ESPN has been rolling out it’s top 25 Big 12 players over the past month, completing the list on Friday. Of the 25, the Wildcats landed a solid 20 percent of the players with five – including two in the top ten. Here’s the list and what blogger David Ubben had to say about each honoree:
#21 Tyler Lockett:
Making the case for Lockett: Only Kansas threw the ball fewer times than K-State last year, and Texas was No. 8, with 398 attempts to K-State’s 315. In a fast-paced, passing offense like Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Texas Tech or Oklahoma that constantly threatens 500 pass attempts, I’ve got no doubt that Lockett would be a 1,000-yard receiver. His breakout game was against Oklahoma State as a freshman in 2011, when it was evident early on that K-State was intent on getting him as many touches as possible. He suffered a kidney injury that season that ended his year, but clearly took a big step in 2012 once he was healthy. By the end of 2013, don’t be surprised to see Lockett in the top 10 of this list.
#16 Cornelius Lucas:
Making the case for Lucas: Consider Lucas a warning shot from Kansas State to the rest of the Big 12. This time last year, nobody knew who Lucas was and for good reason: He had hardly played. As a junior in his first season as a starter, he emerged as one of the Big 12’s top linemen.
The long-armed 6-foot-9, 328-pounder has freakish size and used his length to make a big splash as a first year starter for an offensive line full of questions in front of Collin Klein. He was just a two-star prospect who signed with the Wildcats as a 280-pound kid from New Orleans that only non-AQ schools in the area like Tulane or Louisiana-Lafayette were chasing.
For obvious reasons, his new size has NFL scouts eyeing him, and he kept the quickness and athleticism you’d expect from a smaller tackle. Now that he’s filled out his frame, though, he’s an imposing presence that should help K-State hold off a strong class of defensive linemen across the Big 12 this season.
#14 B.J. Finney:
Making the case for Finney: Bill Snyder, y’all. Kansas State had arguably the best offensive line in the Big 12 last season, and Finney was the best player on it. He was a second-year starter who’ll enter his third year as the middle of the Wildcats’ line.
Most impressive? He began his career as a walk-on and has matured into one of the Wildcats’ leaders. K-State has been 21-5 with him snapping the ball to Collin Klein, and even though K-State will be breaking in a new quarterback this fall, Finney and the four guys flanking him (including No. 16 on this list, LT Cornelius Lucas) will provide a strong performance up front. Finney, a 6-foot-4, 303-pound native of Andale, Kan., was a freshman All-American back in 2011 and figured to keep improving.
#9 Ty Zimmerman:
Making the case for Zimmerman: The 6-foot-1, 204-pounder will be a fourth-year starter this season and has entrenched himself as one of the defense’s leaders since he earned freshman All-American honors in 2010. Before sitting out against Baylor, he had started 35 consecutive games and picked off passes in K-State’s first four Big 12 games, including wins over Oklahoma and West Virginia. All five of his interceptions came in Big 12 play, more than any other player in the conference.
He’s the Big 12’s best returning safety, and as long as he stays healthy he should stand alone as the best man in the league at his position for 2013.
#7 John Hubert:
Making the case for Hubert: Collin Klein’s earned all the attention in K-State’s backfield the last two seasons, but Hubert’s presence and talent get overlooked a) as a fact on its own and b) as part of the reason for Klein’s success.
Klein was a truly great player, but defenses had to respect Hubert, and he’s logged a pair of 945-yard seasons as K-State has racked up a 21-5 record in the last two seasons. Two years ago, everybody thought Bryce Brown was the future at the position, and if you saw him break out for the Philadelphia Eagles last season, you might think he had left K-State after a stellar career. Hubert was better, and Brown never became a factor in K-State’s offense. The 5-foot-7, 191-pound Waco, Texas native is way, way harder to bring down than he looks (just ask defenders across the league) and this year, he’s eyeing his first 1,000-yard season. I’d say without a quarterback logging 517 carries over the past two seasons, Hubert would be in perfect position to log a third consecutive 1,000-yard season.
Two of the players were the highest rated at their position in the Big 12 – Lucas at tackle and Zimmerman at safety. Hubert and Finney are ranked second in the conference, although they are ranked behind arguably the best in that nation at running back (Baylor’s Lance Seastrunk) and center (Oklahoma’s Gabe Ikard, who will be the first center drafted next year). Three receivers are ranked ahead of Lockett, although there is no better kick returner in the league than him.