Each fall brings a new crop of players in college football. There are the popular returning names and stars that we know, but there are up and comers, transfers, and others who don’t have that name recognition of others. So as we get closer to Big 12 media days and the college football season, Pete Mundo and Derek Duke have put together a list of the top 25 players in the Big 12 Conference for the 2018 season. Sure this will likely not be the list by season’s end, but as of right now, this is what we predict to be the case heading into the season.
If you missed previous postings, here are Nos. 25-21.
No. 20: Iowa State Cyclones DE JaQuan Bailey
Bailey may have been one of the most underrated and underappreciated defensive players in the Big 12 Conference last season. He piled up 11 tackles for loss and 7 sacks on the season to build off his impressive freshman campaign. The Honorable Mention All-Big 12 player enters the 2018 season with 20-straight starts and will be required to take on more of the load from a leadership standpoint after the departure of key players like Joel Lanning. The Jacksonville, Florida native who once decommitted from the Florida Gators is making quite a name for himself in the Upper Midwest.
No. 19: Baylor Bears WR Jalen Hurd
The running back turned wide receiver has waited over a year to get back on the field and I believe he will make it well worth his while. At Tennessee, Hurd was one of the most explosive players in the SEC, churning over 2,000 rushing yards and 400 receiving yards in 2014 and 2015. As he makes the move to wide receiver, expect his role to be untraditional in terms of where he lines up and what Matt Rhule decides to ultimately do with Hurd. As Charlie Brewer settles into Year 2 under center and the offensive line hopefully improves, the ceiling is incredibly high for Hurd heading into his final season of college football and could very well end the season as a household name in the Big 12 Conference.
18. Oklahoma Sooners G Ben Powers
Powers has lived up to the billing since coming to Norman as the No. 2-ranked JUCO guard in America. He started 10 games his sophomore season and 12 last year as a junior. OU is losing a couple of key pieces to its offensive line, along with of course its star QB Baker Mayfield, so shoring up the line with Powers will be vital. Powers was a Second Team All-Big 12 selection last season and if he reaches expectations in 2018, expect him to bump up onto the First Team line.
17. TCU Horned Frogs WR KaVontae Turpin
When it comes to explosion and speed, you can’t do much better than KaVontae Turpin. He can catch a ball on a 5-yard slant route and turn it into an 80-yard touchdown or he can snag a punt at the 40-yard line, weave his way through half a dozen defenders and take it to the house. These are the kinds of plays that turn games upside down. After playing in just eight games in 2016, Turpin bounced back with 14 games played last season while setting career highs in punt return average and kick return average, along with 41 catches on the season. As TCU breaks in Shawn Robinson at QB, having a safety net in the flat like KaVontae Turpin could prove incredibly valuable, and help beef of Robinson’s stat line.
16. Texas Longhorns CB Kris Boyd
Boyd played in 12 games last season and set career highs as a junior with 54 tackles, two interceptions and 15 pass breakups. Boyd was considering leaving for the NFL Draft but wisely elected to return for his senior season in Austin. And with his teammate, Holton Hill, unwisely deciding to leave, that leaves Boyd to take over the reigns of the secondary and become the leader of what should be one of the best young units in the Big 12. Texas notably landed an incredible group of defensive backs in the Class of 2018 including safeties Caden Sterns, B.J. Foster and DeMarvion Overshown, along with Anthony Cook and Jalen Green at cornerback. Boyd will get competition from these young guns day in, day out, while also becoming their leader and using the 2018 season to help tune up his game for the next level. It’s a win for Texas and a win for Boyd.
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