QB Will Grier, WVU
6-2, 212, Sr. — Grier went 5-0 as a starter at Florida and 7-4 last year at WVU, eschewing the NFL draft in hopes of bettering a third-round grade. He threw for 3,490 yards, 34 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
RB David Montgomery, Iowa State
5-11, 216, Jr. — He might be a star if not for playing in the anonymity of Ames. Montgomery posted a 1,146-yard rushing season with 11 touchdowns, overcoming mediocre line play by being the Big 12’s best runner at broken tackles. He caught 36 passes to boot.
RB Rodney Anderson, Oklahoma
6-1, 220, Jr. — After a broken leg in 2015 and a broken neck in 2016, Anderson broke out in 2017 with 1,161 yards and a 6.2 yards-per-carry average that led the Big 12. A tall, rangy runner in the vein of OU greats Peterson, Murray and Mixon.
RB Justice Hill, Okla. State
5-10, 185, Jr. — The 2017 conference rushing cham had 15 rushing TDs. Hill opened his career with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. But Year 3 will be his first without the passing duo of Rudolph-to-Washington to relieve pressure.
WR Denzel Mims, Baylor
6-3, 209, Jr. — While the Bears’ passing game slipped to fifth in the Big 12, Mims endured a shaky start to his sophomore season. Still he wound up flashing some promising production: 61 catches for 1,087 yards and eight touchdowns).
WR Marquise Brown, Oklahoma
5-10, 168, Jr. — A juco product who chose OU over West Virginia, Brown’s 19.2 yards per catch trailed only James Washington the Big 12. He’s a dangerous after-the-catch receiver whose strong second half of the season led to 1,095 yards and seven TDs.
WR David Sills, WVU
6-4, 204, Sr. — Those touchdowns came in bunches (18 to lead the FBS) and his first season as a full-time receiver resulted in Sills becoming a Biletnikoff finalist. Sneaky fast and fundamentally amazing, Sills could be even more productive this fall given WVU’s array of targets.
TE Grant Calcaterra, Oklahoma
6-4, 221, So. — Mark Andrews hasn’t even gone to training camp yet with the Ravens and already Sooners fans are salivating over the next great OU tight end. Calcaterra played in 14 games as a 220-pound true freshman, catching three TDs, and he’ll likely inch closer to Andrews’ 250-pound frame after a year of training.
OL Dalton Risner, Kansas State
6-5, 300, Sr. — The center-turned-right-tackle has been an All Big 12 performer at both spots, and he’s one of five starters returning on K-State’s line this year.
OL Bobby Evans, Oklahoma
6-5, 301, Jr. — With Orlando Brown heading to the NFL, Oklahoma will have a less-mammoth but still-talented blocker at left tackle. Evans swaps from the right side where he has started 26 consecutive games.
OL Ben Powers, Oklahoma
6-4, 313, Sr. — For all the blue-chip recruits OU signs, Powers passed up a D-II scholarship out of high school and went the juco route in hopes of proving he belonged in DI. After 22 starts at guard for the Sooners, the gamble paid off.
OL Marcus Keyes, Okla. State
6-3, 309, Jr. — He has started all 26 games at left guard since redshirting in 2015. Last season he was part of the first Big 12 offense to produce a 4,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher, and two 1,000-yard receivers.
OL Yodny Cajuste, West Virginia
6-5, 321, Sr. — Last December, Cajuste recently graduated with a degree in multidisciplinary studies and then reassured WVU fans that he would be staying in college for his senior season. That was the smart call for the left tackle, whose development has been slowed by injuries.
PK Austin Seibert, Oklahoma
5-9, 214, Sr. — The Sooners’ triple-threat specialist is worth at least a couple scholarships. With 361 points, he’s within striking distance of Michael Hunnicutt’s career record (450). Siebert’s 17-of-21 performance on field goals included a 51-yarder.
KR/PR KaVontae Turpin, TCU
5-9, 157, Sr. — Slippery and explosive, Turpin’s 16.3-yard punt return average would have led the Big 12 if he had enough opportunities to qualify. Can’t fault punters for kicking away from him, though. He achieved a rarity of producing a touchdown by rushing, receiving, punt return, kick return and passing.
