What to make of the Big 12? Its two undefeated teams – West Virginia and Baylor – do not have a quality win between them, and its best team in my estimation – Oklahoma – has two losses thanks to a tough non-conference schedule which included Houston and Ohio State. It has some of the lowliest programs in major college football, most notably Kansas, a program in such shambles it is nearly impossible to fathom it won the Orange Bowl in 2008. Despite middling results, there has been plenty of talent flashing in the league as we hit the season’s mid-point. A look at some of week seven’s best below.
Premier Conference Performers
WR Dede Westbrook, Oklahoma Sooners
Nine receptions for 184 yards and three touchdowns
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This is the second straight week Dede Westbrook has been a top performer, and while I like to spread the wealth in this section, he was once again too dominant to ignore. Westbrook has assumed Sterling Shepard’s old role of alpha dog in the Sooner passing hierarchy and has looked great doing it, running sharp routes and using supreme athleticism to get open at will. The former JUCO star has a slight frame which really raises questions about his projection to the next level, but he adds a little juice to a rather pedestrian receiver class.
WR Jonathan Giles, Texas Tech Red Raiders
Eight receptions for 136 yards and two touchdowns
Even though West Virginia kept Patrick Mahomes relatively in check, Jonathan Giles still stockpiled receptions and yardage in a blowout loss. The sophomore was highlighted a few weeks ago in the “Rising Players” section and should easily surpass the 1,000 yard and ten touchdown threshold over the next few weeks. While it is easy to dismiss anyone in the Red Raiders offense, he is at least worth monitoring in the class of 2018 or 2019.
RB D’onta Foreman, Texas Longhorns
30 carries for 136 yards and one touchdown, one reception for three yards
While the numbers are not eye-popping, D’onta Foreman’s ability to be a week-in and week-out workhorse certainly is. An extremely large man with enough wiggle to make defenders miss and get to the second level, Foreman profiles as – at worst – as a power back in a committee and he has the package of skills necessary to lead a backfield. He’s a forgotten man in the much ballyhooed 2017 running back class.
WR Devin Duvernay, Texas Longhorns
Four receptions for 96 yards and one touchdown
Baylor’s loss has proven to be Texas’ gain, as former Baylor commit Devin Duvernay has really come on recently despite just arriving on campus in the late summer. Blessed with smooth acceleration and plus run-after-the-catch ability, Duvernay would have been a natural in the Bears’ offense yet has also acclimated to Texas’ suddenly potent offense. The Longhorns do not have a clear number one receiver at this point; John Burt has fallen off after a strong opener and its leader in receiving yards is former quarterback Jerrod Heard. Duvernay may be the most talented receiver in the group and he can put a stranglehold on the number one receiver designation if he continues to flash big-play ability. He’s poised to mature quickly along with Shane Buechele, giving Texas one of the more exciting young passing duos in college football.
WR Jovon Durante, West Virginia Mountaineers
Four receptions for 83 yards
Seeming to have absconded from his stay in the doghouse, Jovon Durante has caught 17 passes over the past three weeks and established himself as one of West Virginia’s best playmakers. A true burner with some pretty freaky body gesticulations, Durante can stretch the field and gives West Virginia two receivers who can score with anywhere on the field, along with Shelton Gibson. Durante has not yet established himself as a premier receiver among this year’s group of sophomore receivers; however, he is at least trending back in the right direction after his development took a wrong turn following some academic issues at the end of the 2045 season.
QB Seth Russell, Baylor Bears
9/22 for 144 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions; seven carries for 68 yards and two touchdowns
Baylor still has a credible group of receivers, yet without all-world superstar and virtually unparalleled depth, the Baylor passing game has taken a step back and Seth Russell has not taken his game to the next level to keep this passing game elite. Following a rather uninspiring effort against Kansas, his completion percentage is down to 57.1 and his early season Heisman hope has completely vanished. Despite good size and plus athleticism, Russell merely looks like a developmental option after entering the season looking as though he could be a day two quarterback.
QB Zach Smith, Baylor Bears
Baylor freshman Zach Smith has only received mop-up duty this year, but even nominal playing time as Seth Russell’s apprentice is a good indicator he will get first crack at replacing Russell in 2017. The pure pocket passer stuck with Baylor throughout its scandal and while it was low-level football (by Texas high school football standards) Smith excelled in a spread offense in high school. The big question is what the next head coach brings to Waco. Will the Bears stick with the wide open, high-octane offense which was their hallmark under Art Briles? Or will they reform into a more traditional offense which offers fewer opportunities to pile up numbers and sling it around the yard? The latter may be moot, as spread offense may what we consider traditional these days, and given the Big 12’s propensity for high scoring affairs and the allure of playing in wide open offenses – especially for non-blue bloods schools such as Baylor – it seems likely Baylor sticks with its aggressive attack to some degree. Smith should benefit from early opportunity and could post big numbers as early as 2017.
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