Photo By Steven Chapman

Way Too Early Look at the Big 12

Scout publishers from around the Big 12 break down the rosters heading in to spring.

BAYLOR (7-6, 3-6 Big 12 in 2016) ... By Tim Watkins, publisher of BearsIllustrated.com

Returning Starters on Offense (8)

QB Zach Smith (So.), RB Terence Williams (Sr.), TE Jordan Feuerbacher (Sr.), WR Chris Platt (Jr.), OT Dom Desouza (Sr.), OG Ishmael Wilson (Sr.), OG Blake Blackmar (Jr.), OT Patrick Lawrence (Jr.)

Returning Starters on Defense (7)

DE Greg Roberts (Jr.), NT Tyrone Hunt (So.), DE KJ Smith (Sr.), NB Travon Blanchard (Sr.), LB Taylor Young (Sr.), CB Grayland Arnold (So.), S Davion Hall (Sr.)

Circled Non-Conference Game in 2017: 

September 16th at Duke - For the first time in years, the Bears will play another Power-5 team as they travel to take on Duke.

5 Who Could Surprise (redshirts, non-starters in 2016 vying for starting spots):

WR Blake Lynch - At times, Lynch was the Bears 2nd or 3rd best WR on the field, though he did not start.  A tremendous athlete and threat in space, Lynch was starting to be used in different ways, including as a wildcat QB and as a pure running back.  

NT Tyrone Hunt - Hunt emerge late in the season to be the starting nose tackle for the bowl game, netting two sacks on the day and being named defensive MVP of the Cotton Bowl. His size, and ability to play at DT, NT, or DE is something the Bears will need in 2017.  

LB Clay Johnston - The redshirt freshman started for the Bears while Taylor Young was battling injuries, and showed enough promise to be the leading candidate to take over for Aiavion Edwards going into 2017.  One of the Bears bigger linebackers at 6-foot-3, Johnston has the agility to play inside or outside. 

WR Jared Atkinson - Along with fellow true freshman Denzel Mims, Atkinson was a key reserve for the Baylor receiving group.  He is expected to be one of the top options to replace KD Cannon.  

CB Jameson Houston - The original starter opposite senior Ryan Reid, Houston will be looked to first to replace Reid. In and out of the lineup, Houston did not have the year he wanted to as Grayland Arnold and Verkedric Vaughns started games as well at corner.  Houston's size (true 6-foot) and athleticism remind most of former Bear and now Miami Dolphin Xavien Howard. 

3 Reasons for Concern: 

Reason No. 1 … Anytime a new staff comes aboard, there will be changes.  How much will change for the Bears? A new defense and offensive is expected to be in Waco, TX.  How quickly the new staff gels with the returning players and fits their schemes to the talent that is left in Waco will be critical for their success. 

Reason No. 2 … With an offensive staff heavily experienced under the Chip Kelly style spread, the Bears are expected to change their blocking schemes drastically.  Can an experienced offensive line, with four returning starters and all but one rotation player in center Kyle Fuller coming back, make those adjustments?

Reason No. 3 … Depth for Baylor in 2017 will be put to the test.  They were playing with around 70 scholarship players in 2016, and depth became a problem later in the year, especially at quarterback.  With a full 2017 class (and some mid-term guys counting towards the 2016 class sprinkled in) the Bears should have more players, but they will be young and untested.  Does coach Matt Rhule take the safe and steady approach and redshirt the key guys, or does he play to win now?

Why this team could win big:

The Baylor Bears are still a very talented team in 2017.  Even with all of the distractions and off the field issues, they still finished with a winning record.  The 2017 version of the Bears is very top heavy in terms of experience and talent, with quite a bit of question marks behind them. If the Bears gel with new coach Matt Rhule, and hit the ground running, this can still be a 9-win team. 

Offensive player to watch:

QB Zach Smith - It all starts under center for the Bears. The last scholarship quarterback standing in 2016, Smith played the best game of his very young career in the Cactus Bowl against Boise State. With a full spring and fall camp as the guy, Smith's improvement is critical for the Bears short and long-term success. 

Defensive player to watch:

LB Taylor Young - The Baylor defense was extremely poor over their 6-game losing streak. A large reason for that was the loss of a healthy and impactful Young.  Coming back for the West Virginia and Boise State games, the Bears defense was transformed into a solid unit once again.  


