MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — From deep inside the MetroNews war room, we continue counting down the top 25 players heading into the Big 12 football season. Your feedback 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 3 of the countdown featuring Nos. 15 through 11:
15. TREY MILLARD, senior, fullback, Oklahoma
Though he might have been the top-rated fullback in last April’s NFL draft, Millard returned to OU for his senior season. At more than 250 pounds, he’s a crunchy blocker who’s also astonishingly nimble. Just witness him hurdling Texas defenders in the Sooners’ 63-21 Red River romp. After Millard averaged 6 yards per carry and caught 30 passes for an 11.2-yard average, OU might feed him the ball a bit more in 2013. “It seems when you put it in the ‘Fat Back’s’ hands, he makes big plays,” said Oklahoma center Gabe Ikard.
14. GABE IKARD, senior, center, Oklahoma
When offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh left WVU for the Oklahoma plains, he inherited one of the most versatile linemen in the nation. Ikard played his high school ball as a 240-pound tight end in nearby Oklahoma City, earned freshman All-America honors at guard, and now the fifth-year senior has finally edged past the 300 mark as a Rimington Award candidate at center.
13. JOHNATHAN GRAY, sophomore, running back, Texas
The Lone Star state loves its five-star recruits and Gray showed as a freshman he deserved the adoration, leading UT’s committee of backs with 701 yards rushing (including a season-long 49-yarder against West Virginia). Perhaps the only thing slowing Gray’s ascension into an All-American candidate is the company within his own backfield—where Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown are too good to take a back seat.
12. DAMIEN WILLIAMS, senior, running back, Oklahoma
A take-it-to-the-house threat from anywhere—as Texas learned on this run blitz—Williams averaged 6.1 yards per carry in OU’s 10 wins and only 2.6 in the Sooners’ three losses. A shoo-in for 1,000-yard season if not for an ankle injury that curbed his production in November, he settled for 946 on the ground. His 34 receptions showed he can be a third-down back and useful outlet for whomever Bob Stoops names quarterback.
11. JACE AMARO, junior, tight end, Texas Tech
At 6-foot-5 and fleet as the Lubbock gusts, Amaro could explode under Kliff Kingsbury’s offense. Heck, even with Tommy Tuberville running the show last season, Amaro sure had his moments—including a 156-yard receiving day at the expense of WVU. That breakout day also left him bleeding internally thanks to a Terence Garvin hit, and by the time Amaro re-appeared for Tech’s bowl game, he was ejected for slugging a Minnesota player. Provided he can stay on the field this fall, anticipate Amaro making other BIg 12 teams wish they still used a tight end.
16. Justin Gilbert, senior, cornerback, Oklahoma State
17. Joe Bergeron, junior, running back, Texas
18. Calvin Barnett, senior, defensive tackle, Oklahoma State
19. Ty Zimmerman, senior, safety, Kansas State
20. Mike Davis, senior, wide receiver, Texas
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 Rease, senior, wide receiver, Baylor