Here are some fresh faces that could have a significant impact in the Big 12 this fall
In particular, the league's perennial powers, Oklahoma and Texas, are counting on a number of freshmen to help lead them back to the top of the standings.
Here are some of the key freshmen making their debuts for the Longhorns, Sooners and the rest of the Big 12 this season.
Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
Arguably the best linebacker prospect to come out of Texas in the last decade, Jefferson should slide into the Longhorns' starting lineup sooner than later. He will likely begin by manning the middle of the field, but Jefferson has the raw materials to do it all — cover, stop the run and rush the quarterback. Charlie Strong will be counting on Jefferson's freshman frame to hold up for the entire year.
Joe Mixon, RB, Oklahoma
Mixon is making a repeat appearance on this list after sitting out all of 2014 on suspension. In a league full of dynamic offensive playmakers, Mixon might be the best. Yes, he really is that good already. The immensely talented all-around running back should thrive in new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley's system, but that also will require that he withstand intense scrutiny away from the field following an altercation last summer with a female co-ed.
Breiden Fehoko, DL, Texas Tech
Fehoko has the skill set to slide from the interior of Tech's defensive line to the edge as needed. The Red Raiders need all the help they can get to shore up their putrid defense, which puts the big Hawaiian (6-3, 287) in position to get on the field right away. Enrolling in January will help Fehoko's cause.
Patrick Vahe and Connor Williams, OL, Texas
Strong's roster purge hit UT's offensive line as hard as any position on the squad. That has cleared the way for 4-star recruits Vahe and Williams to contribute immediately. Don't be surprised if both are in the starting lineup when the 'Horns hit the field in their opener versus Notre Dame.
Mark Andrews, WR/TE, Oklahoma
Think Jace Amaro in crimson and cream. Riley will likely flex out Andrews (6-5, 245) as often as he has the redshirt freshman from Arizona in a traditional tight end position. The scariest part for opposing defenses is that Andrews has the speed and athleticism to get downfield in a hurry and win jump balls.
Jovon Durante, WR, West Virginia
The Mountaineers have some gaping holes at receiver with the departures of Kevin White and Mario Alford to the NFL. By the end of the season, Durante might turn into WVU's top target. At the very least, he can stake a claim to a spot in the receiver rotation from the jump.
Connor Dyer and Madison Akamnonu, OL, Texas Tech
The Red Raiders already have a solid offensive line, but Dyer and Akamnonu add depth and talent. Akamnonu may even find his way into the starting rotation at some point this year.
Jeremiah Booker, WR, Kansas
The Jayhawks didn’t have much in the way of playmakers last year — or in the last few years, for that matter. With David Beaty installing the Air Raid offense, KU will need to find some talent to populate the skill positions right away. Assuming he can recover from a preseason shoulder injury, Booker should get a chance to make a mark at some point this year.
Duke Shelley, DB, Kansas State
Freshmen rarely see a lot of snaps on Bill Snyder’s team. Shelley might be an exception. The 4-star recruit out of Georgia will be fighting for time in the Wildcats’ veteran secondary.
— 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.