It’s Big 12 preview week. Here is a look at the top five position groups in the conference heading into the season.
1. OKLAHOMA WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS
Marvin Mims really impressed as a true freshman, and the stats bear that out, as PFF graded him among the top 10 in all of FBS. He’s a big-play threat waiting to happen on every snap. Theo Wease and Jadon Haselwood round out a top three that’s easily the best in the conference and one of the top units in the country.
And watch out for freshmen Jalil Farooq, Mario Williams and Cody Jackson – the Sooners seem to have a freshman that pops every year, so one of these guys is likely to be a big contributor in their first year. Add in Austin Stogner and Jeremiah Hall at tight end and Spencer Rattler has an embarrassment of weapons at his disposal.
2. TEXAS RUNNING BACKS
Steve Sarkisian will not lack for options in the backfield in his first season as head coach in Austin, as he returns Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson, and brings transfer Keilan Robinson over with him from Alabama. Bijan Robinson really exploded in the second half of last season, emerging as one of the top backs in the country. Johnson, a converted quarterback, averaged better than five yards per rush last season as well, and Keilan Robinson is a former four-star recruit out of D.C. who has a lot of potential as both a rusher and pass catcher.
The Longhorns will need to lean on the run game this year as they break in a new quarterback after the seemingly eternal career of Sam Ehlinger.
3. TCU DEFENSIVE BACKS
Despite losing two of the best safeties in the country to the draft in Trevon Moehrig and Ar’Darrius Washington, this group is still outstanding. It will be the corners who are the stars of the squad this year however. Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson is arguably the top cornerback in the conference, as he allowed only 12 catches on 45 targets last season and earned PFF’s top coverage grade in the country along the way.
Across from him, Noah Daniels is a really nice piece of the puzzle, but he’s coming off of a season-ending injury last year, so his recovery is paramount for this group. The Horned Frogs picked up one of the best under-the-radar players in the portal with the addition of former Memphis safety T.J. Carter, who looks to replace Moehrig immediately.
4. IOWA STATE LINEBACKERS
Mike Rose returns to lead a unit that really has no holes. Rose is one of the best run defenders in the game, earning PFF’s top run defense grade among all defenders in 2020. Jake Hummel is a very versatile player and reliable tackler in space.
Will McDonald is a hybrid DE/OLB who gets after the passer with the best of them, earning first-team All-Big 12 honors last season. And O’Rien Vance returns as a senior for his third year as a starter. A really solid group all around.
5. OKLAHOMA OFFENSIVE LINE
The rich get richer as the Sooners added Wanya Morris from Tennessee, one of the best linemen available in the portal this offseason to an already stacked group. Despite the loss of all-conference center Creed Humphrey, there’s still a ton of top-shelf talent on this unit. Erik Swenson will return opposite Morris at tackle, hoping to build off of a great second half of the 2020 season where he led all FBS tackles in PFF’s pass blocking grade, and his backup Anton Harrison would start for most teams in the country.
On the interior, Tyrese Robinson is a fantastic guard, and Marquis Hayes opposite of him is no slouch either. The key for this unit will be getting new center Andrew Raym up to speed quickly in Lincoln Riley‘s up tempo offense.