DL JaQuan Bailey, Iowa State
6-2, 251, Jr. — An athletic edge rusher whose 10.5 sacks through two seasons put him on pace to break the Cyclones’ career record. He’s an excitable player — just witness the celebratory somersault that erased a three-and-out vs. Texas and led to a Longhorns’ touchdown.
DL Daniel Wise, Kansas
6-3, 290, Sr. — The Jayhawks don’t have Power 5 talent at many spots, but Wise has been legit for a couple of seasons. After 16 TFLs and seven sacks last season, he contemplated an NFL jump but stayed in school to work on upper-body strength and ”be able to play up to par with a lot of the grown men in the league.”
DL Jordan Brailford, Oklahoma State
6-3, 250, Jr. — His five sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss stood out last year on a pedestrian defense that surrendered 29.4 points and 409 yards per game and yielded 39 percent success on third downs.
DL Ben Banogu, TCU
6-4, 249, Sr. — The 2017 Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year made 16.5 TFLs and 8.5 sacks. Despite projections that he’d be a first-day draft selection, Banogu returned to TCU for his senior season. Explosive off the edge, TCU has even watched him blanket receivers while dropping into weak-side pass coverage.
DL Breckyn Hager, Texas
6-3, 255, Sr.— The ex-linebacker needed time to acclimate after shifting to defensive end in 2017, and eventually produced nine TFLs, four sacks, and three hurries. With a 38-inch vertical leap, he has unusual measurables that make him an NFL prospect.
LB Joe Dineen Jr., Kansas
6-2, 235, Sr. — A bright spot for a Jayhawks defense that yielded 43 points per game, Dineen paced all FBS players with 7.6 solo tackles per game. He recorded 25 TFLs and his 137 overall stops were the most at KU in 28 seasons.
LB Dakota Allen, Texas Tech
6-1, 235, Sr. — A redemption project, Allen made 102 tackles last season in his return to Texas Tech after a year’s detour to junior college following an arrest in Lubbock. He also checked on his NFL evaluation before deciding to play his senior year in college. Texas Tech sure needs him after giving up 443 yards and 32 points per game in a 6-7 campaign.
LB David Long, West Virginia
5-11, 221, Jr. — Despite missing four games while recovering from knee surgery, Long led WVU with 15.5 tackles for loss in 2017. He’s a high-impact, tasmanian devil of an outside linebacker who can be electric slashing through gaps. Proof that he never lets up? Those 2.5 sacks against Utah in a hopeless bowl game.
DB Brian Peavy, Iowa State
5-9, 194, Sr. — A 34-game starter at cornerback over three seasons, Peavy received a fifth-round draft grade and returned to bolster the Cyclone defense. Feisty at 5-foot-9, he made 88 tackles and broke up 11 passes in 2017.
DB Kendall Adams, Kansas State
6-1, 228, Sr. — The safety owns 28 career starts and will be surrounded by returning veterans on a K-State defense that ranked sixth in the Big 12 (426 yards per game) and fourth in points allowed (25.2) Eleven of his 61 tackles and two of his three pass deflections came in the 28-23 loss to WVU.
DB Kris Boyd, Texas
6-0, 195, Sr. — The Longhorns’ secondary lost underclassmen DeShon Elliott and Holton Hill to the NFL draft, but Boyd re-upped for another year in Austin. A former Texas state track champion, he recorded 15 breakups and two interceptions last season.
DB Jah’Shawn Johnson, Texas Tech
5-10, 185, Sr. — He started 12 games in 2017 and was denied a 13th while sitting out the first half of the K-State game for targeting. An undersized but active safety, Johnson made 97 tackles.
DB Justus Parker, Texas Tech
6-0, 205, Jr. — What in the wide, wide world of sports is going on when three — THREE — Texas Tech defenders make the preseason all-conference team? Has David Gibbs turned a corner entering his fourth season? Parker intercepted four passes and forced four fumbles in 2017, when the Red Raiders for a league-best 29 turnovers.
P Austin Seibert, Oklahoma
5-9, 214, Sr. — With UT boomer Michael Dickson in the NFL, the race for the Big 12’s best punter is wide-open. Siebert’s 42.3-yard average ranked fourth in the league, but his ratio of touchbacks to punts inside the 20 could improve.