Hits and Misses from Big 12 Preseason All-Conference Team
The countdown to the start of the 2015 Big 12 season hit a high point Wednesday with the release of the preseason all-conference team, as voted on by media members who cover the league.
For the second straight year, Baylor leads the league in preseason selections with seven on the 2015 list. The Bears contingent is headlined by star defensive lineman Shawn Oakman and top wide receiver Corey Coleman.
TCU and Oklahoma, the other two top contenders for the Big 12 crown this season, slightly trail Baylor with five players each on the preseason team. Heisman contender Trevone Boykin stars for the Horned Frogs as the Sooners add a defensive one-two punch of linebacker Eric Striker and defensive back Zack Sanchez.
Iowa State and Kansas were the only two teams without a player on this team, while a rebuilding Texas only had one in defensive back Duke Thomas.
The Big 12 media appear to have aced most of their preseason picks, which feature a couple of welcome surprises and a few up for debate. Here are the highlights, hits and misses on the squad.
Hit: The Entire Backfield
The quarterback and running back spots on the preseason All-Big 12 team are as straightforward as they come.
TCU's Trevone Boykin had more passing yards and touchdowns than anyone else in the Big 12—including departed Baylor star Bryce Petty—and is the front-runner for this year's Heisman Trophy, according to Odds Shark. Boykin is one of the easiest calls in preseason history as the Big 12's first-team quarterback and offensive player of the year.
At running back, Oklahoma's Samaje Perine takes a slot after leading the conference in total rushing yards and touchdowns as a freshman. He also holds the all-time FBS record for most rushing yards in one game, so there's no arguing his selection.
Baylor's Shock Linwood joins Boykin and Perine in the All-Big 12 backfield—and for good reason. Linwood was the No. 2 rusher in the conference last season with 1,252 yards and 16 touchdowns in the Bears' warp-speed offense. Throw Kansas State fullback Glenn Gronkowski and Oklahoma State newcomer Chris Carson into the mix, and you have five stone-cold locks.
Hit: All Three Receivers
The voters also scored with all three of the wide receiver picks. Even in a conference that features a ton of great wideouts, this trio was the clear-cut way to go here.
Baylor's Corey Coleman is the top returning receiver in the Big 12 with 111.9 yards per contest and 11 touchdowns last season. He ranked third in the league in yardage despite missing the first three games of the season, which were all blowout wins against nonconference opponents.
Oklahoma's Sterling Shepard returns to the first team after finishing 2014 with a nod as one of the conference's best receivers. Shepard averaged a stunning 19.02 yards per catch last season, which ranked third nationally among wideouts with at least 50 receptions.
Perhaps the only debate could've come with the third receiver selection. The Big 12 media tabbed TCU's Josh Doctson, although Baylor's KD Cannon had slightly more yards than Doctson last season. But Doctson was tied for the league lead with 11 touchdowns, making for a great trio from the top three teams in the Big 12.
Miss: Joey Hunt over Kyle Fuller at Center
Both Baylor and TCU's fast-paced offenses demand some elite play from their respective centers. Players in that position are often called the "second quarterbacks," as they have to diagnose opposing fronts, deliver great shotgun snaps and then block oncoming defenders.
TCU's Joey Hunt is a fantastic center who grabbed a second-team spot last year, but Baylor's Kyle Fuller would be a better pick.
Fuller touches the ball on every play for the nation's No. 1 offense, and the Bears didn't miss a beat last season in his first year with that responsibility. According to his bio on the school's official website, he led the team in knockdown blocks and averaged a coaches grade of 87.3 percent on the season.
No knocking Hunt, but what Fuller does for the top attack in college football gives him the slight edge over his counterpart at TCU.
Hit: Shawn Oakman as Defensive Player of the Year
Last year at this time, Baylor defensive lineman Shawn Oakman's exclusion from the preseason first team was the subject of hot debate.
The 6'9" Bear proved he belonged on that list later in the fall with the second-most tackles for loss and sacks in the entire conference.
The Big 12 has several great defensive linemen and linebackers back for the 2015 season, and most of them are well-represented on the preseason team, from Oklahoma State's Emmanuel Ogbah to Oklahoma's Eric Striker. Each name across the front eight—there's an extra spot there—is a deserving choice.
Oakman has the size, strength, skills, stats and star power to potentially run away with this conference award. He should get more help from an improving Baylor defensive front this season, and the spotlight will be on him from the opening whistle. Some may say Oakman has too much hype heading into the season, but his resume says it's all warranted.
Hit: Love for Kevin Peterson
Oklahoma State cornerback Kevin Peterson didn't even grab an honorable mention spot on last year's All-Big 12 team, but the Cowboys senior is starting to get some due recognition for his play last season.
Peterson tied for fourth in the conference on pass breakups and shut down star West Virginia receiver Kevin White for just three catches in their matchup. He also recorded two interceptions on the year, sealing the Cowboys' bowl victory over Washington with the second one.
Ties in voting added a sixth defensive back spot to the preseason team, and it's good to see Peterson nabbing one of those among a crowded field of Big 12 stars.
Miss: Josh Lambert over Matthew McCrane
West Virginia kicker Josh Lambert's 30 field goals led the nation last year, but he converted only 76.9 percent of his kicks.
Putting up points is important as a kicker, but accuracy is preferred over sheer number of attempts, and Matthew McCrane was almost automatic last season.
After taking over the kicking job for Kansas State after the Wildcats' close loss to Auburn, McCrane went 18-of-19 with his attempts last season. His 94.7 percent clip was tied for the best mark in the entire country, and he was a perfect 5-of-5 from 40 yards or longer.
It's great that Lambert's production last season caused Dana Holgorson to actually talk to him, but McCrane's precision as the nation's most accurate kicker from a year ago should've been enough to bump him off this preseason team.
Miss: Taylor Symmank over Ethan Perry at Punter
Yes, Taylor Symmank is the top returning punter in the Big 12 this season and had a 3.4-yard advantage on Ethan Perry in punt average last season.
But Perry's work at punter for TCU last year was simply historic, according to Fox Sports' David Ubben, who voted for the Horned Frog in his ballot.
"Statisticians believe TCU's 2014 team is likely the only one in college football history to finish the season with negative defensive punt return yardage (minus-9) for the season," Ubben wrote. "That starts with accuracy from Perry, keeping punts inside his coverage and angling it where it needs to go."
Of Perry's 64 punts last season, only eight were returned by opponents for a combined nine yards—in the other direction. Symmank is a fantastic punter for Texas Tech, but Perry and his coverage team deserve the nod here.
All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com unless otherwise noted.
Justin Ferguson is an on-call college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.