 

OKLAHOMA (11-2, 9-0 Big 12 in 2016) ... By Bob Przybylo, publisher of SoonersIllustrated.com

Returning starters on offense (9)

QB Baker Mayfield (Sr.), FB Dimitri Flowers (Sr.), WR Jeffery Mead (Sr.), TE Mark Andrews (RS Jr.), OT Orlando Brown (RS Jr.), OG Ben Powers (Jr.), C Erick Wren (Sr.), OG Dru Samia (Jr.), OT Bobby Evans (RS Soph.)

Returning starters on 3-4 defense (8)

DE Neville Gallimore (RS Soph.), DE D.J. Ward (RS Sr.), OLB Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (RS Sr.), ILB Emmanuel Beal (Sr.), OLB Caleb Kelly (Soph.), CB Jordan Thomas (Sr.), S Steven Parker (Sr.), CB Jordan Parker (Soph.)

Circled Non-Conference Game in 2017: 

OU plays at Ohio State on Sept. 9. The Buckeyes won 45-24 in Norman in 2016.

5 Who Could Surprise (redshirts, non-starters in 2016 vying for starting spots):

RB Rodney Anderson (RS Fr.) – Stay healthy and maybe we’ll get to know why Anderson was so highly recruited coming out of Katy (Texas) High. His season was ended in Week 2 in 2015 and before the season in 2016. Could be that rare six-year player when all said and done. Needs to emerge with Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon leaving for NFL.

WR Mykel Jones (Soph.) – slot receiver position is going to be one to watch in Norman. Will it be incoming junior college four-star signee Marquise Brown? Or Jones, who was slowly developing during the 2016 season? Either way, Lincoln Riley is ready to make this spot matter again.

DT Du’Vonta Lampkin (RS Soph.) – Suspended for the first half of 2016 season, Lampkin showed what he could do when he was on the field. He’s a bully out there. Most of OU’s defensive line is about containment, but Lampkin can attack and do it well.

LB Ricky DeBerry (RS Soph.) – With outside linebacker locked up, don’t be surprised if the former five-star prospect moves inside. OU doesn’t have a lot of depth at the spot, and DeBerry could make a mark in a hurry.

S Will Sunderland (Jr.) – Sunderland had his one shining moment with an interception in a win against Texas. With Ahmad Thomas graduating, it’s time for Sunderland to make his mark. He has been waiting for it. He’s ready.

3 Reasons for Concern: 

Reason No. 1 … OU doesn’t regroup at running back, it reloads. But how in the world do you reload after Perine and Mixon? That’s the question right now. Anderson and Abdul Adams are on campus, while OU’s 2017 running back class is among the best in the nation.

Reason No. 2 … You had Sterling Shepard in 2015. You had Dede Westbrook in 2016. On paper, there is absolutely nobody who looks to be the breakout receiver in 2017. The experience of Baker Mayfield and offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley is going to be huge here.

Reason No. 3 … Lack of depth with front seven. OU is starting to build up the championship depth at defensive line and linebacker. But it sure as heck is not there for 2017 season. Defensive end and inside linebacker will be huge for OU to stay healthy because the cupboard is pretty bare.

Why this team could win big:

Because this is a year of unfinished business for the Sooners. OU, deep down, knows it should have been a college football playoff team in 2016. After a 1-2 start, the Sooners finished 11-2 and won the Big 12 and the Sugar Bowl. Mayfield is back. Riley is back. The entire offensive line returns. Actually, the top eight offensive linemen return. A defense has budding star in Caleb Kelly. Expectations are high again.

Offensive player to watch:

WR Jeffery Mead – Has the light bulb come on for Mead? He’s tall, has great hands, but never seemed to put it together until the latter half of 2016. Nobody is asking for Shepard or Westbrook numbers, but Mead must be ready to make a move as consistent performer for Mayfield in 2017.

Defensive player to watch:

OLB Caleb Kelly – He was a five-star prospect for a reason. Just a sophomore, but he could absolutely be in consideration for Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.


 

OKLAHOMA STATE (10-3, 6-2 Big 12 in 2016) ... By Robert Allen, publisher of GoPokes.com

 Returning starters on offense (8)

QB Mason Rudolph (Sr.), RB Justice Hill (Soph.), WR James Washington (Sr.), WR Chris Lacy (Sr.), Slot Jalen McCleskey (Jr.), RT Zach Crabtree (Sr.), OC Brad Lundblade (Sr.), LG Marcus Keyes (Soph.)  

