College Football 2011: Big 12 Players Poised for a Breakout Season
Every year, every college football team has a new contributor that was not there the previous season.
This void is usually the result of players leaving via graduation or the NFL draft.
Other times the coaching staff makes a decision to move a player to a new position or the player is simply the best option.
Regardless of the reason, player turnover is an unavoidable aspect of the college game. Student-athletes only get four years of eligibility, so it makes sustaining a winning program a little harder. Luckily, it makes up for it by exponentially increasing the opportunities for players trying to find their niche.
A breakout player is one that takes that new opportunity given to him and makes the most out of it.
Who will be this year's Justin Blackmon?
Baylor—Tevin Elliot OLB/DE (RS SO)
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2010 Stats: 36 Tackles, 9 TFL, 5 Sacks and 2 Forced Fumbles
Standing at 6-3 and 245 pounds, Elliot has played as an undersized defensive end for the Baylor squad his first two seasons.
He has bulked up by about forty pounds since stepping foot on campus. Therefore, it won’t be surprising if he throws on a few more pounds to aid him in pushing around some of the larger tackles in the Big XII.
As a redshirt freshman, Tevin Elliot led his team in sacks with five. That is a lot to expect from a freshman, but Elliot proved he was up to the task.
The kid has the potential to be an absolute monster because he plays with great tenacity and accelerates off the ball very quickly.
If he can hone his craft, there is no reason Elliot can’t be one of the best pass rushers in the Big XII.
Iowa State—Steele Jantz QB (JUCO Transfer)
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2010 Stats: 3,075 yards and 23 TDs passing, 601 yards and 14 TDs rushing
Steele Jantz and his ridiculous name transferred from City College of San Francisco after initially signing on with the University of Hawaii.
He was an electrifying playmaker with both his arm and his legs as he scored 37 touchdowns last year.
Austen Arnaud has left town after running out of eligibility, leaving a hole in the Cyclone depth chart. Jantz will begin spring practice as the second quarterback, but will be afforded ample opportunities to beat out Jerome Tiller, the new QB-1.
If he can displace Tiller, then there is no reason Jantz can’t be a very, very poor man’s Cam Newton. I’m talking, like, crazy old man with a three-legged dog, pushing around a grocery cart and selling newspapers poor.
Kansas—Darrian Miller RB (FR)
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2010 Stats: 2,226 yards and 30 TDs rushing
Kansas was not very good last year. Obvious statement, I know.
Their offense, ranked 111th, was stagnant and their defense, ranked 103rd, was non-existent. But they do have heart.
That much was clear when they made an epic fourth quarter comeback against Colorado. And they have Coach Turner Gill to thank for it.
That being said, what Coach Gill needs is some new blood.
Darrian Miller is an explosive true freshman running back who rushed for over two thousand yards in his senior season of high school.
Between his 30 touchdowns and Kansas’s lack of talent, there is little doubt that Miller will see the field in 2011 and likely be the Jayhawks’ best offensive weapon.
Kansas State—Bryce Brown RB (Transfer from Tennessee)
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2010 Stats: None
In 2009, Bryce Brown was a five star running back recruit coming out of Wichita, Kansas. He elected to play for Lane Kiffin and the Tennessee Vols, and even had a moderately successful rookie season in the SEC.
Brown sat out the 2010 season in order to transfer to Kansas State and be closer to home.
He is built similarly to Adrian Peterson at 6-1 and 215 pounds. With a sub 4.4 forty, he has similar speed too. The one thing he does not have is production.
Bryce Brown has the potential to be the best running back in the nation if he can just get his mind right.
I think he will be the workhorse to replace Daniel Thomas, the Wildcats’ productive runner from the past two seasons, and prove that he doesn’t deserve a bust label.
Missouri—Brad Madison DE (RS JR)
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2010 Stats: 31 Tackles, 11 TFL, 7.5 sacks and 2 Forced Fumbles
There is only one reason Madison didn’t start for the Mizzou defense last year—his name is Aldon Smith, a future first round pick.
Despite playing on the offensive line his freshman year, Madison has acclimated himself to sacking the quarterback instead of protecting him.
In fact, he is quite good at it with seven and a half sacks to his credit last year.
