MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — During the next five days, we’ll be counting down the top 25 players heading into the Big 12 football season. It’s a list constructed on subjectivity, ripe for debate and sure to inspire some squawking. After all, that’s why we have a comment section.
What criteria went into the rankings? NFL potential factored somewhat, though not as much as career achievement and a player’s value within each team’s system. So let’s get on with the countdown, beginning with today’s revelation of Nos. 25 through 21:
25. TEVIN REESE, senior, receiver, Baylor
He made 51 catches at a clip of 17.2 yards per catch in 2011 (playing in the shadow of first-round pick Kendall Wright) and grabbed 53 receptions at 18.1 per in 2012 (playing alongside third-round pick Terrance Williams). Is this the year the senior becomes the go-to guy in Baylor’s “Bear Raid”? Eight of his catches went for 40 yards or longer last season, and Bryce Petty has the arm to hit Reese going deep. At only 5-foot-10 he’s sometimes hard to spot, so just watch the safety—Reese will be the guy streaking behind him.
24. KARL JOSEPH, sophomore, safety, West Virginia
The inclusion of any player from the WVU defense might seem like grounds for invalidating this list, but the impact Joseph made as a freshman was too great to overlook. Among his team-leading 104 tackles were 7.5 stops behind the line and several thumps that bolstered his rep as one of the league’s fiercest hitters. Joseph also grabbed two interceptions and recovered a game-saving goal line fumble at Iowa State. Not to overlook his tendency to be caught out-of-position, but on last year’s defense that was simply his way of blending in.
23. CASEY PACHALL, senior, quarterback, TCU
The media thought enough of Pachall’s recovery from his 2012 skirmish with substance abuse to make him the All-Big 12 preseason quarterback. As of this posting, however, he hadn’t even earned the starting nod over Trevone Boykin. A strong-armed 6-foot-5 pocket passer, Pachall owns a 15-2 record as a starter, and as of Week 4 last season he led the nation in passing efficiency. All that led up to his arrest on DWI charges and a season-ending suspension.
“I had that moment of clarity that I was screwing everything up and it was my fault, and I realized all the people I had let down,” Pachall said at the outset of fall camp.
Expect a moment of clarity from Gary Patterson sometime soon when he names Pachall the starter. If his off-the-field demons are truly tempered, Pachall could be one of the top five players in the league. For now, we’ll withhold judgment.
22. QUINTON SPAIN, junior, left tackle, West Virginia
Whoever wins the WVU quarterbacking job can thank this 6-foot-5, 335-pound beast for protecting his blindside. Spain’s got plenty of athleticism for pass protection, but he’s admittedly “a little excited” about the running game brewing with imports Charles Sims and Dreamius Smith and new offensive line coach Ron Crook. “Hey, they brought the power in for a reason,” said Spain.
21. CORNELIUS LUCAS, senior, left tackle, Kansas State
After a redshirt year and two underwhelming seasons as a backup, the 6-foot-9 Lucas finally made football a priority in 2012 and voila! became an All-Big 12 selection. Projected as a second-day NFL draft pick next spring, he’s the best of a K-State line that returns all five starters. He could wind up as the best lineman in the conference, though he’ll need to prove his focus and productivity remain intact for a second straight season.