There were a few choices here, but it came down to Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy and Snyder. Both were deserving, but Gundy won 12 games on a team expected to be a top-10 team preseason. Snyder won 10 on a squad that was picked to finish near the bottom of the league. I spoke with an NFL scout prior to the season, who said that the Wildcats were ninth in the Big 12 in terms of pure talent, ahead of only Iowa State. And it wasn't any secret what the Wildcats were doing on a Saturday-by-Saturday basis, but they executed, were flagged for the fewest penalties in the league and in general, accomplished feats that were well beyond what Kansas State's talent should have dictated. Simply put: the Wildcats didn't beat themselves. Snyder might have gotten more credit for his remarkable turnaround the first go-round, but this season should remain as another wine cellar type coaching job.
Offensive Coordinator: Todd Monken, Oklahoma State
No Dana Holgorsen, no problem. There were two questions facing a loaded Oklahoma State offense heading into last season: could Joseph Randle take over for Kendall Hunter, and just how responsible was Holgorsen for the previous season's results? Randle emerged as one of the league's top all-purpose backs and Monken presided over an offense that scored nearly 49 points per game. The Cowboys had a 4,700-yard passer, a 1,200-yard rusher, and a 1,500-yard receiver. Did Monken inherit plenty of talent? Sure. But it isn't easy to install a new system and get things humming so quickly. Monken's passing offense was incredibly effective, going for 387 yards per game, completing 72 percent of passes and hitting for 40 touchdowns. But most people would be surprised to learn that the running game was so effective, with the Cowboys averaging 5.3 yards per carry, rushing for close to 160 yards per game and 36 more scores. Oklahoma State hung both points like nobody else in the league, and that helped to propel the Cowboys to their first-ever Big 12 title and an eventual BCS bowl win.
Quarterbacks Coach: Philip Montgomery, Baylor
How did Robert Griffin III go from a high-talent hurdler that the top schools recruited as an athlete to one of the most polished pocket passers in the country? A ton of that credit should go to Montgomery, who not only helped to groom the nation's Heisman Trophy winner, but who also has trained up Nick Florence to the point that Bear fans shouldn't be terrified that their offense will go into the tank after RG3's departure. RG3 was a better and more efficient passer every year he was on campus, something that should give plenty of hope to future generations of Bear quarterbacks.
Running Backs: Brian Jones, Missouri
The Jamaica native knows how to get some boost out of his running backs. Under his watch, Tony Temple and Derrick Washington emerged as two of the best backs in the league. But this year might have been one of his best jobs. Despite fighting through a number of injuries, the Tigers' top four backs averaged a whopping 6.4 yards per carry, with Henry Josey emerging as the latest in-line of talented running backs in an offense that has drawn more credit for its signal-callers. The funny thing is, Josey essentially won the job by default, when all of his competition went down. And when Josey went out, Jones's next guy, Kendial Lawrence, topped the century mark in Missouri's bowl game. All told, four Missouri running backs rushed for at least 75 yards in a game this year.
Wide Receivers: Dino Babers and Kendal Briles, Baylor
Babers, the outside receivers coach, is now the head coach at Eastern Illinois. But while he was in Waco, he and Briles combined to coach the league's most dangerous wide receiver unit, one capable of scoring from any position, at any spot on the field. Just how effective were they? Not only did the Bears boast the league's top receiver this past year in Kendall Wright, but Baylor had three of the league's top seven wideouts in terms of yards per game, including Terrance Williams (fifth) and Tevin Reese (seventh). They were also among the most lethal — out of the league's top 10 receivers in yards per game, Baylor's trio ranked second, third and fourth in yards per catch.
Offensive Line: Jim Turner, Texas A&M
Former Aggie head coach Mike Sherman received, and deserved, a heaping helping of credit for his ability to evaluate offensive linemen, but Turner deserves just as much credit for coaching those players up. The Aggies were one of the Big 12's most explosive offenses, and the offensive line was a big reason why. Despite suffering injury issues at running back, A&M averaged 5.1 yards per carry while rushing for just shy of 200 yards per game. And despite 537 passing attempts (the fourth-most in the league), A&M allowed a league-low nine sacks for just minus-44 yards. So no line in the league was as effective in both phases of the game.