He has a terrific motor and is strong at the point of attack. He carries his 265 pounds well and is athletic enough to have multiple pass rushing moves.
Now that Aldon Smith is gone, expect Brad Madison to get a lot more publicity outside of Missouri.
Oklahoma—Roy Finch RB (SO)
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2010 Stats: 398 Yards and 2 Tds Rushing, 49 Yards Receiving
If Landry Jones and the Sooner offense are going to contend for a BCS Title in 2011, then they will need to find a suitable replacement for DeMarco Murray.
Enter Roy Finch.
Finch has a diminutive stature at 5-8, but don’t let his lack of size fool you. He packs a lot of muscle on to his small frame and is still capable of quickness and supreme agility.
Perhaps Finch’s greatest attribute, however, is his vision. Roy Finch has very good intuition for the opening of holes in the defense and is quick to exploit them.
If he can stay healthy, then Finch may become a strong point for Oklahoma’s offense, rather than a question.
Oklahoma State—Herschel Sims RB (FR)
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2010 Stats: 933 Yards and 9 TDs Rushing, 207 Yards and 2 TDs Receiving
Oklahoma State’s offense is in a very similar situation to their in-state rival, Oklahoma. Both schools return star quarterbacks and receivers, but are losing very good senior running backs.
Where Oklahoma probably has an answer already on their team, Oklahoma State isn’t so sure.
Herschel Sims is a small back, but he does everything really well while not excelling at anything in particular.
This actually fits in well with the Cowboys’ offensive scheme since they require a lot of versatility out of their running backs.
Sims's greatest contribution to the team will be catching passes out of the backfield, something he does very well.
With Oklahoma State being a pass happy team, Hershel Sims should see the field early and often. Given his ability to make big plays, he should be well on his way to being a factor in the Big XII by mid-season.
Texas—Emmanuel Acho OLB (SR)
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2010 Stats: 81 Tackles, 10.5 TFL, 3.5 Sacks, 1 Forced Fumble, 1 Fumble Recovery, 1 Interception and 1 Defensive TD
Based on his 2010 stats, some would say that Acho has already “broken out.”
For a typical player, I would say that is true. However, Emmanuel Acho is not a typical player and has the potential to be one of the best defenders in all of the Big XII.
With his older brother, Sam Acho, leaving for the draft, Emmanuel is primed to be a leader for a Longhorn team that should reclaim some of the dominance lost last year.
Emmanuel Acho is quick to the ball and a sure tackler. He is also a capable defender in both pass coverage and rushing the quarterback. His experience in both should help lead a good linebacking unit.
Look for the younger Acho to be the heart of a good defensive squad that improves over last year’s horrible team performance.
Texas A&M—Damontre Moore OLB/DE (SO)
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2010 Stats: 40 Tackles, 6.5 TFL, 5.5 Sacks, 3 Forced Fumbles and 1 Interception
Texas A&M is losing a monster at outside linebacker in Von Miller. The senior led the Aggie defense in sacks and all indications are that he will be a top five draft pick come April 20th.
Someone will need to replace a portion of Miller’s production. That is where Damontre Moore comes in.
As a true freshman, the standout linebacker made an impact by adding five sacks and four turnovers as a back up. It isn’t a stretch to think that his production will increase with playing time.
There have been some rumors that the A&M coaches will move him to one of the defensive end positions in the 3-4 alignment that the Aggies run. If this is true, then his responsibilities will shift more to run stopping than getting after the quarterback.
Either way, Moore has already shown that he can be a productive player if given the opportunity.
Texas Tech—Alex Torres WR (JR)
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2010 Stats: 39 Receptions for 481 Yards and 3 TDs
The Red Raider offense is facing some major turnover as they lose their top two receivers and the starting quarterback.
Since the system is as much a source of success for Texas Tech as the players, it is unlikely that there will be much decline in the 2011 season.
One of the reasons for this will be Alex Torres.
The wide receiver is comfortable in the system and quarterback Seth Doege should find him to be a reliable target with great hands and good route running ability.
One caution about Torres is his inability to stay on the field. He will need to stay relatively healthy for a full season to be the consistent contributor that he can be.
You can expect his 39 receptions to increase drastically as he becomes the Red Raiders’ number one receiver next year.