MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — We’re in the process counting down the top 25 players heading into the Big 12 football season. It’s a list built on subjectivity, ripe for debate and sure to inspire some squawking. Your constructive criticism, as always, is welcome.
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 Day 2 of the countdown featuring Nos. 20 through 16:
20. MIKE DAVIS, senior, wide receiver, Texas
Davis put the Longhorns staff—not to mention Joe Schad—through a long day of waffling on Jan. 10, saying he would enter the NFL draft and then reversing course. That sage decision to stay in school gave Davis a chance to build on a 57-catch junior season. He broke the 100-yard mark four times and came up clutch on two game-saving drives at Oklahoma State and Kansas.
19. TY ZIMMERMAN, senior, safety, Kansas State
K-State returns only one defensive starter, but Zimmerman is a splendid one—the lightly recruited high school quarterback who has made 36 starts in Bill Snyder’s secondary. He’s a 6-foot-1, 205-pounder with 4.5 speed and his savvy was missed when a foot injury sidelined him for the Wildcats’ lone regular-season loss at Baylor last year.
18. CALVIN BARNETT, senior, defensive tackle, Oklahoma State
The junior college transfer announced himself to the college football universe with two personal fouls on the same play at Arizona, but by season’s end he was being disruptive in ways that Mike Gundy approved. Strong and agile at 6-foot-2 and 300 pounds, Barnett made 30 tackles, including 8.5 for loss. That was good enough to be selected as the Big 12′s defensive newcomer of the year.
17. JOE BERGERON, junior, running back, Texas
Just when it looked as though the 245-pound Bergeron was blossoming into an NFL-sized fullback, he entered preseason camp at 225 intent on flashing more tailback speed. Though he’ll never be a burner, Bergeron has established himself as UT’s go-to guy in the redzone—he ran for 16 touchdowns in 2012, including five against Baylor and four versus WVU.
16. JUSTIN GILBERT, senior, cornerback, Oklahoma State
During the months between intercepting Andrew Luck in the Fiesta Bowl and beginning his junior season at OSU as a bona-fide NFL prospect, Gilbert fell victim to the hype. He wound up with zero interceptions in 2012, suffered from sloppy technique and was called out by Mike Gundy for underperforming. Now he’s reportedly on a mission and hoping to benefit from more press coverage in contrast to the soft back-pedal OSU utilized last fall. Gilbert’s also a stellar returner as evidenced by his 96-yard runback against WVU, which tied the Big 12 career touchdown mark at five.
21. Cornelius Lucas, senior, left tackle, Kansas State
22. Quinton Spain, junior, left tackle, West Virginia
23. Casey Pachall, senior, quarterback, TCU
24. Karl Joseph, sophomore, safety, West Virginia
25. Tevin Reese, senior, wide receiver, Baylor