Returning starters on defense (5)

DE Jarrell Owens (Jr.), DE Cole Walterscheid (Jr.), MLB Chad Whitener (Sr.), SS Tre Flowers (Sr.), CB Ramon Richards (Sr.)

Circled Non-Conference Game in 2017

Oklahoma State plays Pittsburgh at Heinz Field on Sept. 16 a team they beat at home last season that beat Penn State and went on to beat Clemson on the road. The Cowboys open at home with Tulsa and go to the home of the Pro Bowl Ladd Peebles Stadium to play South Alabama.

5 Who Could Surprise (redshirts, non-starters in 2016 vying for starting spots):

WR Marcell Ateman (Sr.) – No surprise here as he missed all of last season with a foot injury and is healthy. He is a major target when healthy and an NFL prospect.

CW Keenen Brown (Jr.) – The CW stands fro Cowboy back or TE/FB hybrid and Brown, a former WR at 6-3, 242 has all kinds of athletic ability.

QB Keondre Wudtee (RS Fr.) – He won’t be needed, you would hope, but Wudtee is 6-4, 215 and reminds you of all kinds of former really athletic dual threat quarterbacks. 

FS Kenneth Edison-McGruder (Jr.) – He should take over for Jordan Sterns and there has never been a situation like this as close to a clone taking over that I have seen.

CB A.J. Green (Soph.) – I couldn’t decide whether to go with Justin Phillips at LB that most people have seen or Green, who played some and is a young, big corner that really has a chance to seal off a side in coverage. 

3 Reasons for Concern:

Reason #1 … The defensive line, especially the tackle position was so explosive but they lose Vincent Taylor a year early to the NFL, Mote Maile was a senior, and even though you didn’t hear about him a lot Eric Davis was a good hand. Vili Levini needs to come back healthy and it still won’t be as deep at DT as it was last season. D.Q. Osborne is still there. 

Reason #2 … Chris Carson was ideal to play off freshman running back Justice Hill and you will need to have someone be able to do that. The most likely looking suspect is incoming freshman running back J.D. King from Georgia. That would be asking a lot of a freshman. Look for a graduate transfer big back, because Oklahoma State would be a good locale for a guy to land. 

Reason #3 … It is only two positions and there are two players there with starting experience that could plug in, but offensive line chemistry and building is so tenuous at OSU. They need to get it right and get it right before the opener. 

Why this team could win big:

They have experience and they will bring momentum into the off season, spring, and summer off the 38-8 pasting of Colorado in the Alamo Bowl. Anytime you have a quarterback that knows what he is doing, can make big plays, teamed with this kind of embarrassment of riches at receiver then there is a chance. There is concern on defense with the tackle position, but the rest should be just fine, even improved. Schedule is tough with road games at Pitt, Texas, West Virginia, and Iowa State.

Offensive Player to Watch:

Mason Rudolph, James Washington, Justice Hill and even Marcell Ateman

Defensive Player to Watch: 

LB Justin Phillips – He is a big-time hitter and made game winning plays down the stretch last season when he took over as a starter.


 

TEXAS (5-7, 3-6 Big 12 in 2016) ... By Chip Brown, HornsDigest.com

Returning starters on offense (8): 

QB Shane Buechele (Soph), WR Armanti Foreman (Sr.), WR Devin Duvernay (Soph), WR Dorian Leonard (Jr.), LT Connor Williams (Jr.), LG Jake McMillon (Jr.), C Zach Shackelford (Soph), RT Brandon Hodges (Sr.)

Returning starters on 3-4 defense (10): 

DE Charles Omenihu (Jr.), NT Poona Ford (Sr.), DE Chris Nelson (Jr.), OLB Breckyn Hager (Jr.), ILB Malik Jefferson (Jr.), ILB Anthony Wheeler (Jr.), OLB Malcolm Roach (Soph.), CB Kris Boyd (Jr.), CB John Bonney (Jr.), S Jason Hall (Sr.)

Circled Non-Conference Game in 2017: 

Texas plays at USC on Sept. 16 after opening with Maryland and San Jose State at home.

5 Who Could Surprise (redshirts, non-starters in 2016 vying for starting spots):

S Brandon Jones (Soph) - the 5-star safety saw limited time in 2016 and made an impact on special teams (blocked two punts). With, Dylan Haines graduated, Jones will contend with DeShon Elliott for a starting safety spot.

