<
>

Big 12's unsung heroes: Week 1

Each Saturday Big 12 players are overshadowed by their teammates, putting in a critical performance while other players end up getting the headlines. Therefore each week we'll aim to shine a light on those overlooked contributors in Big 12's unsung heroes.

Here's a team-by-team look at one unsung hero for each team last weekend:

Baylor DE Jamal Palmer: It was a terrific return to the field for Palmer, who was really coming on for the Bears before an knee injury derailed his 2014 season. The senior had 7.5 tackles (six solo) including four tackles for loss along with one sack with Shawn Oakman serving a one-game suspension in Baylor's 56-21 win against SMU. Once Oakman returns, he'll join Palmer to give coach Art Briles' team a devastating duo.

Iowa State WR Dondre Daley: As if the Cyclones need more playmakers at receiver, Daley looked like a legit threat in Iowa State's passing game in Iowa State's 31-7 win against Northern Iowa. His catch and run on a screen play was proof he's evolving into a quality option alongside Quenton Bundrage, D'Vario Montgomery and Allen Lazard in the Cyclones' offense.

Kansas RB Ke'aun Kinner: Overshadowed by the ugly start to the coach David Beaty era, Kinner had 27 carries for 157 yards and two touchdowns in the Jayhawks' 41-38 loss to South Dakota. The junior college transfer showed quickness and the ability to make defenders miss while averaging 5.8 yards per carry.

Kansas State CB/KR Morgan Burns: The Wildcats' kick return specialist got the 2015 season started with style with his 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to start the game. His big return allowed Kansas State to play with a lead as the offense struggled to find its rhythm early thanks to an injury to starting quarterback Jesse Ertz. Burns added three tackles and a pass breakup in the 34-0 win against South Dakota.

Oklahoma WR Jarvis Baxter: His numbers weren't eye-catching (five receptions, 51 yards) but it was easy to see why the junior college transfer skyrocketed to the top of the Sooners' depth chart. Not only did he lead the squad in receptions, his downfield blocking stood out on several occasions during Oklahoma's 41-3 win against Akron.

Oklahoma State DE Jimmy Bean: Defensive tackle Vincent Taylor was Oklahoma State's star along the offensive line, but Bean's impact was just as important. Playing a hybrid role as a standup defensive end, the senior finished with four solo tackles including one tackle for loss with a quarterback hurry and a sack. His versatility could be a key component of the Cowboys' defense in 2015.

Texas WR/KR Daje Johnson: Hero is probably not the right word for anyone who had the metallic Longhorn logo on their helmet during Texas' 38-3 loss to Notre Dame, but Johnson looked like the lone playmaking threat for the Longhorns. The senior finished with 112 all-purpose yards in the loss.

Texas Tech DB J.J. Gaines: Patrick Mahomes and the Red Raiders' offense put up big numbers but no player had a better game than Gaines. The senior defensive back had seven solo tackles (tied for the team high) along with one fumble recovery and a 47-yard interception return for a touchdown in Tech's 59-45 win against Sam Houston State.

TCU DE Terrell Lathan: The senior defensive end was incredibly active throughout the night, causing havoc in TCU's 23-17 win against Minnesota to offset the loss of a pair of starters (Davion Pierson, James McFarland) along the defensive line. Lathan finished with four tackles, including a tackle for loss, along with his forced fumble on a sack of Mitch Leidner.

West Virginia HB Wendell Smallwood: Everyone was overshadowed by the performance of Karl Joseph (three third-quarter interceptions) but Smallwood looks ready for a bigger role in West Virginia's offense. The junior had 11 carries for 96 yards and one touchdown along with four receptions for 23 yards in the Mountaineers' 44-0 win against Georgia Southern. Smallwood led West Virginia in rushing and receptions.