Written by: John Stocco
The Big 12 Conference. The conference that makes scouts drool, and the same conference that makes the old school traditional football fan watch in complete disgust. Most teams in the Big 12 are high powered all gas no breaks offenses that can put up 50 plus points on a week to week basis. Some of the best playmakers come out of the Big 12, and we will get to them more as there are great playmakers representing every team in the Big 12 conference. We’ll see them put up highlight reels on YouTube, and we’ll see them walk across the stage on draft night. Let’s get into how each team and the best players on those teams shape up in the 2019 season.
Key losses: Lil Jordan Humphrey,
Players to watch: Sam Ehlinger, Collin Johnson, Keontay Ingram, Zach Shackleford, Caden Sterns.
Ehlinger and Johnson I believe have a chance to go down as the best QB-WR duo in the 2019 season. Collin Johnson is 6’6, after falling below 1,000 yards last season he decided to return to school, and for his senior year he’s expected to not only catch well over 1,000 yards, but also be one of the first receivers taken in the NFL draft. Ehlinger is really coming to his own. Last year he completed 65% of his passes, threw for 3,296 yards, ran for 482, and tallied up 41 total scores. It’s up to his health, his play, and his consistency if the Texas program truly wants to be back.
Key losses: Kyler Murray, Rodney Anderson, Marquise Brown, Ben Powers, Dru Samia, Bobby Evans, Austin Seibert.
Players to watch: Jalen Hurts, Trey Sermon, CeeDee Lamb, Kennedy Brooks, Grant Calcaterra, Creed Humphrey, Kenneth Murray.
Two years, and two Sooner quarterbacks have won the Heisman trophy and were selected first overall in the NFL Draft. If it becomes lucky number three, and Jalen Hurts wins the Heisman and goes number one in the draft, you might have to put Lincoln Riley in the discussion of best coach in all of football, and it might win him millions of dollars to coach at the next level. Jalen Hurts’ record at Alabama was 24-2, very impressive, but Oklahoma doesn’t have Alabama’s defense. Jalen Hurts will have to outscore some of the best offenses in the country. Oklahoma has elite athletes. Oklahoma is also historically known for producing some of colleges best offensive linemen. Creed Humphrey is a future first round pick, but the rest of the group is raw. The last two seasons Oklahoma has had elite college quarterbacks. Will Jalen Hurts fall in line? If he does, the Sooners are going back to the College Football Playoff.
Key losses: Ben Banugo, LJ Collier, Ty Summers.
Players to watch: Jalen Reagor, Darius Anderson, Taye Barber, Lucas Niang Garret Wallow, Jeff Gladney.
Remember when I said a Big 12 offense can put up 50 on a defense any given week? Well maybe TCU is the exception. The Horned Frogs had a tough time getting any momentum on offense and thanks to the inconsistent play from the quarterback last season. The hope is still high for Justin Rogers, but if the offense keeps being stagnant Gary Patterson will have to look to the dual threat Kansas State transfer, Alex Delton to start moving the chains. The Big 12 is stacked with playmakers at the receiver position and Jalen Reagor is no different. Along with Collin Johnson, CeeDee Lamb, and Tylan Wallace, Jalen Reagor might be the most underrated out of the bunch. With Reagor, Anderson, and Taye Barber who can play the slot and run out of the backfield, this could be the best TCU offense we’ve seen yet. While having those explosive playmakers on offense, TCU must not lose their identity, and that is getting to the quarterback. Last year the defense generated 35 sacks. Losing three pass rushers will hurt TCU, but if Garret Wallow’s motor matches the production TCU won’t lose a step.
4, Oklahoma State
Key losses: Justice Hill, Tyron Johnson, Justin Brailford, Justin Phillips.
Players to watch: Tylan Wallce, Chuba Hubbard, Dillon Stoner, AJ Green.
A team that was one of the more disappointing teams in college football. Their defense simply couldn’t stop anybody. The Cowboys were 9th in defense in the Big 12, and gave up 33 points on average while scoring 31. On top of the inadequate defense, Oklahoma State is walking into the season with a quarterback competition. Spencer Sanders vs. Dru Brown. Sanders is inexperienced, but he has the makings to be one of the college's best quarterbacks with experience. He has the makeup, the arm talent, and the speed to get out of trouble. His high school numbers are nothing but outstanding. Throwing just below 9,000 yards, and rushing over 1,000. One of the best high school quarterbacks to come out of Texas can get his stance to shine in Oklahoma in 2019. Dru Brown is coming in from Hawaii. He brings experience to Oklahoma State’s QB room as he started two years in Hawaii. The record isn’t pretty as Brown went 10-16, but he did bring them a bowl victory. Brown is a gunslinger with the ability to turn on the jets. Dru Brown could give Cowboy fans Johnny Football vibes.
5, Iowa State
Key losses: David Montgomery, Hakeem Butler.
Players to watch: Brock Purdy, La’Michael Pettway, Chase Allen, Ja’Quan Bailey, Greg Eisworth.
Iowa State finished 2nd in the conference in defense, and even better news for the Cyclones, eight players on the defense return for the 2019 season. Losing Montgomery and Butler are going to hurt Iowa State’s level of production, but what could quickly get the Cyclones back on track is Brock Purdy. It’s an important development year for Purdy because it’s going to be his first full season barring injuries. He took over in the middle of the season, started nine games, and Iowa State went 7-2 while Purdy threw 16 TD’s, 7 INT’s, threw for 2,250 yards, and completed 66% of his passes. Purdy’s development is crucial to Iowa State’s program. Losing talent like Montgomery and Butler can also hurt the development of this football team.