RG Patrick Hudson (RFr) - redshirted last year while rehabbing a foot injury but expected to contend for the starting RG position vacated by senior Kent Perkins.

RT Denzel Okafor (Soph) - limited playing time last year behind Brandon Hodges and Tristan Nickelson, but break through and become the starter at RT in 2017.

CB/S Chris Brown (RFr) - Brown may not quite be ready to unseat P.J. Locke III at the nickel corner position, but he should provide  some much-needed competition there.

RB Kirk Johnson (Soph) - The older brother of Texas WR Collin Johnson, Kirk Johnson hasn't been able to stay healthy (ankle, knee) his first two years and redshirted last season (knee). If he can stay healthy, could be a breakout player in 2017, because of how well he runs AND catches the ball.

3 Reasons for Concern: 

Reason #1 ... With 2,000-yard rusher D'Onta Foreman moving on, Texas will look to RB Chris Warren and RB Kirk Johnson (both of whom are coming off season-ending knee injuries) as well as sophomore Kyle Porter.

Reason #2 ... Outside of P Michael Dickson, a Ray Guy Award finalist, special teams play the last three seasons has been anything but special. Herman's first commitment as coach at Texas was JUCO kicker Joshua Rowland. 

Reason #3 ... With Tyrone Swoopes moving on at QB, Tom Herman lacks any veterans at QB with sophomore Shane Buechele, incoming freshman Sam Ehlinger and sophomore Matthew Merrick on scholarship. Don't be surprised if Jerrod Heard moves from WR back to QB for the spring, and don't be surprised if a veteran transfers in, such as Houston's Kyle Allen, who has loaded up hours to qualify as a graduate transfer in May.

Why this team could win big:

With 37 of its top 44 in the 2016 two deep returning for the 2017 season, Tom Herman is walking into a potentially great situation if Texas can find a running game without D'Onta Foreman and get a talented-but-erratic defense to settle in, grow and improve.

Offensive player to watch:

WR Devin Duvernay - he has too much speed not be used in many different ways

Defensive player to watch:

OLB/DE Malcolm Roach - seems poised for an All-Big 12 type season


TCU (6-7, 4-5 Big 12 in 2016) ... By Josh Harvey, publisher of HornedFrogInsider.com

Returning starters on offense (10):

QB Kenny Hill (Sr.), RB Kyle Hicks (Sr.), WR Taj Williams (Sr.), WR Kavonte Turpin (Sr.), WR Jon Diarse (Sr.), WR Emmanuel Porter (Sr.), LT Joseph Noteboom (Sr.), LG Patrick Morris (Sr.), C Austin Schlottman (Sr.), RG Matt Pryor (Sr.)

Returning starters on 3-4 defense (8):

DT Joseph Broadnax (Jr.), LB Ty Summers (Jr.), LB Travin Howard (Sr.), LB Sammy Douglas (Sr.), CB Ranthony Texada (Sr.), S Niko Small (Jr.), S Nick Orr (Sr.), CB Jeff Gladney (So.)

Circled Non-Conference Game in 2017:

TCU plays at Arkansas on Sept 9. The Frogs lost in overtime to the Hogs in 2016.

5 Who Could Surprise (redshirts, non-starters in 2016 vying for starting spots):

OT Lucas Niang (So.) – was mostly a backup as a true freshman, but made a big push for a spot in the preseason. He had a nice bowl performance.

WR Isaiah Graham (So.) – TCU receivers struggled in 2016, but Graham had a few nice catches in the bowl game.

WR Jalen Reagor (Fr.) - The Scout Top 100 wide receiver will likely play early after hauling in over 1,108 yards on 64 receptions in 2016.

WR Omar Manning (Fr.) – Assuming the Frogs can hold on to Manning, the nation’s No. 10 wide receiver with give whoever the quarterback is another weapon in the offense.

DE Brandon Bowen (RFr.) – The former Byron Nelson product redshirted in his first year on campus, but should provide some pass rush.

3 Reasons for Concern:

Reason #1 ... Quarterback Kenny Hill didn’t show many signs of improvement over the course of the season in 2016. Will it click for him in the offseason? Quarterback Foster Sawyer has left the program, meaning true freshman All-American Shawn Robinson better be ready to compete for the job.

Reason #2 ... Special teams were a struggle for the Frogs, especially in the kicking game. It was very evident against Georgia when Brandon Hatfield missed two field goals in the Liberty Bowl. The Frogs need to find a kicker.

