Dale Sparks/WVUSports.com

West Virginia senior Justin Crawford is the Big 12’s top returning rusher from 2016 with 1,184 yards.

 

COMMENTARY

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Underdog programs adore playing up the disrespect narrative this time of year, and to that end, the All-Big 12 preseason team fed West Virginia a heap of talking points.

Running back Justin Crawford was the only Mountaineer to appear on the 29-member squad released Wednesday. That left WVU tied with Baylor and Kansas as the least recognized.

Iowa State and Texas Tech garnered two each, while Kansas State, TCU, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State placed four members on the team. Texas led the way with five players — one for each UT win in 2016? — which validates something: Either the Longhorns continue to be perpetually overrated, or Charlie Strong was even more abysmal than we realized.

MORE: The complete All-Big 12 preseason team

Of course, this team is selected by the media, most of whom reside in Texas, OKC and Kansas City. That makes it difficult for an outlier like West Virginia to grab notoriety.

But I’ll give my peers credit for forecasting West Virginia quarterback Will Grier as this year’s top newcomer, something even I failed to do. (Simply a ballot-filling braincramp on my part: Was scouring junior-college prospects, impact freshmen and graduate transfers and omitted Grier, who has been on campus for a year.)

Here were my three WVU picks who didn’t make the team: 26-game starter Kyle Bosch at guard, Kyzir White (a top-five strong safety prospect on NFL draft lists) and back-from-ACL-rehab Dravon Askew-Henry at free safety.

MORE: Allan Taylor’s All-Big 12 preseason ballot

Among other contradictions, I didn’t vote Baker Mayfield for offensive player of the year —went instead with Mason Rudolph, who has more weapons. And on the defensive side, I sided with Oklahoma linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo over Kansas defensive end Dorance Armstrong. (Have a hard time fathoming the kind of sack totals Armstrong would need to win a league-wide award on a three-win team.)

Coming up Thursday, the Big 12 releases its preseason poll with West Virginia expected to be middle-of-the-pack.

 

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