Big 12 Football: Top 10 Breakout Stars for 2013
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
The Big 12 is sure to have its breakout stars in 2013.
Last year, some of the breakout stars included running back Lache Seastrunk, who finished the year with four straight 100-yard rushing games, and West Virginia receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, who were part of Geno Smith's aerial assault.
While every team has its superstars, it's usually the breakout stars that are the difference-makers in a team's chase for a conference title.
With that, here's a look at the top 10 breakout stars in the Big 12 this year.
*All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted
10. Jake Heaps, QB, Kansas
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This BYU transfer is set to take the reins of signal-caller in Lawrence, Kan.
Heaps put up over 3,768 yards and 24 touchdowns over two years with the Cougars. Now Heaps, with a balanced running attack of James Sims and Tony Pierson, should be able to finally give the Kansas Jayhawks some stability at the quarterback position.
Last year, the Jayhawks went with Notre Dame transfer Dayne Crist, and he performed poorly. Crist threw just four touchdowns on the season but added nine interceptions.
Heaps is a natural-bred talent at quarterback. And with the Big 12 being known for producing quality gunslingers, Heaps is set to join the ranks of elite quarterbacks in the league.
9. Tre Walker, LB, Kansas State
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After missing the second half of last season with a knee injury suffered against Texas Tech, Tre Walker is one of just two defensive starters returning to the Wildcats this season.
The senior has been known for his playmaking ability since arriving in Manhattan in 2010, with the most notable example coming at Miami in 2011. There, he made three tackles in a four-down goal line stand against the Miami Hurricanes that prevented the Hurricanes from taking the lead in the final minute.
Throughout his tenure, Walker has racked up 118 tackles in just 34 games.
Now as a senior on a depleted defensive unit, Walker is sure to be a standout for the Wildcats in 2013.
8. Jeremiah George, LB, Iowa State
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Last year's linebacker corps for the Iowa State Cyclones was highlighted by A.J. Klein and Jake Knott, two of the nation's top linebackers.
But with both of those guys graduated, now it's Jeremiah George's turn to shine in Ames.
George started nine games in 2012 and recorded 87 tackles. His breakout performance came against the Oklahoma Sooners, where he made an astounding 17 tackles.
Now as Iowa State begins to design its defensive scheme to highlight George, this senior is due for a breakout season in 2013.
7. Charles Sims, RB, West Virginia
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A transfer from the Houston Cougars that will only play one season for the West Virginia Mountaineers, running back Charles Sims is sure to make a splash in the Big 12.
Picked by the media as the league's Newcomer of the Year, Sims has racked up 2,370 yards rushing and 29 touchdowns in three years at Houston.
Now paired up with West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen for the second time in his career (Holgorsen was the offensive coordinator at Houston from 2008-09), Sims will be asked to try and replace the production that Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey had a year ago.
6. Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas
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Jackson Jeffcoat, one of the Texas Longhorns' stars on defense, missed most of last season after rupturing his right pectoral muscle against Oklahoma last year.
Despite only playing in six games last year though, Jeffcoat was still second on the team in sacks and tackles for a loss, with four and 11 respectively.
Now back and healthy for his senior year, 2013 is sure to be the breakout year for Jeffcoat that 2012 was looking to be.
Over his career, Jeffcoat has made 20 starts in Austin and has played in 27 games. So as one of the most experienced players on the entire roster, he'll make a huge impact for the Longhorns.
5. Tony Pierson, RB, Kansas
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One of the more athletic players for the Jayhawks, Pierson is part of a dual-threat running attack in Lawrence along with running back James Sims.
But in 2013, head coach Charlie Weis will be looking to turn Pierson into a Tavon Austin type of player.
"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," Weis said.
If Pierson can become the type of versatile weapon that Austin was, than the Jayhawks could make leaps and bounds of improvement this year.
4. Shaun Lewis, LB, Oklahoma State
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Picked as a preseason First Team All-Big 12 member, Shaun Lewis will be a huge part of the Oklahoma State Cowboys' defense in 2013.
Last year, Lewis was a Big 12 Honorable Mention and finished second on the team with 7.5 tackles for loss.
Lewis' standout game last year was against Texas, where he had 10 tackles.
At 5'11" and 225 pounds, Lewis is the perfect size for a linebacker in the Big 12 and will have a breakout senior season.
3. Sam Carter, S, TCU
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An All-Big 12 Second Team member last year, Sam Carter will be one of the defensive stars for the TCU Horned Frogs in 2013.
In 2012, Carter started all 13 games and was one of the most versatile defenders in the league. He racked up 63 tackles, three sacks and four interceptions.
Carter will play a huge role in the Horned Frogs first two games against LSU and Southeastern Louisiana as defensive end Devonte Fields will be out with a suspension.
If Carter can play well in those games, he could breakout as one of the best safeties in the country.
2. Waymon James, RB, TCU
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2012 was supposed to be Waymon James' breakout year. He appeared on the Doak Walker Award watch list and racked up 168 yards in Week 1.
But then in Week 2 against Kansas, James went down with a knee injury that cost him the rest of the season.
Now James will be looking to not only break out in 2013, but to also make up for lost time.
Through James' career in Fort Worth he's totaled 1,556 yards and 12 scores despite playing in just 28 games.
1. Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor
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According to Baylor Bears head coach Art Briles, quarterback Bryce Petty could be one of the programs best quarterbacks of all-time. And that list includes Robert Griffin III, the former Heisman Trophy winner.
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. I don't know what expectation anyone would have other than doing that, which equates to winning every football game we step on the field with, which needs to be his expectation along with ours.
Baylor is known for its pass-heavy, no-huddle offense. So if Petty can grasp the system early, he could breakout as one of the best quarterbacks in the country.
And the opportunity will certainly be there for Petty to learn the system in live games. The Bears' first three games are against Wofford, Buffalo and UL-Monroe. And there's also a bye week between Weeks 2 and 3, so Petty can make adjustments there too.