At this time a year ago, few people knew the name Curry Sexton.
The Kansas State receiver was overshadowed by teammate Tyler Lockett’s exploits, making him an afterthought when considering the conference’s top potential pass catchers in 2014. Yet Sexton stepped out of the shadows into the spotlight to became one of the Big 12’s top receiving threats, finishing in the top five in receptions (79) and yards (1,059).
Here’s a look at five Big 12 players who could be ready to step out of the shadows and into the spotlight as overshadowed players with breakout potential in 2015.
Baylor TE Tre’Von Armstead
2014 stats: 5 receptions, 62 yards, one touchdown
Why he was overshadowed: Fellow tight end LaQuan McGowan creates a enormous shadow, both literally and figuratively. After his Cotton Bowl touchdown catch and sterling spring, McGowan has gotten plenty of offseason headlines.
Why he could break out: Armstead sits alongside McGowan atop the depth chart and could be a major contributor to BU’s offensive attack in his own right. A former offensive lineman like his 400-pound teammate, Armstead brings a terrific combination of athleticism and size to help Baylor combat defenses that go small to match up with the Bears receivers. At 6-foot-6, 270 pounds, he also provides a run-blocking asset or red zone receiving option in short-yardage situations. Armstead will never lead the Bears in receiving, but he could become one of the Big 12’s top tight ends.
Oklahoma S Steven Parker
2014 stats: 31 tackles (20 solo) including two tackles for loss and one sack. Also added six pass breakups in 13 games (four starts).
Why he was overshadowed: The subject of the Sooners secondary often begins with talk of a disappointing 2014 or cornerback Zack Sanchez as the standout performer.
Why he could break out: Even as the overall secondary struggled, Parker was showing signs he could develop into a big-time player in crimson and cream. As a sophomore, he should play a bigger role in the OU defense thanks to his versatility. A safety who is good in coverage, Parker probably will play a key role if the Sooners secondary improves this fall.
Oklahoma State DE Jimmy Bean
2014 stats: 42 tackles including 6 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 5 quarterback hurries
Why he was overshadowed: Teammate Emmanuel Ogbah gets the headlines, but Bean is likely to play on Sundays as well. Ogbah had a breakout 2014 season that has made Bean’s progress easy to overlook despite Bean entering this season with two years of starting experience under his belt.
Why he could break out: Long, lanky and disruptive, Bean gives the Cowboys defense a pair of future NFL defensive ends to build around. The senior is well-equipped to take advantage if opponents focus on Ogbah, particularly if contributors emerge along the Pokes defensive interior. His performance in the 2014 Cotton Bowl -- seven tackles, three tackles for loss, one sack -- is a glimpse of his potential impact.
Texas Tech RB Justin Stockton
2014 stats: 48 carries, 396 yards, four rushing touchdowns, 12 receptions, 76 yards, one touchdown reception
Why he was overshadowed: DeAndre Washington isn’t going anywhere. Nor should he. The Red Raiders running back is one of the Big 12’s best, and most productive, running backs. His excellence makes it tough for Stockton to cement a consistent role.
Why he could break out: Stockton is a big play waiting to happen. He had six plays of 20 yards or more as a true freshman, including 75- and 69-yard touchdown runs. A year in the Red Raiders system, along with added game experience, should help Stockton earn a bigger role in 2015. He could be too talented to keep on the sideline for extended stretches.
TCU DT Chris Bradley
2014 stats: 12 tackles, two tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks
Why he was overshadowed: He played a backup role in 2014 and heads into 2015 as the overshadowed replacement for Chucky Hunter. Meanwhile, Davion Pierson is poised to become the standard-bearer for the TCU defensive line, which could keep the sophomore in the shadows.
Why he could break out: Bradley should make a jump as a sophomore after a strong true-freshman campaign. Another defensive line gem from Louisiana, Bradley looks ready to slide into Hunter’s place in the starting lineup. His late-season performances for TCU should give Gary Patterson confidence he’s ready for a bigger role during his second year on campus.