Big 12 Football's Breakout Players for 2012

Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert should be one of the Big 12's top breakout players.

Every year, college football fans are introduced to a handful of players that become household names by the end of the season. Predicting which players will breakout any year is never an easy task. 

Defining what is a breakout player is nearly impossible. Everyone has a different perspective on how players are viewed around the conference and nationally. Athlon's list of breakout players for 2012 tries to take into account which names will be known nationally (not just within the conference) by the end of season.

Predicting the Big 12's Breakout Players for 2012

Brandon Carter, WR, TCU – The Horned Frogs should have no problem fitting in their first season with the Big 12. With quarterback Casey Pachall and a solid group of receivers returning, TCU’s offense will be one of the best in the conference. Josh Boyce and Skye Dawson are the team’s top two receivers, but Carter is a name to watch. He caught 23 passes for 352 yards and three scores as a true freshman last year, while averaging 13.7 yards on 10 punt returns. Carter may not lead the team in receptions, but he’s on the cusp of a breakout season in 2012.

Steve Edmond, LB, Texas – Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho were one of the best linebacker duos in college football last season, so there’s no question they will be missed. However, Texas is never short on talent, and Edmond looks like a future star in the Big 12. He played in 12 games and recorded 16 stops last season, while also forcing one fumble. Edmond ranked as one of the top 100 prospects in the 2011 signing class by most recruiting services and is slated to start at middle linebacker in 2012. At 6-foot-3 and 255 pounds, the sophomore has the size and strength to help immediately against the run.

Tom Farniok, C, Iowa State – Offensive linemen simply don’t get enough credit nationally. With that in mind, it’s tough to say Farniok could be a household name by the end of the year, but he could emerge as one of the top centers in the Big 12. The Sioux Falls native redshirted in 2010 but started all 13 games at center last season. Farniok was named Iowa State’s most outstanding newcomer and will only get better in his second season as a starter.

Nick Florence, QB, Baylor – Florence isn’t a complete unknown to most around college football, but 2012 will be his first opportunity to start a full season. And there’s plenty of pressure on his shoulders, especially as he tries to replace Heisman winner Robert Griffin. Florence started seven games with Griffin sidelined for the year with a torn ACL in 2009, throwing for 1,786 yards and six scores. The senior is better equipped to succeed in 2012, especially with a solid offensive line returning, along with one of the Big 12’s top receiving corps. Don’t expect Florence to win the Heisman, but he should lead Baylor to its third consecutive bowl appearance.

Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State – Fans around the Big 12 are certainly familiar with Gilbert, but it’s time for the rest of the nation to take notice. As a freshman in 2010, Gilbert played in 12 games and recorded 18 tackles. However, his biggest impact came on special teams, averaging 26.8 yards per kickoff return and taking two back for a score. Gilbert played a bigger role on defense in 2011, recording 59 stops and 10 pass breakups. He continued to be a dangerous option on special teams, averaging 27 yards per kickoff return and taking two for touchdowns. Gilbert should be even better as a cornerback with another offseason to develop and at 6-foot-0, 194 pounds, he has the size and athleticism to matchup against the top receivers in the conference.

Tyler Lockett, WR/RS, Kansas State – The last name Lockett is certainly familiar to Kansas State fans. Kevin Lockett caught 217 passes during his Wildcat career, while Aaron Lockett ranks fourth on the school’s all-time receiving list with 2,400 yards. Tyler Lockett was just emerging as a potential weapon for Kansas State’s offense last year but suffered a season-ending injury in early November. In nine games, Lockett rushed for 110 yards, caught 18 passes for 246 yards and averaged a whopping 35.2 yards per kick return. The sophomore should be a bigger part of Kansas State’s offense in 2012, while also keeping his spot as one of the most dangerous return men in the nation.

