Big 12 Football: 1 Sleeper to Watch on Every Team in 2013

Sean Frye@Sean_E_FryeFeatured ColumnistJuly 26, 2013

Big 12 Football: 1 Sleeper to Watch on Every Team in 2013

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    The star players in the Big 12 in 2013, like TCU quarterback Casey Pachall or Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk, obviously stand out from the pack. 

    But what often can push a team to the top of the standings at the end of the season is the performances of a select few sleeper players. Guys like former Kansas State wide receiver Chris Harper and Oklahoma safety Tony Jefferson were big reasons why the two schools split the Big 12 title in 2012. 

    So heading into this season, here's a look at the top sleeper player for each team. 

    *Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted

Baylor: QB Bryce Petty

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    David Ubben, the Big 12 blogger for ESPN, labeled Petty as a potential breakout star in the Big 12 back in April. 

    Then at Big 12 media days, Baylor head coach Art Briles touted Petty as the guy who could break all of the passing records in Waco. 

    "Really, Bryce, a reasonable expectation, first thing that popped into my mind is break every Baylor record there is offensively, which is what we expect him to do and what he plans to do," Briles said.

    However, his name has so far seemingly slipped through the cracks in the discussions of Big 12 quarterbacks, with David Ash and Casey Pachall leading the charge there.

    Baylor's recent history of quarterbacks is legendary, with Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III and Nick Florence being its guys the past two seasons.

    So there's no doubt that Petty has some big shoes to fill. But under the spread offense, it's not unreasonable to think that he could become a star quickly.  

Iowa State: S Jacques Washington

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    With the departures of linebackers A.J. Klein and Jake Knott from Ames, the defense at Iowa State is sure to have a new look. 

    At Big 12 media days, Paul Rhoads heralded Washington as one of the team's leaders on a team that is certainly going through some overhaul. 

    "Jacques Washington, who's with me today, and Deon Broomfield, two players who were successful for us at Iowa State," said Rhoads on Tuesday. 

    The safety was a Big 12 honorable mention in 2012 and started all 13 games. If the Cyclones want to keep up their reputation as having an elite defense, they will start with Washington. 

Kansas: RB Tony Pierson

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    While Charlie Weis certainly shocked the media at Big 12 media days by calling his team a "pile of crap," he also made some interesting comments about running back Tony Pierson. 

    In the coach's presser, he said that he intends to turn Pierson into a player similar to Tavon Austin. 

    "I sat there and watched the last four or five games of that Austin guy at West Virginia just tearing it up as both a wide receiver and a running back," Weis said. 

    "When you can have a talent that you feel is similar to a guy that's being utilized properly, I think that, if we can get Tony more involved in space, that will open up a lot of things for the rest of our running backs and our receivers in general."

    Companied with running back James Sims, Pierson could certainly be one of the more versatile threats in the conference and could be a reason that the Jayhawks finally begin to turn the ship around in Lawrence. 

Kansas State: LB Tre Walker

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    One of the vocal leaders for the Kansas State Wildcats, Walker's season was cut short last year when he went down with a season-ending knee injury midway through the year against Texas Tech. 

    Nevertheless, Walker enters his senior season as one of the leaders of a team that won the Big 12 a year ago but now must replace nine starters on defense. 

    Walker's most famous moment at Kansas State came in his sophomore season when he made three straight tackles at the goal line to prevent the Miami Hurricanes from scoring a go-ahead touchdown in the game's waning moments. 

    If Bill Snyder's bunch wants to make another run at a conference title, Walker's playmaking ability will have to be heavily relied on. 

Oklahoma: DB Aaron Colvin

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    A member of the 2013 All-Big 12 preseason team, Colvin had 63 tackles and four interceptions on a 2012 team where he was overshadowed by the likes of Landry Jones and Kenny Stills. 

    Well, that's about to change this season. Colvin will be the anchor of what is sure to be one of the best defensive units in the conference. 

    The Tulsa World ranked Colvin as the best defensive back in the entire Big 12, which he is certainly deserving of. 

    Colvin was also one of the player representatives at Big 12 media days. 

Oklahoma State: WR Josh Stewart

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    While most assume that Eric Ward at Texas Tech is the best wideout in the Big 12 this season, Josh Stewart at Oklahoma State may be just as good. 

    At Big 12 media days, Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy hailed Stewart for his ability to fill the gaps left by Justin Blackmon. 

    "We've been very fortunate to have a number of great receivers at Oklahoma State over the last few years, and each year, as one moves on, as a coaching staff, we see young talent, but you're always concerned about whether that guy's going to step up," Gundy said. "Josh really stepped up for us last year in a big way.  He had over 100 catches, and he ran the ball some, and he's been a really good team leader."

    Stewart was one of just two receivers to make the All-Big 12 preseason team, and he'll likely be the top target at a school that runs uptempo and has a traditionally terrific aerial assault.  

TCU: S Sam Carter

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    Sam Carter, a member of the 2012 All-Big 12 Second Team, was left off the 2013 preseason All-Big 12 team. 

    That was certainly one of the biggest snubs, as Carter is an elite defender in the conference. In 2012, he had four picks and three sacks. 

    Carter is on the watch list for the 2013 Thorpe Award. So he's certainly someone to be weary of. 

    TCU's defense is undoubtedly headlined by Devonte Fields. But it will be Carter's leadership that will have to carry the Horned Frogs this season. 

Texas: CB Quandre Diggs

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    Another member of the 2013 All-Big 12 preseason team, Quandre Diggs will be one of the leaders on a Texas defense that is looking to rebound from a lackluster year in 2012. 

    In 2012, Diggs was one of the stars in Austin with 51 tackles and four interceptions. Now he'll be asked to be even more of a leader this season. 

    Diggs' 2013 season will start from behind the eight-ball though, as according to John Taylor of College Football Talk, Diggs just underwent a medical procedure and will be limited during training camp. 

    Still, there's no doubt that this corner is someone to look out for on the Longhorns roster. 

Texas Tech: TE Jace Amaro

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    Although Baylor tight end Jordan Navjar was the only Big 12 tight end to make the Mackey Award watch list, it was Texas Tech's Jace Amaro who earned preaseason All-Big 12 honors as the league's best tight end. 

    Amaro is a terrific complement to superstar wide receiver Eric Ward. In addition to being a great blocker in the spread offense, Amaro tallied 25 receptions and four touchdowns last season. 

    Expect his role to amplify in 2013 under new coach Kliff Kingsbury. 

West Virginia: RB Andrew Buie

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    Andrew Buie is going almost unnoticed in Morgantown despite being the team's best returning rusher. Instead, all the hype is on Charles Sims, a transfer running back from Houston who was named the preseason Big 12 Newcomer of the Year. 

    In 2012, Buie ran for 851 yards and seven touchdowns despite being embedded in Dana Holgorsen's extremely pass-heavy offense. 

    Sims is certainly expected to be the star of the rushing corps for West Virginia. But recent trends have shown that the most successful rushing attacks feature two guys who are capable of making big plays. 

    Buie could very well be that second guy in 2013.