Neither player was lauded as the Longhorns' or Sooners' top signee. We're only one season into the careers of the Class of 2015 but several players have already exceeded expectations. Here’s a look at one Class of 2015 hidden gem from each Big 12 school.
Baylor: Punter Drew Galitz didn’t arrive in Waco, Texas, with any fanfare but he had the biggest impact of a true freshman throughout the season. He earned honorable mention All-Big 12 while serving as the Bears' punter throughout the season. He averaged 40.7 yards per punt with seven punts of 50 yards or more.
Iowa State: Running back Joshua Thomas was a three-star prospect from Buford, Georgia, but he immediately carved a role in the Cyclones offense as a true freshman, becoming one of two true freshmen to play. Thomas finished with 75 carries for 295 yards and a team-high seven touchdowns in a short-yardage role.
Kansas: Quarterback Ryan Willis was a long-time commitment, pledged to play for Charlie Weis before David Beaty took over. He could have taken it personally when Beaty decided to recruit Carter Stanley. Instead Willis invited the added competition, impressed in preseason camp, then held his own when injuries forced him into the lineup. Willis could be the Jayhawks' quarterback of the future after passing for 1,719 yards, nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Kansas State: Cornerback Duke Shelley was one of the Wildcats' highest-rated recruits but a three-star prospect nonetheless. Kansas State’s Class of 2015 had a minimal impact until Shelley’s redshirt was removed during the season. He went on to become one of the Big 12’s top freshman, starting eight games and finishing with 28 solo tackles and seven pass breakups.
Oklahoma: Dru Samia became the first true freshman to start at tackle since 2006. After starting the season opener, he lost his job. But the three-star prospect from Danville, California, worked his way back into the starting lineup, stepping in to help stabilize Oklahoma's offensive line after the loss to Texas. He went on to start nine games and played a critical role in the Sooners' push to a playoff berth.
Oklahoma State: Receiver Jalen McCleskey, a three-star signee from Louisiana, became an impact freshman on offense and special teams. He scored four touchdowns including a 67-yard punt return for a score against Texas Tech and had a catch in 10 games. His speed and quickness should make him a potential breakout player in 2016.
Texas: Tackle Connor Williams was a three-star prospect out of Coppell (Texas) High yet he stepped in to start and become one of the Longhorns’ top offensive linemen. He is on the road to becoming a multiyear starter and all-conference performer if he continues to grow like he did as a true freshman.
TCU: Defensive end Tipa Galeai fought his way onto TCU’s depth chart after being one of the lower-rated Horned Frogs signees. The three-star prospect ended up playing in seven games for TCU, recording seven tackles and one sack. Galeai should have an expanded role in 2016 with Mike Tuaua and Terrell Lathan moving on.
Texas Tech: Linebacker D’Vonta Hinton played 13 games for the Red Raiders, finishing with 53 tackles (32 solo) including 5.5 tackles for loss with a pair of sacks. The three-star signee really came on during the final four games of the season, recording 25 tackles including a 12-tackle effort against West Virginia.
West Virginia: David Sills stepped on campus as a three-star quarterback prospect from Elkton, Maryland. He ended the season by catching the game-winning touchdown in the Motel 6 Cactus Bowl after shifting to receiver midway through the season. He only had seven receptions for 131 yards and two touchdowns but looked at home after the position change.