Reason #3 ... The TCU run defense has to get better and it starts in the trenches. The Frogs allowed six players run for over 100 yards in the final four games.

Why this team could win big:

The 2016 class was a very small group and many freshman and redshirt freshman should push for time right away. Gary Patterson will have a whole offseason to put the chip back on his team’s shoulder.

Offensive player to watch:

RB Kyle Hicks – Entering his senior year, there is no doubt at times Hicks was the best player on the field for the Frogs in 2016. Expect a new dedication to the running attack this offseason and Hicks will benefit from it.

Defensive player to watch:

LB Travin Howard – It’s hard to pick just one TCU linebacker, but we will give the edge to Travin Howard, who posted a 100+ tackle performance in 2016.


 

TEXAS TECH (5-7, 3-6 Big 12 in 2016) ... By Jarret Johnson, publisher of RaiderPower.com

Returning starters on offense (8):

RB Da’Leon Ward (Soph), WR Dylan Cantrell (Sr.), WR Derrick Willies (Sr.), WR Jonathan Giles (Jr.), WR Keke Coutee (Jr.), LT Terence Steele (Soph.), RG Madison Akamnonu (Soph.), C Tony Morales (Sr.)

Returning starters on 3-4 defense (5):

DE Kolin Hill (Jr.), S Kisean Allen (Jr.), S Jah’Shawn Johnson (Jr.), ILB Jordyn Brooks (Soph.), CB D.J. Polite-Bray (Sr.),

Circled Non-Conference Game in 2017:

Texas Tech plays at Houston on Sept. 23 after opening with Eastern Washington and Arizona State at home.

5 Who Could Surprise (redshirts, non-starters in 2016 vying for starting spots):

WR T.J. Vasher (Soph) - The 4-star receiver played sparingly after an eye-opening fall camp where he displayed his 6-foot-5 frame and unusual athletic ability. Vasher suffered minor injuries and setbacks off the field which could be chalked up to being a freshman. With Devin Lauderdale and Reggie Davis gone, look for Vasher to get a lot of playing time outside.

CB Douglas Coleman (Soph) - The young DB didn’t play a lot until the end of the season but he made quite the impact once he got on the field. His first career interception led to Kenny Hill’s benching and Tech’s eventual overtime win in Fort Worth and then his 100-yard fumble return against Texas was perhaps the most memorable play of the season. He’s a great athlete and should start next season.

NG Broderick Washington (Soph) - Washington was mostly a backup last season, but started the finale in Tech’s win over Baylor and impressed. He’s probably the strongest guy on the team and is expected to start next season with Ondre Pipkins having exhausted all his eligibility.

QB Nic Shimonek (Sr.) - Shimonek steps in for Patrick Mahomes, who left a year early for the NFL. Shimonek will be entering his fourth year in Kingsbury’s system, he’s big, has a good arm, is accurate and commands respect from the team. I expect him to be among the national leaders in passing if not the top passer in the country in terms of yards per game.

DB/ST Kevin Moore (Soph) - Moore was a special teams standout as a true freshman last season and made some plays in limited duty on defense. He’s especially adept at blitzing off the edge. I wouldn’t be surprised if he played a lot of nickel or even started there next year.

3 Reasons for Concern:

Reason #1 ... The defense was the worst in all of FBS in both yards and points allowed per game last season. Until there is major improvement here Tech can only hope to be an average team at-best.

Reason #2 ... Tech’s offensive line was atrocious last season. Opposing defenses sat back with eight defensive backs and dared the Red Raiders to run the ball against three-man fronts and they still couldn’t. Tech wasn’t much better pass blocking either and Mahomes, who was an escape artist, is now gone.

Reason #3 ... The schedule is absolutely brutal. Even Eastern Washington, Tech’s FCS opponent which you’d hope would be a gimme is a giant killer who won 12 games last season including at Washington State. Tech then gets an ill-timed Week 2 bye before hosting Arizona State, who roughed up the Red Raiders last season. Tech wraps its non-conference on the road against Houston before starting Big 12 play which features road games in Morgantown, Norman and Austin and the neutral-site matchup against Baylor. Did I mention Tech plays 11 consecutive games without a bye?

Why this team could win big:

The hope is a lot of the young players grow up in a hurry and the 11 mid-year additions, including six junior college additions, five of which were in Scout’s JuCo top 100, make immediate impacts.

