The regular season is nearly over. Despite what it looks like—a down year overall for the Big 12—no one can deny the limitless depth and talent featured throughout the conference.
I firmly believe a very good argument could be made that the Big 12 is not only the second best football conference in the country, but it should feature a representative in the National Championship game as well.
There are more than just a few guys responsible for that kind of elite success within a single football conference, and as the season winds down it is time to pay tribute to those most deserving.
Consider this the second half (you should check out my defense edition, too)of my thank you to the Big 12 for yet another marvelous football season.
Here is the 2009, J.D. Schaller-version of the All-Big 12 Offense...
Chalk Okung is up on this list, no question.
The Oklahoma State senior has been among the best offensive linemen in the Big 12 since the end of his true freshman season. He is now arguably the best lineman in the entire country.
He has already been an All-Big 12 selection, an All-Big 12 honorable mention, and a Lombardi Award semi-finalist so far. I expect the honors to keep rolling in as he wraps up his best season yet.
There's not much more to say about Reggie Stephens except that he is the best offensive lineman on an underrated offensive line that willed its team to bowl eligibility.
(Maybe if they win a bowl game, I'll be able to find a picture of him.)
He's stocky (6' 3", 333 pounds), can play anywhere on the inside, and is even drawing the attention of several NFL scouts towards the Cyclone side of the football.
Like so many offensive linemen before him, Stephens is among the most under-appreciated players in the Big 12 conference, so I'll do my best to give him proper recognition here.
J.D. Walton has been one of the very few bright spots for the Baylor Bears this season. In fact, Walton looks like the lone shining star in an otherwise pitch-black Waco sky.
The true center has started every game since he first stepped on the field for the Bears as a red-shirt sophomore. Walton has now become one of the best. Another thing you have to love is the name; can't go wrong with 'J.D.'
But seriously, Robert Griffin would be the first to tell you that Jason Smith was really good, but this Rimington, Outland, and All-America candidate has a few things going for him as well.
It seems like the super-experienced senior has been on Rimington and Outland Trophy watch lists since he stepped foot on the field for Texas.
Hall started at least one game at every line position in 2007 alone. Now he has finally settled down into the center position, a role that may earn him a solid professional career.
I still think J.D. Walton is the best center in this conference, but Chris Hall can play guard—or anywhere else for that matter—on my team any day of the week.
Trent Williams is certainly more talented, especially when considering their potential at the next level. However, the absence of Phil Loadholt and Duke Robinson at Oklahoma has exposed Williams a bit.
This made Brandon Carter an easy pick here. The guy brings more size (6' 7", 360 pounds) and charisma—you don't play Texas Tech without hearing about Carter—to an offensive line than nearly anyone else you care to name.
Somebody has to be responsible for Texas Tech's year-in-year-out offensive success. I think Carter is the best place to start.
The long reign of great Missouri tight end is finally over, and Colorado is getting its best production from the position since the days of Joe Klopfenstein.
Riar Greer isn't particularly astounding. He does, however, happen to be a talented, experienced senior playing in one of the very few remaining offenses dependent on a tight end. As a result, he has thrived.
Greer currently tops all other Big 12 tight ends with 36 receptions, 402 yards, and four touchdowns. He is also an experienced, reliable blocker for whichever Colorado quarterback happens to be turning the ball over at the time as well.
Maybe he hasn't quite had the year Kansas fans expected. I suppose if 70 receptions, 1,095 yards—an astounding 15.6 yards per catch)—and seven touchdowns through 11 games is a down year, you've got something going for you.
The Jayhawks are still suffering through what is hopefully the tail end of a miserable offensive slump, but Briscoe has been reasonably consistent throughout. The only difference for him between this year and last is that he hasn't regularly produced the monstrous games the KU faithful are accustomed to.
Still, in terms of numbers, talent, or anything else you care to look at, Briscoe has been one of the best wide receivers in the Big 12 this season.
Jordan Shipley is as close to a purely unanimous choice as you'll ever find these days.