This one wasn't a difficult choice. The Longhorns were the Big 12's top total defense by 70 yards, and allowed the fewest yards per play. Texas took a hit a bit in the scoring defense category because the offense committed the third-most turnovers of any Big 12 team, including several that went for scores. But the Longhorns were stellar across all categories, having the league's top defense in terms of yards per play, rushing yards and passing efficiency. Texas stopped the run, then sealed the deal on later downs, finishing third in sacks, second in third-down conversion defense, first in fourth-down conversion defense. Diaz stated all year that if the Longhorns could limit the big play and keep teams out of the end zone, they'd be tough. And Texas was tied (with Oklahoma State) for best red-zone touchdown rate defense, only allowing a touchdown on half of the opponents' drives into the red zone (22 touchdowns on 44 trips).
Defensive Line: Greg Kuligowski, Missouri
Missouri quietly put together one of the Big 12's top defenses, and it all started up-front, with several talented ends and a great rotation of defensive tackles. Missouri had one of the league's top red zone defenses, and was in the top half of the league in both sacks (27) and was third in both yards per carry allowed and scoring defense. And, unlike some of the teams above them, they accomplished that largely with production up front (for instance, A&M had more sacks, but their top sackers were linebackers). Kuligowski did an excellent job of prepping a balanced group that led a stingy Missouri defense.
Linebackers: Brent Venables, Oklahoma
Other groups might have been more effective. But no other linebacker group had to deal with the tragedy of losing a player as beloved as Austin Box before the season even started. Then Travis Lewis broke his foot in preseason camp. That would be enough to crush a lot of linebacker units. But to their credit, the Sooners never wavered, and Venables deserves a world of credit for that. Oklahoma finished with the Big 12's top scoring defense and allowed 3.7 yards per carry. And they did so in the face of a ton of adversity. Venables might not be on staff anymore, but Sooner fans can take heart that his last year in Norman was a strong one.
Defensive Backs: Duane Akina, Texas
Heading into the season, the Longhorn defensive backs — particularly at cornerback — were perceived to be one of the team's weaknesses. And why not, after losing three cornerbacks to the NFL and replacing them with two true sophomores and a true freshman. One of those sophomores, Carrington Byndom, became arguably the league's top cover cornerback and a first-team All-Big 12'er. The freshman, Quandre Diggs, made Freshman All-America. And the group as a whole became one of the league's best.
Special Teams: Oklahoma State
Pick a special teams category, and the chances are that Oklahoma State was at or near the top. The Cowboys boasted the league's top punter in Quinn Sharp, who also scored more points per game as a kicker than any other kicker in the league, and also served as the league's best kicker in terms of field goal percentage. The Cowboys also boasted the Big 12's best kickoff returner in Justin Gilbert (Texas's Fozzy Whittaker didn't get enough attempts) and the Big 12's best group in terms of kickoff coverage. So, with the Cowboys excelling over so many special teams areas, this wasn't a very difficult choice.
Strength and Conditioning: Chris Dawson, Kansas State
If you've heard Dawson's name before, it's because he was the strength coach in charge of turning a bevy of unheralded recruits into Orange Bowl winners at Kansas. Now, he's doing the same at Kansas State. Anybody who played the Wildcats this year can attest to their physical nature, and Kansas State won several games late in the fourth quarter. The seeds for that are planted in the winter and summer in strength and conditioning programs, and Dawson is among the country's best. When looking at strength coaches, you look for teams that are well-conditioned, tough, and those that play beyond their athletic abilities. And Dawson helped the Wildcats achieve a check mark in all three of those categories.
Top Recruiter: Robert Prunty, Texas Tech
I considered Texas's Bo Davis for this spot, with Davis landing arguably the nation's top defensive tackle crop, as well as a Signing Day surprise in flipping defensive end Torshiro Davis, from Shreveport (La.) away from LSU. But Prunty had no peer in the league this year, serving as the lead recruiter for 10 Texas Tech signees in a much-stronger-than-expected class. Among Prunty's coups was defensive tackle Michael Starts, who had offers from Texas, among others. And while not the lead recruiter, Prunty also helped with Dominique Wheeler, an explosive wideout from Crockett with similar big-time offers. For a number of quality signees, with a higher degree of difficulty than those recruiting to Austin, Prunty gets the nod.