Most intriguing freshmen: West Virginia

The Big 12 has seen true freshmen take the conference by storm over the past few years.

Karl Joseph earned a reputation as one of the Big 12’s best hitters during his first year at West Virginia in 2012. Andrew Billings began to make his mark at Baylor while starting the final two games for the Big 12 title-winning Bears in 2013. Running back Samaje Perine transformed Oklahoma’s running game in 2014, and receiver KaVontae Turpin brought explosiveness to TCU’s offense in 2015.

Year in and year out, true freshman step on campus and make an immediate impact. With that in mind, we’re going to take a team-by-team look at the most intriguing freshmen on each Big 12 roster.

Today, we kick off the series with the West Virginia Mountaineers.

WR Marcus Simms: The Mountaineers have a good group of receivers returning with Shelton Gibson, Daikiel Shorts, Gary Jennings and Ka'Raun White separating themselves and ready to carry the passing game in 2016. Yet Simms looks ready to force his way into the equation after a strong spring showing as an early enrollee, with Dana Holgorsen saying, “He is going to be a contributor for us next year,” after Simms had five receptions for 52 yards and one touchdown in the spring game.

“When I watch Marcus, I see myself when I was younger,” Gibson said. “He is so fast. Right now, he doesn’t know how to control his speed, but he is going to be an awesome player.”

RB Kennedy McKoy: Another early enrollee, McKoy could help the Mountaineers replace 2015 Big 12 rushing leader Wendell Smallwood. Running backs coach Ja'Juan Seider praised McKoy during his first spring in a West Virginia uniform.

“He’s playing, he’s not a redshirt,” Seider said. “It’s like a kid that’s redshirted that you didn’t need to play and now you need to play. It seems like he’s been in the program for a year. I have never seen a kid this far ahead.”

Rushel Shell should be the main man in West Virginia’s backfield, but McKoy should provide a quality complementary piece in the Mountaineers’ attack after a relatively seamless transition into the demands of college football.