1 Surprise Star for Every Big 12 Team in 2013

Sean Frye@Sean_E_FryeFeatured ColumnistOctober 24, 2013

1 Surprise Star for Every Big 12 Team in 2013

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    Baylor defensive lineman Shawn Oakman.
    Baylor defensive lineman Shawn Oakman.Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    As the Big 12 enters the second half of the season, unforeseen stars have risen up on each team in the league. 

    Shawn Oakman of the Baylor Bears has proven to be one of the biggest playmakers in the league, while Sam Richardson may finally be the answer the Iowa State Cyclones have been looking for at quarterback. 

    Check out those guys and the rest of the surprise stars from the Big 12 so far. 

    All stats taken from Big 12 website unless otherwise noted.

Baylor: Shawn Oakman

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    Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    If you had to guess who leads the Big 12 in tackles for loss, would you guess someone from the Baylor Bears? 

    Well, defensive end Shawn Oakman of the Bears does in fact lead that category with 11 stops behind the line. 

    Oakman has been part of a revitalized defense that is currently allowing the seventh-fewest points in the country (16.2), per ESPN

    The Bears are currently undefeated and one of just two teams in the Big 12 that can make that claim. 

Iowa State: Sam Richardson

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    Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    After years of struggling to find a quality signal-caller, the Iowa State Cyclones seem to have found an answer in 2013 with Sam Richardson. 

    Currently third in the Big 12 in total offense per game (250.3), Richardson has racked up 10 touchdowns through the air and 1,255 yards despite the Cyclones struggles. 

    Richardson is also fourth in the league in passing yards per game with 209.2. 

    The Cyclones are just 1-5 this year, so the sophomore gunslinger will need some more help down the road for Iowa State to complement his production. 

Kansas: JaCorey Shepherd

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    JaCorey Shepherd has been Mr. Everything for the Kansas Jayhawks. That's been particularly huge for a team that's riding a nearly three-year long Big 12 losing streak and lacks consistent playmakers. 

    Shepherd is second in the Big 12 in kick return average (23.9), second in passes defended (10), sixth in interceptions (2) and ranked in the top 50 in tackles (30). 

    Despite Shepherd's play, the Kansas Jayhawks have struggled mightily in 2013 with a 2-4 overall record and an 0-3 mark in conference play.

Kansas State: Ryan Mueller

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    One of nine new starters on defense for the Kansas State Wildcats in 2013, defensive end Ryan Mueller has been a game-changer for Bill Snyder. 

    His best highlight came against the Baylor Bears when he stripped and recovered a Bryce Petty fumble. 

    He's second in the league in sacks (5) and third in tackles for loss (8.5). 

    Mueller has been one of the lone bright spots for the Wildcats, who are 2-4 and started off their season with a loss to FCS team North Dakota State.

Oklahoma: Charles Tapper

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    Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

    Defensive end Charles Tapper has quietly been one of the most dominant defensive linemen in the Big 12. 

    The Oklahoma Sooners rising star currently ranks in the top 50 in tackles with 32 and fourth in sacks with 4.5. 

    His best game was on Oct. 5 against TCU when he took down Trevone Boykin twice. The Sooners are 6-1 overall and looking for an upset of undefeated Texas Tech this weekend. 

Oklahoma State: Caleb Lavey

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    Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

    The Oklahoma State Cowboys are giving up the 14th-fewest points in the country at 18.3, according to ESPN. A lot of the Cowboys' success on defense has been because of linebacker Caleb Lavey. 

    Lavey is seventh in the Big 12 in tackles (45) and eighth in tackles for loss (6.5). He's also second in interceptions in conference games with two. 

    The Cowboys face Iowa State in Ames on Saturday in what will possibly be a revenge game from the team's 2011 loss at Jack Trice Stadium. 

TCU: Marcus Mallet

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    In TCU's win over the SMU Mustangs, Marcus Mallet put on arguably the best defensive performance in the Big 12 so far. 

    In that game, he racked up four tackles for loss as the Horned Frogs throttled the Mustangs 48-17. 

    Mallet is currently seventh in the league in tackles for loss with 6.5 and 27th in tackles with 40. 

    However, with injuries to quarterback Casey Pachall and defensive end Devonte Fields, the Horned Frogs have sputtered to a 3-4 start. 

Texas: Case McCoy

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    Get this: Case McCoy is the Texas Longhorns' leading passer with 764 yards and Texas is in first place in the Big 12. 

    Crazy, right? 

    Well, after years of struggle, McCoy finally found his groove in the Red River Shootout on Oct. 12. In that game, he had a 159.8 rating with two touchdowns in the Longhorns' 36-20 rout of the Oklahoma Sooners. 

    The Longhorns face TCU this weekend and McCoy is projected to be the starter yet again as David Ash deals with an injury

Texas Tech: Davis Webb

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    Dan Friend-USA TODAY Sports

    At the beginning of the season, walk-on freshman sensation Baker Mayfield was the talk of west Texas. 

    But when he got injured against Kansas, Davis Webb was forced to take over as the Texas Tech Red Raiders gunslinger. 

    In Webb's two starts, he's kept the Red Raiders undefeated season alive. 

    He's second in the Big 12 in passing yards per game (237.8), third in pass efficiency (143.8) and fourth in total offense (241.2 per game). 

    The Red Raiders face their biggest test of the year as they face the Oklahoma Sooners this weekend. 

WVU: Darwin Cook

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    Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

    Defensive back Darwin Cook has been an all-around playmaker for the West Virginia Mountaineers. 

    He's 17th in tackles in the Big 12 (47), first in interceptions (4) and also has a pick-six. 

    Cook's play has stepped up particularly in league play, where three of his interceptions and 35 of his tackles have happened. 

    The Mountaineers have been inconsistent in 2013 at 3-4. They have an upset win over Oklahoma State but also got blown out 37-0 by Maryland. 

    WVU faces Kansas State in Manhattan, Kan., this weekend, where Cook will look to rattle the two-quarterback system of Daniel Sams and Jake Waters that Bill Snyder employs.