Injuries are an unfortunate part of any college football season and usually take a toll on every FBS team by the end of the year. Several key players were hit by the injury bug in 2016, including a handful of big names from the Big 12. TCU wide receiver KaVontae Turpin played in too many games to be considered for this list, but the standout playmaker never seemed at full strength due to an early injury. His return will be crucial for TCU's offense in 2017. West Virginia safety Dravon Henry-Askew, Oklahoma State receiver Marcell Ateman, Texas running back Chris Warren and TCU running back/receiver Shaun Nixon are just a few of the top players returning from injury into Big 12 action this fall.
Additionally, West Virginia offensive lineman Yodny Cajuste, Iowa State lineman Jake Campos and Baylor defensive linemen Byron Bonds are just a few of the other key players slated to return to action around the Big 12 in 2017.
Big 12's Top 15 Players Returning From Injury in 2017
Rodney Anderson, RB, Oklahoma
With Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon off to the NFL, there are a lot of opportunities available in the Oklahoma backfield this spring. Abdul Adams (53 carries) is the early frontrunner based upon last year’s workload, but Anderson, junior college recruit Marcelias Sutton and freshmen Kennedy Brooks and Trey Sermon are in the mix. Anderson has been hit hard by the injury bug, suffering a season-ending leg injury in 2015 and a neck ailment in 2016.
Marcell Ateman, WR, Oklahoma State
With James Washington, Jalen McCleskey and LSU transfer Tyron Johnson in place, Oklahoma State’s receiving corps has a strong case for the best in college football for the 2017 season. Additionally, this unit will get a little deeper with the return of Ateman from injury. The Texas native did not play in 2016 after recording 45 catches for 766 yards in 2015.
Jordan Brailford, DL, Oklahoma State
Brailford showed flashes of potential in a limited stint as a redshirt freshmen in 2015. In 10 appearances, Brailford recorded 23 stops (3.5 for a loss) and one sack. The Tulsa native was poised to push for a starting job in 2016 but missed the entire year due to a stress fracture.
Byron Bonds, DL, Baylor
Bonds played in 32 games in the first three seasons of his career with the Bears but was sidelined for 2016 due to a knee injury. The Texas native was a projected starter last preseason and was expected to fill a void on the interior of Baylor’s defensive line. The 290-pound lineman has recorded 36 stops and one forced fumble in his career.
Related: Early Big 12 Predictions for 2017
Jake Campos, OL, Iowa State
Similar to last season, the offensive line enters offseason workouts as a significant concern for coach Matt Campbell. But the second-year coach is taking steps to ensure improvement, as graduate transfers Dave Dawson (Michigan) and Khaliel Rodgers (USC) join the mix, and Campos is set to return from a season-ending leg injury. Campos started all 12 games in 2015 and posted 11 starts in 2014.
Yodny Cajuste, OL, West Virginia
Cajuste won the starting job at left tackle for the Mountaineers last fall but suffered a season-ending knee injury in the opener against Missouri. The Florida native’s return is a huge boost for a West Virginia line set to lose three starters, including All-America center Tyler Orlosky.
Joe Dineen, LB, Kansas
Dineen originally started his career at Kansas but shifted to linebacker in 2015 and emerged as a solid defender for coach David Beaty. In 12 games during the 2015 campaign, Dineen recorded 86 stops and three sacks. Dineen’s 2016 season was cut short by a hamstring injury and was limited to just three games (16 tackles).
Brendan Ferns, LB, West Virginia
Ferns was regarded as a four-star recruit in West Virginia’s 2016 signing class but suffered a season-ending knee injury in August. He should push for time in a linebacker unit that returns Al-Rasheed Benton and David Long but loses Justin Arndt.
Cody Ford, OL, Oklahoma
Oklahoma’s offensive line should be one of the best in the nation in 2017, and this unit will have extra reinforcement with Ford’s return. The Louisiana native started the first three games at left guard last year but suffered a season-ending leg injury against Ohio State.
Dravon Henry-Askew, S, West Virginia
Henry-Askew was one of just three returning starters for West Virginia’s defense in 2016. However, Henry-Askew was lost for the year due to a knee injury in fall camp, dealing a significant setback for coordinator Tony Gibson’s secondary. The Pennsylvania native could emerge as of the Big 12’s top defensive backs in 2017, as he returns with 26 career appearances and 104 tackles.
D’Vonta Hinton, LB, Texas Tech
As a true freshman in 2015, Hinton emerged as a key cog in the linebacker unit for coordinator David Gibbs. Hinton played in all 13 games and finished eighth on the team with 53 stops. The Texas native was poised to build on that total in 2016 but was limited to just 19 tackles through the first six games.
Shaun Nixon, RB, TCU
Nixon’s versatility will be a huge asset for TCU’s offense in 2017. The Texas native played in all 13 games as a freshmen in 2015 and became a key contributor at receiver due to injuries. Nixon caught 47 passes for 501 yards and one touchdown and added 66 rushing yards in 2015. He missed all of the 2016 campaign due to injury.
Chris Warren, RB, Texas
After rushing for 2,028 yards and 15 scores last year, D’Onta Foreman departed Austin early for the NFL. While Foreman will be missed, new coach Tom Herman regains a key piece of the offense with Warren back in the mix. Warren rushed for 470 yards and four scores as a freshman and recorded 366 yards in four games prior to suffering a season-ending knee injury.
Larry Williams, OL, Oklahoma State
Williams started the first six games of 2016 at right guard for coach Mike Gundy but was sidelined for the rest of the regular season due to an injury. With Michael Wilson expiring his eligibility, Williams should slide back into the starting spot at right guard.
Montrel Wilson, LB, TCU
After a solid freshman season, Wilson was poised to take on a starting role in TCU’s linebacker unit in 2016. However, after earning a start against South Dakota State in the opener, Wilson played in only one game the rest of the season and was lost due to an injury. Wilson recorded just six tackles last year.
Other Key Players Returning From Injury
Denver Johnson, WR, Iowa State
Vili Leveni, DL, Oklahoma State
Marquise Overton, DL, Oklahoma
Xavier Pegues, DL, WVU
Ryan Schadler, RB, Kansas
Dillon Stoner, WR, Oklahoma State
J.D. Waggoner, DL, Iowa State