In this roundtable, we take a closer look at some of the most difficult choices.
Toughest decision among award winners?
Jake Trotter: Coach of the year and defensive player of the year were the toughest choices for me. Dana Holgorsen had such a terrific year, especially given the preseason expectations and what the Mountaineers lost off last year’s team. But Bob Stoops became the first coach in seven years to lead his team to an undefeated season in conference play and did a terrific job rallying the Sooners after the disastrous nonconference showing. Defensive player of the year wasn’t easy, either. I would’ve been just fine with K-State defensive end Jordan Willis or Oklahoma State defensive tackle Vincent Taylor, who both had comparable years to West Virginia cornerback Rasul Douglas.
Max Olson: Coach of the year was the honor that I really went back and forth on, and I totally understand why Stoops ended up winning that honor from the coaches and AP writers. The Sooners did overcome a lot of injuries and a 1-2 start to have an exceptional year. For me, it came down to the fact Oklahoma was supposed to go 10-2 or better this year. West Virginia definitely was not supposed to go 10-2, not based on preseason expectations. Holgorsen did a fantastic job of assembling his veteran-heavy squad and getting them to reach their potential, and that impressed me slightly more.
Mitch Sherman: I felt good about both of the West Virginia honorees mentioned above, but I struggled with offensive player of the year. Dede Westbrook is a great choice, and I agree with the decision of Heisman voters to send him to New York this week. But who got him the ball? In this second year of sensational QB play from Baker Mayfield, a tendency exists to take him for granted. Mayfield was better this year than last. Among Mayfield, Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson and Jake Browning, the Oklahoma junior led the group in completion percentage, and passing yards per game and per attempt.
Most difficult choice to leave off the first team?
Olson: I received a lot of not-so-thrilled feedback about Mayfield over Mahomes and Allen Lazard instead of Jonathan Giles, which was to be expected. I thought the safety position was particularly difficult to decide on this year with so many talented and productive players, and I do think TCU’s Denzel Johnson and Kansas’ Fish Smithson were worthy of recognition. I promise we didn’t forget about those guys, and with the way they play in this conference, we probably should be honoring five defensive backs on each All-Big 12 team instead of four.
Sherman: Oklahoma linebacker Jordan Evans earned a spot on our second team, but I see his case for first-team recognition -- which Evans received from the league coaches and the Associated Press. We went with teammate Ogbonnia Okonronkwo over Evans alongside consensus first-teamers Elijah Lee of Kansas State and TCU’s Travin Howard. Evans did a little -- actually a lot -- of everything for the Sooners, with 81 tackles, eight behind the line of scrimmage, and four picks, a league high among linebackers.
Trotter: Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Oklahoma offensive tackle Orlando Brown stick out. Unlike the coaches’ All-Big 12 team, we actually included guards, which left only two spots for Dalton Risner, Connor Williams and Brown. We went with the former two, but Brown had a good case, as well. Even though Texas Tech fans aren’t happy about it, Mayfield did deserve to be the first-team quarterback. But in most other seasons, Mahomes would’ve been a first-team player.
Most likely to make a jump next season?
Sherman: Justice Hill rushed for an Oklahoma State freshman-record 1,042 yards after opening the season as a secondary option in the Cowboys’ crowded backfield. Imagine what he’ll do next year when he’s the top back from the start. Chris Carson is gone after the Valero Alamo Bowl. D’Onta Foreman is leaving early at Texas. Even if Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine return at Oklahoma, pencil in Hill as one of the Big 12’s best backs in 2017.
Trotter: When healthy, TCU’s KaVontae Turpin is one of the top players in the league. Turpin didn’t play in enough games to be a first-team player this season. But assuming he’s healthy again, Turpin figures to be a first-teamer in 2017.
Olson: If Mayfield, Mahomes and Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph all come back for their season seasons in 2017, we might need to add an extra quarterback slot on our 2017 All-Big 12 teams. Mayfield and Mahomes were so statistically dominant that it was easy to overlook Rudolph and the excellent junior season he put together. Not easy to snub a guy like that, and I’m sure he’ll be even better next year.