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.
5. Oklahoma Sooners RB Rodney Anderson
After dealing with various injuries for the majority of his career, Anderson blossomed into a star in 2017, helping ease the losses of Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine. He racked up 1,161 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns at 6.2 yards per carry. Overall, he had 18 touchdowns on the season, which was tied with David Sills for the most in the Big 12 Conference. As the Sooners begin life without Baker Mayfield, the importance of Anderson staying healthy and being a workhorse for Lincoln Riley will be as important as ever before.
4. West Virginia Mountaineers LB David Long
Long had an injury-shortened season, but when he did play, he was incredibly effective. Long played in nine games and had 75 tackles, including 15.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. His 13.5 TFL in Big 12 games alone was second in the conference behind only Kansas’ Joe Dineen. If Long has a complete and healthy season he will undoubtedly find himself as one of the best players in the Big 12 this fall and if everything clicks just right, he could find himself as the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.
3. Iowa State Cyclones RB David Montgomery
Iowa State is looking to build off it’s momentum from the 2017 season where it won two games against Top 5 teams, reached and won a bowl game, and gained national attention in the college football world. A big piece to keeping that momentum going is David Montgomery. After an 1,100-yard rushing season and 11 touchdowns, Montgomery is poised for a monster junior season. His dual-threat ability to catch the ball out of the backfield may be the best in the Big 12, as he ranked fifth on the Cyclones with 36 receptions last season. Montgomery finished third in the Big 12 with 88 rushing yards per game and the offense will rely heavily on him again this season.
2. Oklahoma State Cowboys RB Justice Hill
As our own Derek Duke wrote last month, it is “The Year of the Running Back” in the Big 12 Conference, as the fact that three of the top five players this year play that position proves it. Hill rushed for 112 yards per game in 2017, which was 25 more yards per game than any other player in the Big 12. He was third in the Big 12 Conference in scoring and also had the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield with 31 receptions. As Oklahoma State goes into a rebuilding year and still has a question mark at quarterback, Hill will redefine the word “workhorse” when it comes to running backs in the Big 12.
1. West Virginia Mountaineers QB Will Grier
Despite all the running back love, it wouldn’t be the Big 12 Conference unless there was a quarterback ranked as the top player in the league. It just has to be that way, right? After transferring from Florida, Grier lived up to all the expectations Mountaineers fans had for him. He completed 65% of his passes with 34 touchdowns to 12 interceptions before going down with a gruesome finger injury against Texas. WVU never recovered from his loss. His 317 passing yards per game was third in the Big 12 Conference behind two guys who are now in the NFL in Baker Mayfield and Mason Rudolph. His passing efficiency was also third behind… the same two guys. WVU enters a season in which it should compete for a Big 12 Title. To do, so, Grier needs to have a Heisman-caliber season and confirm our belief that he is in fact the best player in the Big 12 Conference heading into the 2018 season.
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