Big 12 Media Days are right around the corner, signaling the start of football season.
On July 15th and 16th, the eyes of the nation will descend onto The Star in Frisco, Texas as the Big 12 holds its preseason showcase.
With four new faces amongst the head coaches, there will be intrigue aplenty as we will get our first real looks at the new hires in the conference. But, just as intriguing as the new coaches will be, so will the four players flanking all of the coaches representing their teams.
Since we already know the coaches attending media day, let’s try and project the players each coach will bring along to help sell their respective programs.
Les Miles makes his grand return to sidelines around the Big 12 this season, taking over arguably the toughest challenge in college football. While Les is already well known in these parts, the players he brings with him will not carry the same notoriety as the Mad Hatter.
Khalil Herbert, RB- With the off-field issues Pooka Williams Jr. had this past winter, Kansas will likely leave him in Lawrence. Stepping up in his place would be senior Khalil Herbert. Herbert is no stranger to media day, as he represented the Jayhawks last season at The Star. Herbert finished last season with five rushing touchdowns, good enough for the second most rushing touchdowns for the Jayhawks.
Daylon Charlot, WR- Miles has yet to name a starter in the ongoing quarterback competition, so simply taking the first team signal-caller to Frisco is likely out of the question for the Jayhawks. In their absence, we may see Daylon Charlot. Charlot is a senior wide receiver who has yet to make a significant impact. It is now or never for the former 5-star recruit, and Miles may turn to him for leadership on the offensive side of the football in July.
Hasan Defense, CB- The senior corner looks to build on his successful junior campaign. Defense led the way in a Jayhawk secondary that finished 20th in the country in interceptions, snagging three picks.
Bryce Torneden, S- Torneden also made a mark on the back end for the Jayhawks last season. After recording 57 solo tackles, and a pick-six, Torneden can be relied upon for leadership by Miles and co.
Kansas State Wildcats
The retirement of Bill Synder makes way for a new era of Wildcat football. Chris Klieman inherits a program not exactly stocked full of eye catching talent on either side of the football. But Klieman does know a thing or two about winning, as he won four of the last five FCS national titles with North Dakota State.
Scott Frantz, LT- The Wildcats return 93 combined starts on the o-line, giving Klieman the building blocks for success. Frantz started every single game last season at left tackle, putting the senior in a great position to represent his school.
Adam Holtorf, C- Another senior in the trenches, Holtorf anchored the line at center in every game last season. Without much flash for the Wildcats offense, leaning on the lineman is vintage Kansas State football.
Reggie Walker, DE- Walker was outstanding for the Wildcats last season, recording 35 tackles, with 12.5 of those being tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks and adding four forced fumbles. Walker will be a key to the defense this season.
Kyle Ball, DE- Anchoring the other side of the line, Kyle Ball looks to make the most of his final season in Manhattan. An honorable mention all-Big 12 nominee last season, Ball joins Walker as the strength of the Kansas State defense.
Texas Tech Red Raiders
Kliff Kingsbury is gone, and the Matt Wells era has begun in Lubbock. Wells will find an explosive offense and a porous defense at his disposal as he attempts to help the Red Raiders turn the corner and return to Big 12 prominence.
Alan Bowman, QB- Bowman proved to be the latest product of the Red Raider quarterback factory last season, putting in impressive performance after impressive performance before having his year cut short due to injury. After earning an honorable mention for offensive freshman of the year in the post season conference awards, Bowman looks to fire the Red Raider offense to success. Bowman was named 1-of-16 captains for the upcoming season by Wells this spring.
Ta’Zhawn Henry, RB- The sophomore running back joins Bowman in the horde of Red Raider captains announced already. In his freshman campaign, Henry led the team in rushing touchdowns with eight, and was second in rushing yards with 341.
Jordyn Brooks, LB- Brooks was one of the few bright spots on defense last year, leading the way with 84 tackles. The senior captain looks to anchor the Texas Tech defense while the team acclimates to the new coaching staff.
Riko Jeffers, LB- The other returning starter from the Red Raider linebacking core, Jeffers finished third on the team in tackles last season with 71. In the absence of Dakota Allen, the junior will join Brooks in the effort to turn around the much maligned Texas Tech defense.
