With the 2015 season in the books, and after careful consideration, we’ve ranked the top 25 players of 2015 in the Big 12.
We continue the weeklong countdown below with Nos. 16-20:
16. Cody Whitehair, T, Kansas State: Overshadowed by other top tackles in the Big 12, Whitehair was second to none in 2015. One of the Wildcats’ captains, Whitehair started all 13 games this season helping K-State finish 6-6 after a six-game losing streak to start Big 12 play. According to ESPN Stats and Information, K-State averaged 5.48 yards per carry behind Whitehair. By comparison, the Wildcats finished with a 3.88 yards per carry average overall. A first-team All-Big 12 performer by the league’s coaches, Whitehair had a terrific season.
17. Wendell Smallwood, RB, West Virginia: The Big 12’s leading rusher led the conference with 1,519 rushing yards and his 6.38 yards per carry was fifth among Big 12 running backs with 100 carries or more. Highly regarded for his versatility, Smallwood showed toughness as a junior, gaining 860 rushing yards between the tackles, according to ESPN Stats & Information. In a conference that featured Samaje Perine, DeAndre Washington and other elite running backs, Smallwood separated himself as an elite ball carrier.
18. Morgan Burns, CB/KR, Kansas State: Burns put fear in the heart of every special-teams coach. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Burns returned an FBS-best 44.1 percent of his 34 kick returns for 30 yards or more and his four kick returns for touchdowns led FBS returners. His kick returns against Iowa State and West Virginia were critical during K-State’s run toward a bowl game. The Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year saw his defensive contributions (38 tackles, 11 pass breakups, one interception) get overshadowed by his special-teams excellence despite starting all 13 games at cornerback as a senior.
19. Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State: The Cowboys quarterback had a solid sophomore season which saw him finish second in the Big 12 in passing yards (3,770) and completions of 20 yards or more (59). Oklahoma State’s two-quarterback system was the key to its 10-win season with Rudolph providing the explosive passing game and J.W. Walsh bringing a run-pass element to the attack. After two seasons at Oklahoma State, Rudolph is 12-3 as a starter while re-igniting a passing game that helped Oklahoma State earn a New Year's Six berth.
20. Derrick Kindred, S, TCU: The lone returning starter from the Horned Frogs’ 2014 season who was able to start every game in 2015, Kindred brought experience, toughness and desire to Gary Patterson’s defense. Playing with a broken collarbone, Kindred never wavered, finishing with 87 tackles, two forced fumbles and one interception. He set a physical tone in the secondary while providing leadership for a young Horned Frogs’ defense during TCU’s 11-win season.