jarrick Bernard, Oklahoma State
Bernard was thrown into the fire as a true freshman last season and ended up starting nine games for coach Mike Gundy’s defense. The Louisiana native played in all 13 games and ended the year with 59 tackles (3.5 for a loss), two sacks, one interception and one forced fumble.