STILLWATER – Media covering the Big 12 Conference will meet in downtown Dallas next week and be joined by the head coaches and top players in the league for the annual two-day gathering known as Big 12 Football Media Days. The media members attending the two-day event similar to what the Southeastern Conference is doing in Hoover, Ala., and what the Pac-12 is doing in Hollywood, Calf., this week each received a ballot to vote on the conference finish and the preseason All-Big 12 team.
Today the league announced its 2016 Preseason All-Big 12 Football Team and three Cowboys were named on the squad, including wide receiver James Washington, defensive tackle Vincent Taylor and safety Jordan Sterns.
I voted on the team and all three Cowboys that made it were on my ballot as were quarterback Mason Rudolph (he deserves a vote), tight end Blake Jarwin (deserving of the honor), kicker Ben Grogan (also a contender), and linebacker Jordan Burton (again, deserving of a vote). All told my ballot had 19 of the 30 players that were named.
Sterns and Washington were both All-Big 12 Second Team selections last season, while this marks the first recognition for Taylor on an all-conference team. A strong case can be made for Washington as the Big 12's top receiver heading into 2016. As a second-team All-Big 12 selection by both the coaches and the media last year, he is the conference's only returning 1,000-yard receiver and led all returning Big 12 wideouts in yards per game and touchdowns last season.
He was a midseason addition to the watch list for the 2015 Biletnikoff Award, and he led the nation with four 70-plus-yard receptions. With 1,087 receiving yards, he became one of only four underclassmen ever at OSU to post a 1,000-yard receiving season, joining Rashaun Woods (2001), Dez Bryant (2008) and Justin Blackmon (2010).
Sterns has long been the leader of the Cowboy defense. With 103 tackles in 2014 and 108 in 2015, he is the first Cowboy since Keith Burns in 1992 and 1993 to post consecutive seasons with 100 tackles or more. He has started every game at safety each of the past two years and led the team in tackles both seasons. He has also been an important special teams player and is one of the vocal leaders on the squad. Sterns was directly responsible for four turnovers last year, including a game -clinching interception on Iowa State's last drive of the game to preserve a four-point win for the Cowboys in Ames.
Taylor has become one of the strongest players on the OSU roster. The junior became a key performer on the defense last season, as his 48 tackles and 5.0 sacks were the highest totals for any interior defensive lineman during the Mike Gundy era. He started all 13 games at defensive tackle and tallied 8.5 tackles for loss. Some highlights from last season included a late fumble recovery at Texas Tech to help seal the Cowboys' win, a career-high nine tackles in OSU's overtime win at West Virginia, a PAT block in OSU's 49-29 win over No. 5 TCU and a sack of Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly in the Sugar Bowl, played in his original hometown of New Orleans.
The 2016 Preseason All-Big 12 Football Team includes nine seniors, 11 juniors and 11 sophomores. Five players on the team were chosen to the 2015 All-Big 12 First Team while 10 were on the second team.
2016 Preseason All-Big 12 Football Team
QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma, 6-1, 212, Jr./1L, Austin, Texas
RB Mike Warren, Iowa State, 6-0, 205, So./1L, Lawton, Okla.
RB Samaje Perine, Oklahoma, 5-11, 237, Jr./2L, Pflugerville, Texas
FB Winston Dimel, Kansas State, 6-1, 235, So./1L, Manhattan, Kan.
WR KD Cannon, Baylor, 6-0, 180, Jr./2L, Mount Pleasant, Texas
WR Allen Lazard, Iowa State, 6-5, 223, Jr./2L, Urbandale, Iowa
WR James Washington, Oklahoma State, 6-0, 205, Jr./2L, Stamford, Texas
TE Mark Andrews, Oklahoma, 6-5, 244, So./1L, Scottsdale, Ariz.
OL Kyle Fuller, Baylor, 6-5, 310, Sr./3L, Wylie, Texas
OL Orlando Brown, Oklahoma, 6-8, 357, So./1L, Duluth, Ga.
OL Patrick Vahe, Texas, 6-3, 326, So./1L, Nyack, N.Y.
OL Connor Williams, Texas, 6-6, 288, So./1L, Coppell, Texas
OL Tyler Orlosky, West Virginia, 6-4, 295, Sr./3L, Cleveland, Ohio
PK Clayton Hatfield, Texas Tech, 5-10, 170, So./1L, Boerne, Texas
KR/PR KaVontae Turpin, TCU, 5-9, 153, So./1L, Monroe, La.
DL Will Geary, Kansas State, 6-0, 297, Jr./2L, Topeka, Kan.
DL Jordan Willis, Kansas State, 6-5, 250, Sr./3L, Kansas City, Mo.
DL Charles Walker, Oklahoma, 6-2, 299, Jr./2L, Garland, Texas
DL Vincent Taylor, Oklahoma State, 6-3, 310, Jr./2L San Antonio, Texas
DL Josh Carraway, TCU, 6-4, 250, Sr./3L, Flower Mound, Texas
DL James McFarland, TCU, 6-3, 250, Sr./3L, West Monroe, La.
DL Noble Nwachukwu, West Virginia, 6-2, 275, Sr./3L, Wylie, Texas
LB Elijah Lee, Kansas State, 6-3, 218, Jr./2L, Blue Springs, Mo.
LB Jordan Evans, Oklahoma, 6-2, 233, Sr./3L, Norman, Okla.
LB Malik Jefferson, Texas, 6-3, 238, So./1L, Mesquite, Texas
DB Dante Barnett, Kansas State, 6-1, 193, Sr./3L, Tulsa, Okla.
DB Steven Parker, Oklahoma, 6-1, 208, Jr./2L, Tulsa, Okla.
DB Jordan Thomas, Oklahoma, 6-0, 187, Jr./2L, Klein, Texas
DB Jordan Sterns, Oklahoma State, 6-0, 200, Sr./3L, Cibolo, Texas
DB Davante Davis, Texas, 6-2, 199, So./1L, Miami, Fla.
P Austin Seibert, Oklahoma, 5-10, 214, So./1L, Belleville, Ill.
*A tie in voting at DL created two additional spots
Players that made the team that I did not have on my list included on offense, Baker Mayfield, OU; Mike Warren, Iowa State; Mark Andrews, OU; Kyle Fuller, Baylor; Clayton Hatfield, Texas Tech and on defense, Will Geary, Kansas State, Jordan Willis, Kansas State; Josh Carraway, TCU; Jordan Evans, OU; Malik Jefferson, Texas; Steven Parker, OU; Devante Davis, Texas.
The media's honorees as Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and Newcomer of the Year as well as how they believe the conference will finish will be announced in the coming days before Media Days begins on Monday.