After looking through the list of running backs, it's obvious the talent in the Big 12 is much deeper in the backfield than along the line of scrimmage.
But here's how they stand now, and it could look much different in December. Here's the bottom half of the list.
1. Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma
The gap between Broyles and his closest contemporary might be larger than at any other position in the Big 12 -- at least as the season begins. Despite playing with a patchwork offensive line and an inexperienced freshman quarterback, Broyles still caught 89 passes for 1,120 yards and a league-high 15 touchdowns, which were also tied for second-most nationally. What makes Broyles so good is his elusiveness; he can turn a four-yard curl into a 20-yard game-breaker or a quick slant into a 50-yard score. That helps him remain consistent and provide an easy target for his quarterback, despite being just 5-foot-11 and 178 pounds. He missed most of the Miami game after fracturing his shoulder blade on the opening drive, all of the game against Baylor the following week and was limited against Texas. His numbers are even more staggering considering that time missed. Excluding those three games, he caught at least seven passes in all but one game, the opening-game loss to BYU. He closed the season with his best performance, a 13-reception, 156-yard, three-touchdown masterpiece against Stanford.
2. Jeff Fuller, Texas A&M
If one player can unseat Broyles this season, it's Fuller. He missed all of four games and most of two more with a broken leg last season, but once he returned, his production swelled and he closed the season with a pair of 100-yard performance, including six catches for 132 yards and three touchdowns against rival Texas. He's got two years of experience, the conference's best quarterback (including great rapport and trust with said quarterback), great size (6-foot-4, 215 pounds) and outstanding hands. Barring another injury, 1,000 yards look like a very real possibility for Fuller.
3. Alex Torres, Texas Tech
Torres is the slightly-more-impressive half of the top of Texas Tech's extremely deep receiving corps. He remained constant while his starting quarterback shifted. He'll be expected to do the same this year for Steven Sheffield and Taylor Potts -- a quarterback race that never really heated up this spring after both suffered injuries. Torres had his best game against one of the conference's best defenses last season, burning Oklahoma for 163 yards on 11 catches and a touchdown in the Red Raiders' 41-10 win.
4. Niles Paul, Nebraska
Paul is perhaps the most interesting receiver in the entire Big 12. Before last season, he had zero career touchdown catches, and failed to top 800 yards last season with 40 catches for 796 yards and four touchdowns. But Nebraska's shell offense hasn't allowed the nation to quite get a real read on just how talented Paul really is. How much that's affected him -- or should affect him -- is up for debate. NFL scouts recently tabbed Paul as the top senior wideout in next year's draft, but he'll need to validate it on the field this season. One of his brightest flashes of brilliance came in last season's Holiday Bowl on a 74-yard touchdown catch. He'll need more of those this year to move up the list. He was held without a catch once last season, and had just one catch in four other games. But how much was Nebraska's conservative playcalling after a frustrating loss to Iowa State (a game that featured six Paul catches for 143 yards, by the way) to blame? I'm hoping to find out this year.
5. Detron Lewis, Texas Tech
Lewis is a little shorter (6-foot) than his Red Raider counterpart, Torres (6-foot-2), but both provided nearly identical production throughout the season. Lewis finished with 65 receptions for 844 yards and six touchdowns, while Torres finished with 67 catches for 806 yards and six scores. But Lewis' production dropped last season, even though he caught at least five passes in eight games. Part of that was the switch to Potts and Sheffield from Graham Harrell, but Lewis never became the top target for his new quarterback, even though he put up impressive numbers. He should have another great year as a senior, but Torres' bright future after equaling Lewis' production in just his first year playing pushes him higher on the list.