Key losses: Jalen Hurd, Ira Lewis.
Players to watch: Charlie Brewer, Denzel Mims, Chris Platt, Clay Johnston, Chris Miller, Raleigh Texada.
Charlie Brewer doesn’t get much national love and I don’t understand why. He started 8 games as a true freshman and he played pretty well. Throwing 11 TD’s, and only throwing 4 INT’s. The most impressive part of his freshman season was his 68% completion rating. His sophomore year he saw in increase in production for almost every statistic. He played all 13 games, threw for 1,457 more yards, and 26 total TD’s. Brewer loves to air it out, and he has the receivers in Denzel Mims, and Chris Platt that can win the deep ball against any corner. I’m expecting another year of improvement for Brewer, and a draft stock increase for receiver Denzel Mims. As for the team, they don’t have enough fire power, and they’re not good enough defensively to compete with the elite Big 12 programs.
7, West Virginia
Key losses: Will Grier, Gary Jennings, David Stills, Trevon Wesco, Yodney Cajuste, David Long.
Players to watch: Austin Kendall, TJ Simmons, Kennedy McCoy, Taijh Alston, Josh Norwood, Sean Mahone.
West Virginia has suffered a lot of losses. Not only losing players to the draft, but they’ve lost players, and more importantly Dana Holgorsen to new programs. As crazy as it sounds, I don’t think the Mountaineers are going to be all that bad. West Virginia could shock a few teams. They hired Neil Brown, who to me is one of the most underrated coaches in the nation, they have former Sooner quarterback Austin Kendall, and they have four returning starters upfront to protect him. Their running back group is deep, but they’re gonna have a tough time replacing Jennings, Stills, and Wesco. It’s a small rebuild year for West Virginia. Kendall gets his feet wet, Neil Brown goes through the growing pains of a first year head coach in a Power 5 conference, and the Mountaineers will be back bowling in 2020.
8, Texas Tech
Key losses: Antoine Wesley, Dakota Allen, Jah’Shawn Johnson, Vaughnte Dorsey.
Players to watch: TJ Vasher, McLane Mannix, Adrian Frye.
Another Big 12 team, and yes, you got it, another new head coach. There are some things that I never give up on, and one of them is believing Kliff Kingsbury is a good head coach. He went 35-37 with the Red Raiders, and honestly, I don’t get it. Texas Tech has brought in Utah State’s Matt Wells, and he’s someone that won’t walk in and change everything about the offense. The Big 12 has star studded receivers, but Texas Tech might have the best core group of receivers out of any team. Vasher is 6’6 dream in the red zone, and they brought over McLane Mannix from Nevada who’s going to be loved by pro scouts. Mannix grabbed 50 receptions, 17.5 yards per reception, which was a yard more than Andy Isabella, and scored 7 touchdowns. The frame, the hands, the speed, the work ethic, all of it mirrors Isabella, but statistically Mannix cannot compare to Isabella, but under the Texas Tech system, he might get close. The true freshman quarterback Alan Bowman put up terrific numbers, 17 TD’s, 7 INT’s, QB rating of 150.1, which was better than Ryan Finley and Drew Lock, but he only played 8 games due to a collapsed lung. I’m expecting Bowman to be healthier, and I’m expecting Texas Tech to be good enough to make a bowl appearance.
9, Kansas State
Key losses: Alex Barnes, Dalton Risner, Duke Shelley.
Key players: Clyde Price, Isaiah Zuber, Scott Frantz, Reggie Walker, Da’Quan Patton, AJ Parker.
Kansas State, just like their in-state rival Kansas Jayhawks, is walking into the 2019 season with a whole new system. Former North Dakota State head coach, Chris Kleimen was hired to replace Bill Snyder, and if anyone deserved a Power 5 head coaching job it’s Kleimen. After 4 National Championships in seasons, with a record of 69-6, and developing one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL (Carson Wentz), you knew the day would come and the Wildcats made an excellent choice. Watching North Dakota State it’s easy to realize how much Kleimen loves running the ball, and as soon as he got the job he upgraded the Wildcats backfield with two transfer running backs. James Gilbert from Ball State, and Jordon Brown from North Carolina. The one name you should really focus on is freshman running back Clyde Price who rushed for 2,433 yards, and ran in the endzone 33 times. Price will remind you of Bruce Anderson, who was a hot small school name season, is the future of Wildcat football in Kansas.
Key losses: Daniel Wise.
Players to watch: Pooka Williams, Corione Harris, Mike Lee.
Les Miles is coaching where? Yeah the guy who led LSU to a National Championship, yeah he’s coaching Kansas football now. It was weird then, and it’s still weird now. Les Miles has a lot of work to do, but he’s the right man for the job. He’s walking in with zero pressure, and he’s going to try to build a winning culture at Kansas. Talent will be hard to find the first few seasons, but Les Miles can attract some star names once he gets his feet dirty. The star on the Jayhawks is running back Pooka Williams. He’s a sophomore with a messy background, as he’s currently suspended due to being arrested for domestic abuse. If he comes back and plays for the Jayhawks, he’s adding NFL talent out of the backfield. Williams ran for 1,125 yards, caught for 289, and totaled 16 touchdowns. If Williams gets his head screwed on straight, he can be a special talent in college, and at the next level. The tape against Oklahoma says it all. Even if Pooka Williams comes back, it still won’t be enough for Kansas as I expect them to finish last in the Big 12 again.