In this week's Big 12 roundtable, we break down the ESPN.com All-Big 12 team:
Who had the biggest gripe being left off our first team?
Brandon Chatmon: Oklahoma cornerback Zack Sanchez should have been on the squad. Not only is he the veteran leader of the Big 12’s top secondary, Sanchez was tied for the Big 12 lead with six interceptions. More importantly, Sanchez stepped up in big moments, with a game-clinching interception at Tennessee, two picks against TCU, and helping the Sooners hand Baylor its first loss at McLane Stadium with an interception.
Max Olson: Maybe we should’ve made an exception and named two first-team QBs and two second-team QBs this year, because Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes and Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph were too good to be completely left out. What they achieved as true sophomores -- Mahomes’ ridiculous stats, Rudolph’s leadership -- was pretty terrific. We could’ve invented a utility spot for J.W. Walsh, too, because he was one of the league’s great difference-makers.
Jake Trotter: I think it's either West Virginia running back Wendell Smallwood or Kansas State offensive tackle Cody Whitehair. Both were All-Big 12-caliber players, and in most years they would've been first-team selections. They just played at positions that were stacked this year. Baylor's Spencer Drango might be the best left tackle in the country, and Texas Tech's Le'Raven Clark is a three-time all-conference player. In addition, Texas Tech's DeAndre Washington, who led the Big 12 in rushing, and Oklahoma's Samaje Perine, who led the Big 12 in rushing touchdowns, both were too good to be left off.
What position was toughest to decide?
Chatmon: Cornerback was extremely difficult. Jordan Thomas and Daryl Worley got the top two spots but Sanchez, Oklahoma State’s Kevin Peterson, Baylor’s Xavien Howard and West Virginia’s Terrell Chestnut deserved consideration. We could have expanded it to four cornerbacks and left a deserving player on the outside looking in.
Olson: We went back and forth about whether to honor a third linebacker or a fifth defensive back, because you need five good DBs to survive in this league and there are certainly some quality nickels. I was fine with having Dominique Alexander on the first team, but replacing him with TCU’s Denzel Johnson or even just another corner (Sanchez or Howard) would’ve been more than fair.
Trotter: I found guard to be the toughest positions. Two of the best guards in the league, Kansas State's Boston Stiverson and Iowa State's Daniel Burton, missed so much time, they were tough to gauge. And then unlike, say, offensive tackle, guard was not the Big 12's strongest position this year. After doing our due diligence, we wound up with Oklahoma's Nila Kasitati and Baylor's Blake Muir, both very solid players.
Who was the biggest surprise?
Chatmon: It was a little bit of a surprise how easily DeAndre Washington landed one of the running back spots. I figured there would be some sort of debate, but no conversation was needed for the guy I considered the Big 12’s best running back in 2015. Texas Tech isn’t known for its running game but the Red Raiders' ground attack was just as lethal as Baylor’s thanks in large part to Washington.
Olson: I went back and looked at the preseason All-Big 12 ballot I filled out. A few guys who were obvious picks in July but did not earn first- or second-team honors in December: Baylor’s Shawn Oakman, Texas Tech’s Pete Robertson and Oklahoma State’s Peterson. All three were considered top-25 players in this conference but just didn’t do enough to make the cut this week.
Trotter: Oakman not being on our first or second team. This was a player who began the year on the short list for Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. But where was he this season? Jamal Palmer was easily Baylor's most disruptive defensive end. Oakman has all the tools in the world. But at some point, you have to translate that into production.