In August, this blog reviewed the 25 best players in the Big 12 entering the 2013 season. Now, midway through the season and just as conference play really starts to get interesting, it's time to wipe the slate clean and start over.
The No. 3 player in our preseason list, TCU defensive end Devonte Fields, is out for the season. Others have had good or great starts to their seasons but didn't hold onto their top-10 spots. Here, then, is our new take on the 10 best players in the Big 12 at midseason.
1. QB Bryce Petty, Baylor (preseason ranking: NR) Petty entered his first season as a starter with impossibly high standards. He’s surpassing them. He’s the Big 12’s leading passer, he had a TD-INT ratio of 13-1 and he leads the nation in yards per attempt (14.8) -- and he’s just getting started. The triggerman of the highest-scoring offense in college football will be challenged more in Big 12 play, but so far, he’s needed fourth-quarter snaps in only one game.
2. CB Jason Verrett, TCU (preseason: 1) He’s the best cover man in the conference, and it’s probably not even close. Verrett leads the Big 12 in pass breakups with 10 and nabbed his first interception against Kansas. He’s well on his way to matching last year’s total of 22 passes defended, which led the nation. Opposing offenses know to avoid the All-American, but he’s still making a major impact for the Horned Frogs.
3. RB Lache Seastrunk, Baylor (preseason: 5) He wants to be a Heisman contender, but right now he’ll have to settle for the title of most explosive back in college football. Seastrunk leads the Big 12 in rushing on 13 carries per game. He’s averaging just a shade under 10 yards per carry. He’s sharing the load right now, but expect Seastrunk’s workload to increase as the Bears’ schedule gets much more difficult late.
4. DE Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas (preseason: 10) Jeffcoat leads the Big 12 in sacks with five, has seven tackles for loss and, most important, he’s staying healthy. The senior is finally playing up to his elite potential and has made big plays for the Longhorns, including the game-clinching interception at Iowa State and two key sacks against Oklahoma. It’s possible fellow Texas DE Cedric Reed joins him on the postseason list: Reed leads UT in tackles and pass breakups and has similar sack/TFL numbers.
5. OG Cyril Richardson, Baylor (preseason: 2) The mammoth 6-foot-5, 340-pound lineman is the star of a Baylor offensive line that consistently bullies opponents and paves the way for 302.2 rushing yards per game. The Bears' line has also kept Petty relatively safe, with just seven sacks in five games. Richardson is one of the best guards in college football and has a long NFL future ahead of him.
6. TE Jace Amaro, Texas Tech (preseason: NR) In a league with so few impact receiving tight ends, Amaro has been an absolute revelation in 2013. He’s developed into a dangerous target in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense with a Big 12-leading 47 catches for 606 yards and a touchdown. He’s put up nearly 200 more receiving yards than any other tight end in the country and makes life easy for Tech’s freshman passers.
7. DL Kerry Hyder, Texas Tech (preseason: NR) Texas Tech's transition to a 3-4 defense this season is working out just fine for Hyder, and the senior end/tackle could end up being a serious contender for Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year if the Red Raiders remain a conference title contender. Nine of his 27 tackles have been behind the line of scrimmage, and Hyder has two sacks and two forced fumbles.
8. WR Antwan Goodley, Baylor (preseason: NR) You can make just as good a case for Tevin Reese making this list, but Goodley gets the nod on better stats and the pure surprise factor. Baylor’s fifth-leading receiver last season has become its best downfield threat. He’s No. 1 in the Big 12 with 669 yards, and his touchdowns catches have gone for 72, 61, 63, 65, 83 and 27 yards.
9. C Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma (preseason: 4) Oklahoma’s line took a bit of a hit against Texas but has otherwise impressed this season, and Ikard is its unquestioned leader. It has helped lead the way for the No. 2 rushing offense in the conference. Ikard is as versatile and accomplished as any lineman you’ll find in this league and should probably be ranked much higher than ninth.
10. RB Johnathan Gray, Texas (preseason: NR) We considered several players for this final spot, and a lot more than 10 merit inclusion. Gray, a true sophomore, is playing up to his five-star potential. He leads the Big 12 in rushes and is No. 2 in yards, with big performances against Oklahoma (123 yards) and Kansas State (141) and has emerged as Texas’ workhorse in the absence of David Ash.