The Longhorn wide-out is the picture of consistency, has great speed, vision, and hands, and is the perfect teammate for a guy like Colt McCoy to have. Don't forget his abilities on special teams and how good a leader Shipley is.
The sixth year senior has only compiled 91 catches, 1,204 yards, and nine touchdowns while pulling in his passes at an average of 13.2 yards per grab in what has been the best season of his storied career under Mack Brown.
If you want to talk about a guy who has really come on late for a team in need, you should look at Danario Alexander.
His numbers over the entire year are impressive—92 catches, 1,411 yards, 15.3 yards per catch, 12 touchdowns. But his 34 catches, 587 yards, and five touchdowns over the last three games have been huge in Mizzou's late-season run.
This 6' 6" match up nightmare has worked his way onto almost every day one draft board in the country, and is out to prove he's worth every penny.
Have you lost your All-Conference running back recently? Do what Oklahoma State did; simply replace him with another!
That's what Keith Toston has been this season for the Cowboys—another All-Conference back. His numbers aren't quite what Kendall Hunter's were last season, but his 207 carries for 1,130 yards, 5.5 yards per carry, and 11 touchdowns are still near the very top of the Big 12 leader-board in every category.
Speaking of Hunter, the junior back will be the first to tell you how pleased he is with the success of Toston, and that his senior running-mate has merited every ounce of credit he will receive as the season comes to a close.
I have my doubts about Colt McCoy. The Heisman Trophy and first round aspirations for this guy?
But that's a different argument all together. The fact of the matter is that he is the most successful quarterbacks in the history of the Big 12, not to mention being unquestionably the best in the conference today.
How do 286 out of 392 passes completed for 3,024 yards, a 73 completion percentage, a 23 to nine touchdown to interception ratio, and 11 wins sound to you? Because doubts or no, they still sound pretty darn good to me.
Adam Ulatoski (Texas), Trent Williams (Oklahoma), Nick Stringer (Kansas State), Jacob Hickman (Nebraska), Kurtis Gregory (Missouri)
Mike McNeil (Nebraska)
Ryan Broyles (Oklahoma), Kerry Meier (Kansas)
Daniel Thomas (Kansas State), Roy Helu Jr. (Nebraska)
Jerrod Johnson (Texas A&M)
The All-Purpose Team:
Brandon Banks (WR, Kansas State), Baron Batch (RB, Texas Tech), DeMarco Murray (RB, Oklahoma)
Last Men Out:
Texas Tech currently has five wide receivers and one runningback (Batch) with 30 or more receptions. Red-shirt freshman Alexander Torres isn't breaking any of Michael Crabtree's freshman records, but is already the best of the bunch.
Also, if there was any need for a fullback in this group, true freshman Toben Opurum (Kansas) has to be the first name in mind.
Newcomer Of The Year: Daniel Thomas (RB, Kansas State)
Can you believe this guy was a quarterback in junior college? A lot of credit has to go to Thomas and his 247 carries for 1,265 yards and 11 touchdowns for the resurgence of Kansas State football.
Most Improved Player: Danario Alexander (WR, Missouri)
If it weren't for injuries and that blasted Jeremy Maclin, people would have been a lot more accustomed to hearing this guys name by now. Last year he produced a whopping 26 catches for 329 yards and five touchdowns.
Freshman Of The Year: Landry Jones (QB, Oklahoma)
This award could have gone several ways (Alexander Torres, Christine Michael, Toben Opurum, etc.), and Jones certainly has had his ups and downs. However, he's just a freshman and has overcome a bad offensive line to lead the Sooners to a 6-5 record thus far in a great conference.
(211/361, 2,556 yards, 58.4%, 23 touchdowns, 13 interceptions)
Offensive MVP/Player Of The Year: Colt McCoy (QB, Texas)
There just wasn't much of a question here. His stats won't blow you away, yet even in an average statistical year his numbers are still the best. The best statistic he owns right now is 11-0, and this super-experienced signal-caller will be the most integral piece of a twelfth victory and beyond.