Matt Rhule continues his rebuild in Waco with some known quantities. He has one of the better returning quarterbacks in the league, and an improving defense ready to propel the Bears out of the bottom tier of the conference back into the middle of the pack.
Charlie Brewer, QB- It would be a shocker if Rhule didn’t bring his standout junior quarterback to Frisco in July. Behind 3,019 yards, 19 touchdowns and just 9 interceptions last season, Brewer led the Bears to a six win improvement from 2017.
Denzel Mims, WR- After a disappointing season last year by Mims’ standards, the senior looks to have a bounce back year in his last season in Waco.
Clay Johnston, LB- The linebackers look to be the strength of the Baylor defense this season, expect that to be reflected in Rhule’s selections for media day. Johnston looks to build on his 64 solo tackles for the Bears last season, which earned him second team all Big-12 honors.
Jordan Williams, LB- The Paris, Texas native will be looked upon to lead the defense this season. After recording 52 total tackles last season, Williams should be primed for a standout season at the heart of the defense.
West Virginia Mountaineers
Neal Brown takes over for Dana Holgorsen, and has plenty of weapons to replace in Morgantown. With Will Grier graduating, Brown will oversee a quarterback battle between Jack Allison and former Sooner Austin Kendall.
TJ Simmons, WR- Davis Sills V and Gary Jennings Jr. have graduated, and with Marcus Simms reportedly moving on as well, Simmons finds himself the leader of the Mountaineer wide receiver room, and a veteran voice on the offense.
Kennedy McKoy, RB- McKoy led West Virginia in rushing last season with 802 yards and eight touchdowns. With question marks at the quarterback position, I expect Brown to lean on McKoy as the face of the offense next month.
Josh Norwood, CB- In his first season in Morgantown, Norwood made an immediate impact with 64 total tackles, 11 pass breakups and two forced fumbles. Norwood would be a great choice to represent the Mountaineer secondary in the midst of the uncertainty surrounding the safeties in Morgantown.
Dylan Tonkery, LB- Despite injuries, Tonkery still finished fourth on the team in tackles for loss last season. Healthy and flashing in spring practice, Tonkery could feature in the middle of the field for West Virginia this season.
TCU Horned Frogs
Gary Patterson looks to recalibrate after a down season by his standards. With a quarterback competition still ongoing, Patterson will likely look elsewhere to represent his squad next month.
Jalen Reagor, WR- Reagor was nothing short of explosive in 2018. Logging 1061 yards and nine touchdowns on 14.7 yards per catch, Reagor enters the year as one of the best pass catchers in the conference. I expect Patterson to look to Reagor for leadership in July.
Darius Anderson, RB- Before his injury against Oklahoma in 2017, Anderson was a fantastic back for the Horned Frogs. Totaling 1595 yards and 12 touchdowns over his career thus far, Anderson will look to leave Ft. Worth on a high note with a big senior campaign.
Garret Wallow, LB- Featuring both at linebacker and briefly at safety last season, Wallow finished third on the team in tackles in his sophomore season under Patterson. His coach will look to him to help fill the leadership void left behind by the departing seniors.
Jeff Gladney Sr., CB- Gladney registered 13 pass breakups last season, the best mark on a fantastic Horned Frog secondary last season. Gladney has featured in almost every game of his TCU career, I expect Gary Patterson to turn to him again for media day.
Iowa State Cyclones- Matt Campbell looks to guide his team into the upper echelon of the Big 12 and compete for a bid to the title game in Dallas in December. Despite losing David Montgomery and Hakeem Butler to the NFL draft, Campbell looks to have the pieces to continue Iowa State’s ascendence into conference relevance.
Brock Purdy, QB- Purdy looks to build on his Big 12 Freshman of the Year campaign in his second season with the Cyclones. Firmly cementing himself as the starter at the end of last season, Campbell will likely turn to him to lead his team sans Montgomery.
Julian Good-Jones, OL- Starting every game last season in various spots across the line, the senior returns as one of the most experienced lineman in the conference.
