Power Ranking the 10 Most Underrated Offensive Weapons in the Big 12
Lately, the Big 12 has been known for having some of the most potent offensive weapons in all of college football.
In 2013, it was Baylor's prolific offense that rewrote the record books. 2012 saw Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein finish third in the Heisman Trophy voting. Before that, you have guys like Sam Bradford, Vince Young, Ricky Williams and Adrian Peterson leave their marks on the conference.
Going into 2014, there are certainly the big names to watch out for. Bryce Petty and Co., should be back at it in Waco, Texas, while everybody knows about Trevor Knight after his deconstruction of Alabama's storied defense.
But what about the guys you haven't necessarily heard about? Guys like Baylor wide receiver Robbie Rhodes or Iowa State running back Aaron Wimberly, who are set to make huge impacts for their squads in 2014?
It's these guys that are often the X-factors in a team's success, which will prove vital in what is sure to be a wild Big 12 season.
With that, check out the top 10 underrated offensive weapons in the Big 12.
10. Blake Whiteley
Although Blake Whiteley, a tight end JUCO transfer, hasn't played a down of football for the Texas Longhorns yet, he is still set to potentially be a huge piece of Texas' offense in 2014.
Ranked as the No. 1 tight end in his class by 247Sports, Whiteley could very well be the answer the Longhorns have been searching for at tight end.
While Whiteley's JUCO numbers during his one season at Arizona Western weren't gaudy, in his final year in high school, he racked up 68 catches and 16 touchdowns.
Whiteley has the skills to become a great asset in the passing game for the Longhorns, who need stability in that department. Expect this JUCO tight end to make a huge splash in his first season.
9. Aaron Wimberly
Iowa State has struggled on the offensive side of the ball the past few seasons under Paul Rhoads. But in what could be a do or die season for Rhoads, he's brought in Mark Mangino to be his offensive coordinator.
Mangino's best weapon of all the returning players in Ames? Running back Wimberly.
Wimberly was the team's top rusher last year, racking up 567 yards and two scores. While those aren't great numbers, it was his first year seeing carries for the Cyclones.
You have to believe with a year of experience plus the breath of fresh air Mangino will inject into this offense will boost Wimberly.
Iowa State is unstable at the quarterback position, so Mangino will likely rely on the running game early. That means Wimberly could become the centerpiece of the new-look Cyclones in 2014.
8. David Porter
As TCU looks to install a more uptempo offense, it will rely heavily on seldom-heard of wideout David Porter, who is quietly the Horned Frogs' best returning player on offense.
Porter had a decent season last year, hauling in 26 catches for just under 435 yards. But his breakout came in the month of November, when he racked up 17 catches for 236 yards and four touchdowns in four games.
As TCU looks to solve its quarterback situation and become a reputable team in the Big 12, Porter will look to be a huge weapon for the Horned Frogs.
7. Jakeem Grant
Jakeem Grant showed flashes of skill last season under Kliff Kingsbury's spread offense, hauling in 65 catches for 796 yards and seven touchdowns.
But Grant, for the most part, was overshadowed by wideout Eric Ward and tight end Jace Amaro, both of whom you could've made the argument they were the best at their position in the conference.
Now, with both out of Lubbock, Grant should become the top target in what is arguably the most prolific air raid offense in the Big 12.
At just 5'6" and 160 pounds, Grant isn't necessarily the biggest target out there. But his speed is unmatched, and that's what makes a good receiver in the spread offense.
Expect Grant to have a huge breakout year and become one of the top receiving weapons in the Big 12 in 2014.
6. Robbie Rhodes
When Rhodes signed to Baylor out of high school last year, he was rated as the No. 3 receiver and No. 28 overall prospect of his class, according to 247sports.
He spent most of his freshman campaign on the back-burner of Baylor's high-flying offense, being overshadowed by guys like Antwan Goodley and Tevin Reese.
But now, with a year under his belt and Reese graduated, Rhodes should have the opportunity to shine in Waco in 2014. Rhodes possesses great size at 6'1" and 180 pounds, as well as the speed to burn past the secondary with his 4.40 40-yard dash time.
