The beauty of college football lies in its unpredictability and volatility.
Roster turnover is largely responsible for the tremendous amount of variability from year to year within the sport. Key graduations, early entries into the NFL Draft, dismissals and a massive influx of tomorrow's stars in the form of bright-eyed freshmen create more personnel turnover in college football than any other major sport in the country.
It's these (relatively) unknown commodities that offer fans a renewed hope of future success. Who are the top freshmen to watch in the Big 12 this fall?
Allen Lazard, WR, Iowa State
He is one of (if not the) highest rated players to ever sign with Iowa State and apparently he is worthy of the hype. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound wideout is already working with the second unit and will undoubtedly be a starter in no time. His talent is obvious and he could be a historic player for the Cyclones.
Steven Parker | Jordan Thomas, DB, Oklahoma
Thomas has received rave reviews from Bob Stoops and the coaching staff for his work in camp thus far. He is in a battle with Julian Wilson for a starting cornerback spot. Parker, meanwhile, is also getting positive grades for his work at safety. He is trying to earn playing time opposite Quentin Hayes. Neither may start but both will play a huge role this fall.
Dravon Henry, S, West Virginia
There was a reason Henry was the No. 1-rated player in the state of Pennyslvania last year. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound safety has been working with the starters at free safety before camp even opened. He can cover a lot of ground and has proven he should be on the field as much as possible early on in his career.
Derick Roberson, DL, Texas
After Cedric Reed, Charlie Strong has little in the way of pass rushers on his roster. This is why fans in Austin should expect prized recruit Roberson to get plenty of snaps this fall. He isn’t likely to start and needs to bulk up (6-3, 235) but has elite up the field ability that this team desperately needs.
Ranthony Texada | Cyd Calvin, CB, TCU
The Horned Frogs normally are known for having tenacious and talented defensive backs and these redshirt freshmen fit that bill. Texada is already penciled in as the starter opposite All-Big 12 pick Kevin White while Calvin is listed as the top backup to both. Look for Gary Patterson to develop these talented youngsters into the next wave of great TCU cornerbacks.
Gyasi Akem, LB, Oklahoma State
The Pokes are thin at linebacker after the departure of Shaun Lewis and Caleb Lavey but Akem figures to help fill the void. The quick but undersized (6-1, 201) freshman is eyeing a starting spot right out of the gate alongside veteran Ryan Simmons. He uses his speed well both as a pass rusher and dropping into coverage. Look for Akem to see time very early and possibly start against Florida State.
KD Cannon | Davion Hall, WR, Baylor
He doesn’t have the same skillset or size of Lazard — he stands just six-feet tall and weighs under 170 pounds — but Cannon could have a similar impact on Baylor. The state 4A 100-m champion in Texas brings elite speed to a position that has developed into a marquee role. It shouldn’t shock anyone if Cannon, as well as equally touted wideout Davion Hall (6-3, 186), gets plenty of early playing time. This duo compliments each other extremely well.
Joe Mixon, RB, Oklahoma
The star tailback from Oakley (Calif.) Freedom is currently sitting on the sidelines in Norman but was the top-rated recruit in the Big 12 for a reason. He has special ability and would figure into the starting running back situation if he can get onto the field. He has been suspended indefinitely pending an investigation into an altercation that took place in late July.
James Washington | Ra’Shaad Samples, WR, Oklahoma State
There is one name drawing the headlines in Cowboys camp when it comes to freshman and Washington is the guy. Coaches and players are raving daily about his raw physical talent. He and the smallish redshirted Samples are on a team that runs four wide receivers regularly and should find their way onto the field this fall.
Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State
The South Carolina native enrolled at Oklahoma State early and has developed enough confidence with the coaches to earn 25-percent of the reps in fall camp. Odds are J.W. Walsh is the starter for the first half of the season but fans can bet on a quick hook should he struggle. If that happens, the 6-foot-4, 215-pounder may have a chance to steal the starting job.
Best of the Rest:
Jah’Shawn Johnson, DB, Texas Tech
Darius James, OL, Texas
Dalvin Warmack, RB, Kansas State
Kyron Watson, LB, Kansas
Kamari Cotton-Moya, S, Iowa State
Nigel Bethel II, CB, Texas Tech
Colin Dowling, P, Iowa State
Justin Stockton, RB, Texas Tech
Foster Sawyer | Grayson Muehlstein, QB, TCU
Jerrod Heard, QB, Texas