We take a look at 10 players to keep an eye on in the Big 12 in 2017.
Like every year in college football, graduation and the NFL draft offer a natural source of attrition on football rosters. Talent churns our and is replaced by ever-evolving, new generations of gridiron stars.
Key players like Patrick Mahomes, Joe Mixon, Samaje Perine and Jordan Willis are now donning NFL jerseys as professional rookies. While they will be missed, there are plenty of talented stars to be excited about.
Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
Mayfield has finished in the top-5 of the Heisman voting in back-to-back years. In 2016, he passed for nearly 4,000 yards and had 40 touchdowns. Mayfield also set a new NCAA passing efficiency mark in 2016 and is 17-1 as a starter in the Big 12 in his career.
Connor Williams, OT, Texas
Williams is the prototypical left tackle; long, strong and athletic. He allowed only one sack in 2016 while helping usher D’Onta Foreman to the Doak Walker Award. With added experience, expect the first-team All-American to continue his dominance on the Big 12.
Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma
Brown, like his father of the same name, is a big, powerful blocker with a nasty streak. He was actually the Big 12 Lineman of the Year in 2016, so he is running right along with Connor Williams in conference supremacy among offensive linemen.
Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State
Rudolph returned for his senior season after posting a stellar junior campaign. The Cowboys are 22-6 with Rudolph as the starting quarterback. He finished second in the Big 12 in total offense (4,152 yards) and in passing efficiency (158.94).
James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State
A frontrunner for the Biletnikoff Award in 2017, as the nation’s top receiver, Washington has posted consecutive 1,000 yard seasons. He, like Rudolph, chose to return for his senior season in hopes of competing for a Big 12 title.
Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
Jefferson was a force as a freshman in 2015, but had an inconsistent 2016 season. I fully expect a bounce-back performance from the athletic linebacker in 2017, while helping Texas return to prominence in the Big 12.
Dorance Armstrong, EDGE, Kansas
In 2016, Armstrong led the Big 12 in tackles for loss with 20.0 and finished second in the conference in sacks with 10 as a sophomore. His season sack total was the most by a Kansas defender since 2008.
Jordan Thomas, CB, Oklahoma
Thomas is a four-year starter at Oklahoma and was a first-team All Big 12 selection in 2016. While he still has his share of inconsistency, Thomas is highly experience and has improved each year. Expect a solid season in 2017.
Allen Lazard, WR, Iowa State
Lazard went over 1,000 yards receiving in 2016, becoming just the fourth Cyclones’ player ever to accomplish that feat. At 6-5, 222, Lazard is an imposing figure on the outside.
Justin Crawford, RB, West Virginia
The former JUCO star rushed for over 1,000 yards in 2016 while earning Big 12 Newcomer of the Year honors. If he can duplicate the 7.2 yards per carry, he’ll be well on his way to further establishing himself in the Big 12.