Wes Lunt, QB, Oklahoma State – Lunt has some of the biggest shoes to fill in the Big 12. Brandon Weeden led Oklahoma State to a Big 12 championship last season and threw for 9,260 yards and 75 touchdowns during his career in Stillwater. Lunt enrolled in time to participate in spring practice and impressed the coaching staff enough to earn the No. 1 spot over J.W. Walsh and Clint Chelf. Asking Lunt to repeat Weeden’s success as a true freshman is nearly impossible, but Oklahoma State has a track record of developing good quarterbacks, and the offense can lean on running back Joseph Randle. Don’t expect Lunt to contend for All-American honors, but the Cowboys shouldn’t suffer much of a drop in production with the freshman at the controls.

Trey Metoyer, WR, Oklahoma – Finding weapons for quarterback Landry Jones is the biggest fall priority for the Sooners’ offense. Kenny Stills is one of the Big 12’s top receivers, but after that is where the question marks begin. Metoyer did not qualify last season and attended Hargrave Academy in preparation for 2012. He was one of the top receivers in the 2011 recruiting class and did not disappoint in spring practice, catching six passes for 72 yards in the Red-White game. Although Ryan Broyles will be missed, Metoyer’s emergence should ease concerns about the Oklahoma receiving corps.

Tracy Moore, WR, Oklahoma State – Replacing Justin Blackmon is no easy task, but the Cowboys have plenty of capable receivers ready to step up. Which one will become the clear No. 1 target is still up in the air, but Moore will probably finish with the team lead in catches and yards. Through three seasons in Stillwater, Moore has grabbed 73 receptions for 1,067 yards and eight touchdowns. He is coming off his best year (45 catches) and will move from one of the inside receiver spots to the outside. Blake Jackson, Charlie Moore and Josh Stewart are also breakout candidates, but Tracy Moore should push for All-Big 12 honors in 2012.

Tony Pierson, RB, Kansas – With James Sims sidelined for the first three games due to a suspension, the Jayhawks will lean on Pierson to carry the rushing attack. In a relief role last season, he recorded 71 carries for 396 yards and three touchdowns. Pierson’s best performance came in the 31-30 loss to Baylor, posting eight carries for 70 yards and one score. At 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds, the sophomore doesn’t have ideal size to be an every down back. However, Pierson should team with James Sims to form an effective one-two punch at running back.

Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor – Terrance Ganaway was one of the Big 12’s breakout players last season, leading the Baylor rushing attack with 1,547 yards and 21 scores. With Ganaway out of eligibility, the Bears will turn to Seastrunk, Jarred Salubi and Glasco Martin to handle the bulk of the carries. Although Salubi and Martin have been steady in limited work, Seastrunk is the player most Baylor fans are excited to see this season. He ranked as one of the nation’s top running back recruits coming out of high school and redshirted at Oregon in 2010. Seastrunk transferred from the Ducks after his freshman season and made a splash in Baylor’s spring game, rushing for 138 yards and one touchdown. The sophomore has big-play potential and may not match Ganaway’s totals but should help to keep Baylor’s offense among the best in the Big 12.

Will Smith, LB, Texas Tech – Junior college recruits are hit-or-miss, but it looks like Texas Tech found a potential difference maker for its defense when Smith stepped onto campus. The California native had a strong showing in the spring, recording six tackles in the final spring scrimmage, along with earning the starting middle linebacker job. Smith wasn’t highly regarded coming out of the JUCO ranks, but all signs point to the 6-foot-3 linebacker making an instant impact in 2012.

Jordan Thompson, WR, West Virginia – With Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey entrenched as the top two receivers, Thompson will likely finish third on the team in catches. However, in West Virginia’s offense, there are plenty of receptions to go around, especially after quarterback Geno Smith threw 526 passes last season. Thompson isn’t a huge target (5-foot-7), but neither is Austin (5-foot-9). The freshman from Katy, Texas should team with Austin to form a dangerous pair of inside receivers, while emerging as one of West Virginia’s top players for 2013.

by Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

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