Ray Lima, DT- Lima represented Iowa State on this same stage last season, and I see no reason as to why he wouldn’t return to Frisco in July. Earning second team all-Big 12 honors last season, Lima will look to improve on his 34 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss last season.
Greg Eisworth, S- Eisworth is another budding star for the Cyclones. In his freshman season, he led the team in tackles per game with 7.3, earning first team all-Big 12 honors and picking up the Defensive Newcomer of the Year award.
Texas Longhorns- Tom Herman led the Longhorns to a bounce back season last year, highlighted with wins over Oklahoma and Georgia. Herman will return his quarterback and young stars on both sides of the football, hoping to build on the success last year.
Sam Ehlinger, QB- After the huge win over Georgia, Ehlinger embraced the memes and declared Texas to indeed be back. And his play backs it up. Posting a 64.7 percent completion percentage last year, Ehlinger threw for 3,296 yards and 25 touchdowns while only surrendering five interceptions. He also added 482 yards and 16 scores on the ground, and will be looked to as the unquestioned leader of the Longhorns.
Collin Johnson, WR- With LJ Humphrey moving on, Johnson will be Ehlinger’s primary weapon heading into the season. Johnson has appeared in 38 games in his three seasons in Austin, and will likely be trusted to say all the right things by Coach Herman.
Caden Sterns, S- The 2018 Defensive Freshman of the Year was nothing short of outstanding for the Longhorns last season. Sterns will be looked to as the leader of the Texas defense after they lost a few starters from last season.
Malcolm Roach, DE- Roach brings his veteran presence back to the Longhorn defensive line. It’s now or never for the former Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year. Expect Herman to turn to him as a leader this season.
Oklahoma State Cowboys- Mike Gundy and his glorious mullet will look to get the Cowboys back on track after a rebuilding year in Stillwater. With the quarterback competition ongoing, Gundy will likely look to established playmakers to tow the company line.
Chuba Hubbard, RB- After proving to be a great compliment to Justice Hill, Hubbard will be leading the backfield in Stillwater in 2019. Logging 740 yards and seven touchdowns for the Cowboys last season, look for Gundy to empower his leading back at media days next month.
Tylan Wallace, WR- Oklahoma State’s wait for their next great pass catcher didn’t last very long with the emergence of Wallace last season. A Biletnikoff finalist last season, look for Wallace to get his campaign for the award kicked off in style at The Star.
AJ Green, CB- Green’s 11 pass breakups and interception last season earned him a second team all-Big 12 selection last season. Gundy will look to Green as the leader of his secondary and one of the leaders of his defense in 2019.
Calvin Bundage, LB- If Green is the rock in the OSU secondary, the Bundage is without a doubt going to be the heartbeat of the front seven. The senior will have to have his motor running on every play this season, as he will be looked up to by everyone else in the front seven after the loss of Jordon Brailford.
Oklahoma Sooners- Coming off a second consecutive visit to the College Football Playoff, Lincoln Riley has acquired yet another transfer quarterback who looks to lead the Sooners through the Big 12 yet again. After appointing Alex Grinch to revamp the defense, will the Sooners have enough talent left to notch a fifth consecutive Big 12 crown?
Jalen Hurts, QB- The Alabama transfer has big shoes to fill. After back-to-back Heisman trophies, the expectations will be heaped onto Hurts. Coming from Alabama, Hurts is no stranger to pressure however, and expect Riley to give him the nod heading into media day.
Creed Humphrey, C- Oklahoma had four of their five starters on the line drafted. Humphrey may end up the most talented of the bunch though when it’s all said and done. Coach Bedenbaugh’s players are prepared for any situation, so don’t expect some face time in front of the media to phase Humphrey.
Kenneth Murray, LB- Murray represented the Sooners in Frisco last year, so expect to see him again. Though his season didn’t live up to his expectations, he was still the voice of the defense, so it’ll be interesting to hear his take on the new defensive coaching staff.
Neville Gallimore, DT- Gallimore was good when he was healthy last season. After reportedly dropping some weight in the offseason to fit Grinch’s #SpeedD mold, Gallimore is primed for a breakout senior season.