Rhodes is a prototypical receiver who had to spend his first year, like almost any other freshman around the country, getting acclimated to the college game.
Now that he's a sophomore, expect Rhodes to have a huge year.
5. Mario Alford
The West Virginia Mountaineers saw a huge dropoff last season offensively with the departures of quarterback Geno Smith and wideouts Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey taking a huge toll.
What hurt even more is Ronald Carswell, a transfer receiver from Alabama, was suspended in November and will now not be reinstated to the team, according to WV Metro News.
But Carswell's circumstances opened the door for Mario Alford, who took Carswell's place on the depth chart after Carswell was suspended. In the final four games of the season, Alford hauled in 18 catches for 450 yards and two scores.
Now that Dana Holgorsen has proven he can trust Alford, he should become a much more intricate part of the offense in 2014, and should provide some consistency to whoever Holgorsen decides to peg at quarterback.
4. Jhajuan Seales
Quick, who was the best freshman wide receiver in the Big 12 last year?
Well, it was Jhajuan Seales of Oklahoma State. Despite living in the shadows of Tracy Moore, Josh Stewart and Charlie Moore last year, Seales led all Big 12 freshman with 571 receiving yards.
All three of those guys who overshadowed Seales are gone now, so the stage is set for Seales to become the next superstar receiver in Stillwater, following the likes of Stewart and Justin Blackmon.
Seales' best game last year came against Big 12 champion Baylor, a game the Cowboys won and where Seales hauled in three catches for 74 yards and a score.
With Seales becoming the top target in Mike Gundy's pass-happy offense, expect Seales to possibly be the best wideout in all of the Big 12 next year.
3. Tony Pierson
Quite possibly the most underrated athlete in the entire Big 12 is Kansas running back Tony Pierson.
A hybrid running back and wide receiver, similar to what Tavon Austin was at WVU, Pierson has quietly showed flashes of brilliance in Lawrence, Kan., where wins have been few and far between for the Jayhawks.
While only appearing in seven games last season and missing a good portion of the year due to a concussion, Pierson was the Jayhawks' leading receiver with 333 yards and a touchdown when he was ruled out for the year, per The Associated Press (h/t Sports Illustrated).
In 2012, he rushed for 760 yards and averaged 6.5 yards per carry while splitting time with James Sims and also had 21 catches for 291 yards and two scores.
Pierson is a great athlete who is looking to finally put up the gaudy numbers he's capable of in his senior season. If Charlie Weis can figure out the quarterback situation, that could set the stage for Pierson.
2. Jake Waters
Most people didn't pay too much attention to the Kansas State Wildcats last year after they started the year with a loss to FCS North Dakota State and 0-3 in the Big 12.
But by the end of the year, the Wildcats were one of the nation's hottest teams, and Jake Waters had secured the quarterback job from Daniel Sams. In the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, K-State beat Michigan 31-14 behind 271 yards and three touchdowns from Waters.
Now with a full year of Big 12 ball under his belt, Waters has the spring to further develop under Bill Snyder and could very well make a run at the title of Big 12's best passer next season.
While it will be tough to dethrone Bryce Petty, Waters showed flashes last season that prove he can hang with anybody.
Waters also has one of the best receivers in the entire country to throw to in Tyler Lockett. So expect Waters and Co., to have a huge year in 2014 as the Wildcats look to get back in contention in the Big 12 race.
1. Shock Linwood
The talk of the town in Waco last season was Petty, Lache Seastrunk and the receiving corps.
But quietly, freshman Shock Linwood racked up 881 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground last season, ranking second on the team behind Seastrunk.
With both Seastrunk and Glasco Martin—who had 509 yards rushing last season—gone, Baylor's running game is now almost solely focused on Linwood.
The rising sophomore out of Linden, Texas, is a beast at the position, standing at just 5'8" but weighing 200 pounds and also possessing great speed. His profile on RotoWorld calls him a "LaDainian Tomlinson clone."
Baylor is certainly reliant on the pass under Art Briles. But it's a far cry to say they abandon the run. If anything, the run game is perfectly designed to complement Petty and the receivers.
And in 2014, that rushing attack will be headed by Linwood.