This one is a no-brainer. Even after the Wildcats' 10-win season a year ago, they were tapped to finish sixth in the Big 12 by the league's coaches. So to run through their schedule the way they did, delivering haymakers to most league teams on their way to winning Snyder's second Big 12 title is unbelievable. The Wildcats might not be the most talented team in the Big 12, but they're capable of beating anybody, and credit for that has to go to Snyder.
Offensive Player of the Year: Collin Klein, Kansas State
Coaches talk about wanting their quarterbacks to be an extension of themselves on the field. And there probably wasn't any quarterback-coach duo more tied together than Snyder and the methodical Klein. Klein accounted for 37 combined touchdowns while completing 66 percent of his passes for nearly 2,500 yards. He was also fifth in the league in rushing.
Defensive Player of the Year: Ty Zimmerman, Kansas State
You could actually make an argument for two other K-Staters, Meshak Williams or Arthur Brown, here and I wouldn't argue with you. But Zimmerman held together a back line that was fantastic through most of the season, picking off five passes in 10 games and recovering two more fumbles. What's more, you could see the tangible drop-off the Wildcats had when Zimmerman wasn't in the ball game.
It would have taken a special kind of elite return man to boot Sharp, arguably the Big 12's best kicker AND punter, from this spot. Sharp made all 65 extra points and 25-of-31 field goals, leading the Big 12's kickers in scoring by a full two points per game, and leading all of the league's scorers by placing just ahead of Stedman Bailey and Klein. As a punter, Sharp averaged a league-best 45.8 yards per punt while only getting two touchbacks in 41 attempts.*
* I feel obligated to explain picking Texas punter Alex King over Sharp on the LonghornDigest.com first-team All-Big 12 squad here. The difference in punting average was pretty small (45.8 to 45.3), while King downed a slightly (minimal) higher percentage of punts inside the 20 and King only had one fall into the end zone for a touchback. Also, King had a slightly better net punting average (40.76 to 40.02). We're cutting whiskers here. That's how close that was.
There were a number of newcomers to choose from here, but Brown immediately provided an upgrade for an Oklahoma receiving corps that 1) was trying to replace Ryan Broyles, 2) was without Jaz Reynolds and 3) didn't receive the expected impact from outstanding (but apparently human) freshman Trey Metoyer. Brown made clutch catch after clutch catch and finished in the top-10 in the Big 12 in both receptions and yards. Choosing him over Baylor's Lache Seastrunk was one of the tougher decisions, to be sure.
Was arguably the Big 12's best cover corner (he and Oklahoma's Aaron Colvin could fight over that honor), leading the Big 12 in both passes broken up and passes intercepted. But it wasn't that he was thrown at a bunch. In fact, he did an outstanding job of shutting down several of the league's top wideouts. He just made plays when he had the chance to make plays. Sounds simple, but he was awfully effective.
Offensive Freshman of the Year: J.W. Walsh, Oklahoma State
Some strong competition for this spot as well, with TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin and Texas running back Johnathan Gray leading the charge. But in the end, Walsh led a more explosive offense than either of those two players, while leading the Big 12 in passing efficiency, completing 66.7 percent of his throws for 11 touchdowns and three interceptions while also supplying a nasty running threat.
Defensive Freshman of the Year: Devonte Fields, TCU
This pick was easier. Not only was Fields far-and-away the league's top defensive freshman, he was in contention for the overall top defensive player spot. With Stansly Maponga, himself a preseason All-Big 12 selection, banged up, Fields had a wonderful first season in Fort Worth, leading the Big 12 in tackles for loss with 17.5 and finishing second in sacks with 9.0.
Offensive Lineman of the Year: Cyril Richardson, Baylor
Baylor has established an outstanding reputation on the offensive line, and Richardson is the most recent example of great play there under head coach Art Briles. Richardson helped Baylor lead the Big 12 in rushing (bet you didn't know that) with 225.5 yards per game, averaging 5.1 yards per carry. And the Bears were a close second in passing yards per game, with Richardson helping to keep quarterback Nick Florence's jersey clean despite an emphasis on vertical throws.
Defensive Lineman of the Year: Meshak Williams, Kansas State
Williams led the Big 12 in sacks, was second in tackles for loss and third in forced fumbles. And he accomplished all of that despite battling with excellent line mate Adam Davis in a game of "who can get to the quarterback first." Toss Williams on a team without other pass-rushers, like a Kansas, and his stats might have been even more off the charts. But even leaving stats out, the terror that he inflicted off the edge on opposing quarterbacks was almost tangible this season.