Players to watch in the Big 12 for 2015

On this weeks college football roundtable we discuss the Big 12 Conference. TSS Associate Editors Bart Doan and Terry Johnson join staff writer Kevin Causey and special rotating guests in our weekly roundtables discussing all things college football.

Last week we discussed players to watch in the ACC, this week we head over the Big 12 as we are joined by Allen Kenney of Blatant Homerism, Seth Jungman of Staking the Plains and Chris Ross of the Big 12 centric site Land Grant Gauntlet.

Question: Who are the players to watch this year in the Big 12?

Allen Kenney

On Twitter @BlatantHomerism

Texas Tech QB Pat Mahomes

Mahomes showed flashes last year of being the kind of run-and-gun quarterback coach Kliff Kingsbury has been looking for. Mahomes will be working with plenty of talent at the skill positions, too.

Unfortunately, Mahomes can’t play defense. The Red Raiders will find themselves in shootouts all season. With Mahomes pulling the trigger, Tech might win a few more wild ones than it has recently.

Chris Ross
On Twitter @ChrisRossSports

Can anyone remember a time there’s been so much unknown at the quarterback position around the Big 12? Can anyone remember a team that won the league without an elite QB? Right now the conference has exactly one, Trevone Boykin at TCU. So this may be low hanging fruit, but I’m keeping my eye on the quarterbacks around the league. Five of them specifically; Mason Rudolph at Oklahoma State, Seth Russell at Baylor, Patrick Mahomes at Texas Tech, Baker Mayfield at Oklahoma, and Tyrone Swoopes at Texas. The play of these five guys could very well determine the Big 12’s final standings.

Rudolph and Russell seem to be everything you could ask for, but haven’t been tested with the rigors of a full season. Can they continue to have success as defenses get a better feel for what they like to do?

Mahomes, Mayfield, and Swoopes have the skill set to be premier QB’s, but each have struggled with decision making. A crucial, if not the most important, factor in today’s high-octane offenses. It will be interesting to see who steps up their game, and who continues to struggle.

Outside of quarterbacks, I’m interested to see how Samaje Perine develops. I mean, who doesn’t want to see that kid play? He’s an absolute beast. Oklahoma has a ridiculous stable of backs though, so it will be interesting to see how new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley uses him.

Speaking of beasts, I’m also curious to see how Baylor uses Laquan McGowan. The behemoth tight end brings an interesting dynamic to their offense. If I had to guess he’ll be used more as a (very effective) decoy than anything else. If they do feed him the ball on the regular though, just how long can his knees hold up? There’s only so many ways you can bring down a guy that’s 410-pounds, and none of them are good for the ol’ legs.

Seth Jungman:

On Twitter @SethC_J

This will be my one homer pick, I’ll take LB Mike Mitchell, the former 5-star linebacker that originally committed to Ohio State and transferred to Texas Tech, sitting out last year for NCAA rules. Mitchell hasn’t done a thing in college because he hasn’t played, but he’s already earned a starting spot at linebacker for Texas Tech and is playing the weakside, which means that he’s most likely not going to be coming off the field for pass plays and the options behind him are just as inexperienced. There’s a lot of pedigree for Mitchell and even though the most we’ve seen him play is Texas Tech’s spring game, what is evident is his incredible range and sure-handed tackling. For me, I think Mitchell will end up with 80+ tackles and near double-digit in tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

Bart Doan:

On Twitter @TheCoachBart

If recent memory is any indicator, West Virginia will find dudes who can catch passes and put up huge numbers. Kevin White and Mario Alford are gone. Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin aren’t coming back. One guy to probably key in on as a dude who will get a lot more opportunity is Jordan Thompson, he being the returning leader in catches with 49. He’s a diminutive type, and he’s a senior, but no other returning player caught even half of what he did in 2014.

There will need to be a decent amount of guys at this position stepping up in lieu of Alford and White being gone, but Thompson appears to be the guy who should get a lion’s share of balls slung his way mostly because you know he can catch ’em because he has. As a whole, the WVU receiving corps (guys like Daikiel Shorts and Shelton Gibson) will be worth watching as guys emerge … because Dana Holgorsen isn’t going to stop throwing the ball anytime remotely soon.

Kevin Causey:

On Twitter @CFBZ

What really intrigues me about the Big 12 this year is the Oklahoma QB position. All signs point to Baker Mayfield as the starting QB over Trevor Knight. Mayfield has one year of experience at Texas Tech in which he was really good at times and far from good at other times. Has Mayfield matured on the field enough to lead a team like the Sooners that is desperate for leadership from their QB position?

Luckily, the Sooners also have super-stud RB Samaje Perine so Mayfield won’t be going battle without any weapons. I want to see how Mayfield performs in the spotlight and if he doesn’t, can Knight step back up?

Terry Johnson:

On Twitter @SectionTPJ

As you can tell from the distinguished list above, the Big 12 is loaded with great players on offense.

However, the player I’m keeping an eye on is Baylor DE Shawn Oakman. At 6 9”, 280 pounds, he has a unique combination of size and speed that makes it very difficult for offensive tackles to block him. He’s also extremely athletic.

So, what do I mean by “extremely athletic”? Check out this video, where Oakman does a 40-inch vertical jump while holding 70 pounds weights in each hand:

While these measurables are impressive, it’s what he did on the field that should capture the attention of NFL scouts. Simply put: Oakman was the most disruptive lineman in the Big 12 last year. He consistently found his way into opposing backfields, leading the Big 12 in tackles for a loss (19.5), while finishing third in conference in sacks (11.0). He also forced three fumbles and broke up three passes.

I’m interested to see what he’ll do this fall. If he has a big season, he could be the number one pick in the NFL draft.


About Kevin Causey

Dry humorist, craft beer enthusiast, occasionally unbiased SEC fan, UGA alumni, contributor for The Comeback.