Offensive player to watch:

WR Dylan Cantrell - He is a big body who can out-muscle or out-jump any cornerback in the Big 12 for the football in the air and might be the best blocking receiver in the country.

Defensive player to watch:

LB Jordyn Brooks - Brooks started every game at inside linebacker for Texas Tech as a true freshman. He’s a sideline-to-sideline type backer who led the Red Raiders in tackles last season, including 18 in the finale against Baylor. He could develop into one of the top linebackers in the conference in the next season or two.


 

WEST VIRGINIA (10-3, 7-2 Big 12 in 2016) ... By Kevin Kinder, publisher of BlueGoldNews.com

Returning Starters on Offense (6):

RB Justin Crawford (Sr.), WR Shelton Gibson (Sr.), WR Jovon Durante (Jr.), WR Ka'Raun White (Sr.), G Kyle Bosch (Sr.), T Colton McKivitz (Soph.)

Returning Starters on Defense (3):

LB Al-Rasheed Benton (Sr.), LB David Long (Soph.), SS Kyzir White (Sr.)

Circled Non-Conference Game in 2017:

West Virginia meets regional foe Virginia Tech in a neutral-site game in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 2 in the season opener for both schools. This reboots a bitter battle from the days of the Big East Conference (and before), and will drive tons of conversation, verbal barbs and more over the summer.

Five Who Could Surprise:

West Virginia played numerous backups on its defense in 2016, and a number of those players will contend for starting roles in 2017. All might not necessarily be surprises to West Virginia fans, but they are probably unfamiliar to other league followers.

QB Will Grier (Soph.) - A transfer from Florida, Grier is no secret to WVU fans, or to teams that he lit up in the SEC during a short stint as a true freshman. He will be counted on to provide more oomph to the West Virginia passing game, where his strongest challenge might be the weight of expectations placed upon him by Mountaineer fans.

WR Steven Smothers (Soph.) - With a need for more playmakers in the passing game, the electric slot receiver will get every chance to make an impact in the Mountaineer passing game.

DE Adam Shuler (Soph.) - Considered a fourth starter along the defensive front, Shuler earned one late-season starting job and grew throughout the season. He has leverage and length to be a good pass rusher along with the size to stand up to power running games.

LB Brendan Ferns (RS Fr.) - WVU's top incoming recruit in 2016, Ferns suffered a season-ending knee injury in fall camp. Provided he has fully recovered, he'll likely step in as the starting mike LB for the Mountaineers.

CB Elijah Battle (Sr.) - Hampered by injuries and the presence of seniors across the board in front of him, Battle had minimal impact in 2016. The path is clear for him to make a substantial leap in 2017, where he'll be expected to grab a starting spot.

Three Reasons for Concern

Reason #1 ... It's a massive defensive rebuilding job on defense for WVU, which lost not only eight starters, but also a handful of backups to graduation. Only one starter of the front six returns, and the secondary saw seven contributors depart.

Reason #2 ... The offensive line will also have to rebuild, with three stalwarts earning their degrees and completing their eligibility. WVU does get back a lot of potential in the form of tackle Yodny Cajuste, who is rehabbing from knee surgery, but he has been prone to injury throughout his career. He'll need to be ready to help shore up the left side of the line.

Reason #3 ... WVU will be dependent on one of its biggest junior college classes in recent memory to stay on track in 2017. Seven jucos have graduated from college and are enrolled for the spring semester, but expecting them all to hit the ground running and provide major contributions might be overly optimistic.

Why This Team Could Win Big:

Offensive weapons at the skill position abound, and fans are over-the-top excited about Grier's potential. The Mountaineers return Kennedy McKoy and Martell Pettaway in addition to Crawford in the backfield, and have enough receivers to make life tough on Big 12 defenses.

The Mountaineers were decimated by preseason injuries in 2016, with no fewer than four projected starters sidelined for the entire season, and several others who missed multiple games. With just an average injury list, WVU will be much more deep in 2017.

Offensive Player to Watch:

RB Martell Pettaway – Pettaway's redshirt was lifted out of necessity in Game 11, and he responded with 181 rushing yards against Iowa State. He complements what could be the deepest running back corps in the Big 12.

Defensive Player to Watch:

S Dravon Askew-Henry – Sidelined by injury in 2016, Askew-Henry will ease some of the concerns about the losses in the Mountaineer secondary. Teamed with hard-hitting Kyzir White, he could turn many of the question marks about WVU's spur, bandit and free safety positions into exclamation points. 


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