Which five players should you be keeping an eye on the Big 12 conference this season? Below, we’ll look at players who may not be household names today, but will be by the end of the 2022 college football season.
Xavier Worthy, WR, Texas
Worthy walked onto campus in Austin as a true freshman and eviscerated opposing secondary. He hauled in 981 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns with a 15.8 yards per reception average. He primarily lined up in the slot, but posed one of the biggest downfield threats in the Big 12.
Isaiah Neyor, who was sixth in yards per reception last year (19.95), transfers in from Wyoming and will likely draw some attention downfield. Mix in the coaching hire of Brennan Marion from Pitt (coached Biletnikoff Award winner Jordan Addison), and Xavier Worthy not only poses one of the biggest threats in the Big 12, but the entire nation.
He’s going to be in the Biletnikoff conversation this season.
Will McDonald IV, EDGE, Iowa State
It came as a pleasant surprise to Cyclone fans to hear their star pass rusher was coming back for a fifth and final season. McDonald landed on the third team All American list and was likely a high-round NFL Draft pick. Instead, he heads back to Ames for one more go around.
In 2021, McDonald’s racked up 11.5 sacks (most in the Big 12) and 13 tackles for losses. Over the last two seasons, those totals jump to 22 sacks and 26 TFLs. He’s a threat and many teams in the conference lost production on the offensive line.
Deuce Vaughn, RB, Kansas State
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Another surprise return to campus, Deuce Vaughn was named first team All American (all-purpose back). Following his award, he destroyed LSU’s defense in the Texas Bowl to the tune of 146 rushing yards and four total touchdowns.
The most obvious NFL comparison is the great Darren Sproles, who dominated in a versatile role for several years in the NFL. He gains Nebraska transfer quarterback Adrian Martinez this coming season, whose rushing ability could open up space for Vaughn.
JT Daniels, QB, West Virginia
JT Daniels is a two-time transfer who left USC to Georgia and Georgia for West Virginia, this time as a grad transfer. The move reunites him with his former QB coach and offensive coordinator Graham Harrell and opens the door for Daniels to finally get a shot.
The question surrounding his success is his ability to stay healthy – something he’s rarely done. Aside from the COVID-affected 2020 season, Daniels has played just one complete season in college after being one of the most anticipated high school recruits. The talent’s there, could we see Daniels have a Joe Burrow-esque ascent to relevance?
Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, CB, TCU
Folks in Fort Worth are keenly aware of what Hodges-Tomlinson is capable of, but the rest of the nation may not be. TCU’s defense was near the bottom of the nation in 2021 – leading to the dismissal of coach Gary Patterson – but it wasn’t because of their pass defense.
Hodges-Tomlinson was named a first team All-Big 12 corner last season and decided to forego the NFL Draft to play one more year for TCU. In 2021, he picked off two passes (one of which was returned for a touchdown), forced a pair of fumbles, and was sixth on the team with 32 solo tackles.
His stats this season may not be gaudy because teams will be throwing the opposite direction.
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