Big 12 Football: Every Team's Best Returning Player

Ricky FrechCorrespondent IJanuary 16, 2013

Big 12 Football: Every Team's Best Returning Player

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    The Big 12 might be losing a lot of star power following the 2012 season, especially at the quarterback position. However, there are still quite a few standout players who will return to the gridiron in 2013.

    Given the quality of Big 12 offenses, skill players on that side of the ball mostly dominate this list, but some defensive guys made enough of an impression to make cases for themselves as their team's MVP in 2013.

    Gone are the days of Geno Smith and Collin Klein as faces of Big 12 football, but the following are players with expectations of leading the Big 12 to an exciting 2013.

Baylor: Lache Seastrunk, RB

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    If this run doesn't make you a believer in Lache Seastrunk, nothing will.

    Still not convinced that you're probably looking at the best running back in the Big 12 after Joseph Randle's departure from Oklahoma State?

    Okay how about this: 

    Coming into November, Seastrunk only had 181 yards rushing through seven games. Over his next six, he had 831 yards and six scores, 637 of which came in the four weeks after a three-touchdown performance against the Oklahoma Sooners, a stretch in which Glasco Martin cut into his carries with 16-plus a game.

    That kind of production will only continue as Baylor works in a new quarterback and Seastrunk is basically a lock to break 1,200 yards in 2013.

Iowa State: Sam Richardson, QB

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    With Jared Barnett's decision to transfer and Steele Jantz decision to graduate, the door is open for Sam Richardson to completely take over Iowa State's quarterback position.

    Richardson was somewhat of a revelation for the Cyclones late in 2012.

    He took over from Steele Jantz on the third possession of Iowa State's game against Kansas and never looked back. 

    True, Iowa State went 1-2 in the three games that saw Richardson take the majority of the snaps. However, he did have eight TDs to only one interception, so there's reason for hope in Ames.

Kansas: James Sims, RB

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    There weren't many bright spots for the Kansas Jayhawks this year, as they tied a franchise record for ineptitude record-wise, losing 10 of their 11 games.

    That said, James Sims was their silver lining in season otherwise clouded with disappointing losses. He was able to become one of just three Big 12 backs to gain over 1,000 yards and led the conference in yards per game.

    The only thing that's holding him back from doing so again next year is the fact that he'll probably lose carries to speedster Tony Pierson.

    However, don't bank on Sims giving up any of his carries easily.

Kansas State: John Hubert, RB

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    Kansas State is losing quite a bit on both sides of the ball this offseason.

    Collin Klein is obviously the biggest loss, but the team also will be without the services of almost every major defensive player from 2012.

    Arthur Brown, Nigel Malone, Meshak WilliamsAllen Chapman and Adam Davis are all gone in 2013, which means that All-Big 12 safety Ty Zimmerman is probably the best player on the Wildcats defense.

    However, for my money, John Hubert is K-State's best returning player.

    Hubert's been on the verge of 1,000 yards in each of the past two seasons and he found the end zone 15 times last year.

    Now that Klein's gone, Hubert should be even more of a focal point of the offense.

Oklahoma: Aaron Colvin, CB

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    It's tempting to put Blake Bell here, as the "Belldozer" has been a touchdown machine in his short time with Oklahoma, including 11 this past season. However, we still don't really know if he can be an effective passer at the collegiate level.

    Jalen Saunders is kind of in the same boat because, while he might be one of the best slot receivers in the nation, Bell has to get him the ball before he can make plays.

    Because of all that uncertainty on offense, Aaron Colvin takes this spot. The Sooners lone returnee in the secondary is likely the most important player on a defense that's losing a lot.

    The consistency Colvin provides for the Sooners will play a major role in retooling much of their defense.

Oklahoma State: Josh Stewart, WR

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    With Joseph Randle gone, this spot on the list is much harder to decide on.

    You can't really give any of the three QBs a spot because we still don't know which one is going to take over and lead the team in 2013.

    Jeremy Smith is an interesting option at running back and has put up solid numbers in backup duty, but has also shown himself to be injury prone in the past.

    There are some intriguing prospects on defense in guys like Shaun Lewis, Calvin Barnett and Daytawion Lowe, but really, the best Cowboys' player has to come on offense.

    Enter Josh Stewart.

    Stewart was unleashed in 2012 and finished the season with 101 catches for 1,210 yards and seven scores.

    Look for those numbers to stay about the same or better, even with Oklahoma State bringing back receiver Tracy Moore from injury and adding quite a few young guns in their recruiting class.

TCU: Devonte Fields, DE

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    The popular choice here is probably Casey Pachall, who's returning to the team after entering rehab last season and missing most of the team's games.

    However, it's always hard to know just how a guy is going to come back after being out of football for such a significant amount of time.

    Because of that, freshman sensation Devonte Fields is the player to watch for in 2013.

    The young pass rusher totaled 10 sacks in his first season of NCAA Football andhe's only going to improve as he matures.

    Look for him to easily clear double-digit sack totals and lead the Big 12's best defense to double-digit wins, as well.

Texas: Johnathan Gray, RB

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    There are quite a few options here.

    Quarterback David Ash played one of the best bowl games of the season to end his 2012 campaign and could take another step towards stardom this offseason. You also have to factor in sack-master Jackson Jeffcoat, who's coming off another injury, but could be a huge factor in 2012, as well as touchdown machine Joe Bergeron at running back.

    However, Johnathan Gray is the real deal and should own the Texas backfield next year.

    The Texas-natives for the Longhorns rushed for 3,891 yards and 65 touchdowns in his senior season of high school and is ready to blow up in 2013. I, for one, can't wait to witness it.

Texas Tech: Eric Ward, WR

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    Michael Brewer might be the next great Texas Tech quarterback but for now, but Eric Ward is the man in Lubbock.

    Ward has been dominant over the last two seasons and is putting up the same type of numbers we've come to expect from Texas Tech receivers. He's had to share the spotlight with Darrin Moore, but now he should be getting even more looks.

    If Brewer can be anywhere close to the quarterback Texas Tech thinks he is, look for Ward to put up Madden-type numbers.

West Virginia: Andrew Buie, RB

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    I'd love to settle on safery Karl Joseph here, especially after plays like this. However, I can't in good conscience, put a West Virginia defensive player on this list.

    The Mountaineers offense, on the other hand, was prolific, but it's also losing its trifecta of studs.

    Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey are all gone and, while Paul Millard might become the next big thing for the Mountaineers, you've got to stick with the proven commodity.

    Andrew Buie looked dominant against Texas, as he rushed for 207 yards and two scores, but wasn't able to put his game together consistently.

    Look for that to change in 2013, as he keeps the team churning forward while they break in a new quarterback.

    Actually, wait...this changed my mind; Karl Joseph is West Virginia's best player...ever.