Looking at the players with the potential to shake up the seasons of every Big 12 team
It's tough to say what qualifies a college football player as a wild card. Is he trying to replace a legend who has moved on? Is he recuperating from a major injury? Perhaps he's a talented newcomer?
However you define the term, every team has at least one player on each side of the ball with the potential to break out — or flame out. Here are our picks for offensive and defensive players from every Big 12 team who will be their wild cards in 2020.
Offense: Josh Fleeks, WR
With Denzel Mims off to the NFL, the Bears are looking for new threats at receiver. Tyquan Thornton will slide into the top slot. The speedy Fleeks could make for a reliable second option.
Defense: TJ Franklin, DL
James Lynch leaves an enormous hole on the edge of the Baylor defense. Franklin is one of the more obvious candidates to take over. As a freshman, he appeared in 11 games. He won't be the kind of disruptor that Lynch was, but the Bears just need him to hold steady at defensive end.
Offense: Joe Scates, WR
Scates has had an eventful career at ISU, although he hasn't made much of an impact on the field. Now heading into his third season with the Cyclones, ISU would benefit from Scates making good on his potential. Scates' size (6-2, 191) could allow him to team with tight ends Charlie Kolar and Chase Allen to give quarterback Brock Purdy a physical receiving corps.
Defense: JaQuan Bailey, DL
Bailey returns for a fifth season after missing all but four games in 2019. In 2018, he racked up 14.5 tackles for a loss coming off the edge. If he can regain that form in the fall, the Cyclones will get a big boost up front.
Offense: Jalon Daniels, QB
Head coach Les Miles and his staff handpicked Daniels as their QB of the future. When a team is as hapless as KU has been for about a decade, why not make the future now? If Daniels gets the nod, his dual-threat game and inexperience could lead to some high highs and low lows this season.
Defense: Steven Parker, LB
There's a similar story on the defensive side of the ball at KU. The Jayhawks need a spark there, too, and Parker is one of the most promising young defenders on the roster. As a bonus, he plays JACK linebacker, a position that lends itself to wreaking havoc.
Offense: Cooper Beebe, OL
KSU's mass exodus on the offensive line leaves head coach Chris Klieman in dire need of youngsters to grow up quickly. Keep an eye on Beebe, a redshirt freshman out of Kansas City. He could establish himself as a long-term cornerstone at tackle if given the opportunity.
Defense: Khalid Duke, DL
K-State already has one major force on the edge of its defensive line in redshirt junior Wyatt Hubert. The sophomore Duke offers a high-upside option who could potentially pair with Hubert to create a formidable pass-rushing duo. If they're not playing together, Duke could at least ensure the Wildcats remain dangerous when Hubert is off the field.
Offense: Theo Howard, WR
Howard transferred to OU from UCLA looking to make his mark for the NFL scouts before his eligibility runs out. Unfortunately, a leg injury in the spring has forced Howard to spend the offseason working his way back into form. If he's 100 percent by the time practices open up, Howard could help stabilize a young receiving corps.
Defense: Justin Harrington, DB
Harrington was supposed to arrive from junior college in the spring, he finally showed up at OU as an enrolled student in July. Harrington has the size (6-3, 210) to make an immediate impact in the Sooners' shallow safety group. The delayed arrival, however, puts him on the borderline when it comes to contributing in ‘20.
Offense: Chuba Hubbard, RB
Sure, you can't get much more of a known quantity than the Big 12's reigning offensive player of the year. Hubbard's offseason has been an eventful one, though. Given the friction that surfaced between the star running back and head coach Mike Gundy in recent months, it seems fair to ask if Hubbard will be all-in for what is sure to be his final season in Stillwater.
Defense: Trace Ford, DL/LB
The Cowboys bring back a proven group of defenders, with 11 returning starters on that side of the ball. Ford, who came on strong near the end of his freshman season, is easily the most intriguing of the bunch. Defensive coordinator Jim Knowles can move Ford all over the field to force opposing offenses to account for his versatility.
Offense: Zach Evans, RB
As a five-star prospect out of North Shore High School in Houston, Evans went on a wild recruiting ride that saw him linked to a number of prominent programs. His first choice, Georgia, released him from a letter of intent, positioning TCU head coach Gary Patterson to pounce. Assuming Evans is in the right frame of mind, he could immediately become the Horned Frogs' most potent offensive weapon.
Defense: Marcel Brooks, LB
OK, this is kind of cheating. The ultra-talented Brooks transferred from LSU, where he appeared in 11 games as a freshman last year. He will need a waiver to avoid sitting out the '20 season. But if that's not a wild card, what is?
Offense: Jordan Whittington, WR
Whittington appeared in just one game last year before an injury ended his season. The highly touted RB/WR has the skills to make defenses pay in a variety of ways. Head coach Tom Herman will look to deploy him accordingly.
Defense: Vernon Broughton, DL
The UT defense fell apart last season in part due to lackluster play on the defensive line. That cracks open the door for a true freshman like Broughton to get on the field right away. He already has the frame (6-5, 286) to handle the leap to the college level.
Offense: Alan Bowman, QB
No one doubts Bowman's abilities or his composure. However, his struggles to stay healthy throughout his career represent an enormous question mark coming into the fall. A full year with Bowman behind center would turn Tech into a serious spoiler.
Defense: Brandon Bouyer-Randle, OLB
Bouyer-Randle saw action in four games for the Michigan State Spartans last year. He's trying to make more of a name for himself this year in Lubbock as a graduate transfer. He has a chance to transition directly into a starting spot on the edge with the Red Raiders.
Offense: Winston Wright Jr., WR
Wright's tiny frame (5-10, 180) means he won't be winning many jump balls at receiver. Operating out of the slot, however, should give him an opportunity to flash on quick-hitting patterns and timing routes. In doing so, Wright could take some heat off of returning starters T.J. Simmons and Sam James.
Defense: VanDarius Cowan, OLB
How about a repeat from 2019? Cowan seemed to work his way into the good graces of the WVU coaches last year, but he only played in two games before incurring a season-ending knee injury. The Mountaineers could really use a boost from the player who is likely their most talented defender.
— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.