Hits and Misses from 2014 Preseason All-Big 12 Team
The 2014 Preseason All-Big 12 Football Team, as voted by conference media members, was released Wednesday afternoon, providing yet another (much welcomed) sign that college football is nearly upon us.
The list was headlined by seven Baylor Bears, including Preseason Offensive Player of the Year Bryce Petty, the top projected top quarterback in the conference. Kansas State checked in second with five players, and reigning champion Oklahoma checked in third with four. Texas and TCU both trailed them with three.
Nine of the 10 teams in the conference had at least one player included, and the one team that didn't—as we'll discuss in a bit—was a bit surprising. But for the most part, the list seems to make sense.
Except when it didn't.
But, hey...at least that gives us something to talk about!
Note: All recruiting info refers to the 247Sports Composite Rankings.
Hit: Tyreek Hill for Newcomer of the Year
There were plenty of other names to choose from. Oklahoma's Joe Mixon was the top all-purpose back in the 2014 class, and Baylor has a pair of freshman wide receivers, KD Cannon and Davion Hall, who are capable of putting up big numbers under Art Briles.
Tyreek Hill's name doesn't have the same weight, but please, take five minutes from your day to watch this cut of his highlights.
Now, care to argue with his inclusion?
Hill was the No. 3 overall JUCO player in the country this cycle, and whether it's from the backfield or in the slot, Oklahoma State will find a way to get him the ball. Quarterback J.W. Walsh fares better with short, timing passes than he does with downfield strikes, and Hill is the exact type of blazing-fast weapon he could use.
With Josh Stewart, Tracy Moore and Charlie Moore all gone from last year's team, the Cowboys need a new skill player to become a focal point. Hill has as good of a shot as anybody to be that guy.
Miss: Devonte Fields for Defensive Player of the Year
This is no disrespect to Devonte Fields, who very much deserved to be on the first-team defense after what he proved as a freshman in 2012, when he had 18.5 tackles for loss and was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. He's done this already.
But should he really be expected to repeat two years later?
That seems like a valid question after all that he went through last season. Fields was suspended for the season opener against LSU, injured his foot (albeit in a two-TFL performance) against Texas Tech and was eventually shut down for the season to recover. He's had more than ample time to do so, but how can we bank on his health?
I suppose this is an argument of principle.
Although he has the potential to replicate his 2012 production, Fields is far removed from proving his dominance. Kansas State defensive end Ryan Mueller, on the other hand, is not. Neither is Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker. Both of those guys fit the bill of a DPOY, and both are coming off breakout seasons.
The logic used to give Fields this honor makes sense, even if I don't agree with it. Again, I definitely would have voted him to the first team (as we'll get to later). It just seems like such a lofty title deserves more recent production. At least to me, that is.
But I guess that the voters felt differently.
Hit: No Oklahoma State Players Included
Tyreek Hill got the love up top for being the league's best newcomer. But that doesn't mean he should have been on the first team.
In fact, no one on Oklahoma State should have been. And no one on Oklahoma State was. Despite being one of the most consistent powerhouse teams in the country—not just the conference—with 59 wins the past six seasons, the Cowboys do not have a superstar.
That doesn't mean they can't be good this season. They can be. Betting against Mike Gundy is a statistically unwise proposition. Like David Ubben of FoxSports.com pointed out, this "snub" speaks more to their inexperience than their lack of talent. They still have talent.
But who, exactly, from the Pokes would you have put on the all-conference first team? Desmond Roland over Malcolm Brown and Shock Linwood? Daniel Koenig over Spencer Drango, Daryl Williams and Le'Raven Clark? James Castleman over Chucky Hunter?
In this case, the voters nailed it.
Miss: Karl Joseph over Chris Hackett at Safety
Karl Joseph is an easy player to root for. Mike Huguenin of NFL.com named him the hardest hitter in college football, and who doesn't like to see a big hit? Plus, it's not like he's not a solid overall player.
He's just not quite as solid as Chris Hackett.
Hackett finished 10th in the Big 12 with 88 tackles last season, flashing the same in-the-box aptitude that ostensibly helped Joseph earn his spot on the first team. However, he also contributed in coverage to a TCU secondary that finished No. 11 in opposing quarterback rating and No. 8 in Football Outsiders' pass defense S&P+.
Obviously, Hackett was (and is) surrounded by a more talented secondary than Joseph. Jason Verrett was a first-round NFL draft pick, and Sam Carter was elected to the preseason first team in question. Joseph, meanwhile, is carrying West Virginia's secondary on his own.
Still, if you had to pick one player for your defense in a must-win game, would you really go with the big hitter who's never been part of a productive secondary over the other big hitter who has been?
With Carter, Fields and Hunter already elected to the first team, it seems like this might have been TCU voters' fatigue. How can we elect four defensive players from a team that went 4-8?!
Hit: Shawn Oakman Not on the First Team
This is a "hit" that, in hindsight, at the end of the season, might look like a glaringly obvious "miss." But so be it.
Shawn Oakman shouldn't have been on the first team.
Yes, his potential is enormous—just like everything else about him. Oakman is 6'9" and looked dominant throughout spring practice. Baylor has a good offensive line, but according to Max Olson of ESPN.com, head coach Art Briles said of Oakman, simply, "We can't block him, and I don't think anyone else will, either."
But Oakman faded at the end of last season, racking up eight of his 12.5 tackles for loss in the first three games against Wofford, Buffalo and UL-Monroe. His only four tackles for loss against Big 12 opponents came against West Virginia, Iowa State and Kansas—the three worst teams in the league. His numbers were a little inflated.
Not inflated are the numbers of the three defensive ends who made the team: Mueller (18.5 TFL), Cedric Reed (16.5 TFL) and Fields (18.5 TFL in 2012). Fields was hurt for most of last season but was the league's top defender two years ago.
Whom from that list should Oakman have made it over?
Miss: Charles Tapper Not on the First Team
This goes hand-in-hand with Oakman, and even though I just spent a slide explaining why the defensive line is too stacked for Baylor's top end to make it, the omission of Oklahoma's is confusing.
Why? Because Charles Tapper didn't fade down the stretch last season. In fact, he might have gotten better. His six-tackle game against Oklahoma State was probably his best performance of the season, and he held his own (and then some) against Alabama too.
What's more—and this is the important part—Tapper was voted to the All-Big 12 first team last season! He was next to Mueller and ahead of Reed (and Fields).
Even with Jackson Jeffcoat demanding double-teams opposite him, Reed did not do enough to rank ahead of Tapper in 2013. But now, without Jeffcoat, he's supposed to have the better year?
What else about the situation has changed?
Hit: Love for Kansas LB Ben Heeney
It would have been easy for the Big 12 media—just like the rest of the country—to disregard almost everything about Kansas football. Ignoring the Jayhawks makes their conference look a little better.
But Ben Heeney has been a bright spot in an otherwise dark situation the past two seasons, racking up 199 total tackles. He has helped keep the KU defense strangely competitive—No. 66 in defensive F/+ last season—despite getting no help on the other side of the ball.
More highly touted/better-known players such as Steve Edmond and Jordan Hicks at Texas and Geno Grissom at Oklahoma could have easily taken Heeney's spot. Even though that would have been misguided, a cynical mind might have even expected it.
But the voters gave credit where it was due.