Big 12 Spotlight: Reviewing the conference’s 2021 season

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Deuce Vaughn is a weapon – One of my top picks for Big 12 MVP, Vaughn had another outstanding season at Kansas State, showing off his versatility in the run game as a receiver, and as a returner. There aren’t many more dangerous players in the country than him.

Kansas isn’t close – Yes, the Jayhawks knocked off Texas in one of the biggest upsets of the season, but outside of that they showed that they still have a massive talent gap between them and the rest of the league. Lance Leipold definitely was able to get a fair bit out of what he had, but he’s going to need a couple of seasons before they even sniff bowl contention.

Texas Tech struggles – I had Matt Wells as one of the top coaches on the hot seat, and he was dismissed midseason. The Red Raiders’ offense never quite got going, and Joey McGuire has his work cut out for him.

Baylor is really, really good – I had Baylor finishing 3-9 in Dave Aranda‘s second season due to a lack of offense. Well, the Bears got a ton of production from Gerry Bohanon and the two-headed monster of Abram Smith and Trestan Ebner in the backfield and their defense was stellar.

Oklahoma State has a defense – Defensive coordinator Jim Knowles deserves a ton of credit for putting together one of the best units in the country despite not having a ton of big-name guys. Malcolm Rodriguez is an absolute star at linebacker, and the Cowboys’ secondary held up really well against Big 12 offenses.

Texas implodes – I really thought that Steve Sarkisian would be able to take advantage of the talent he had on hand, but the team did not click in his first season in Austin. Outside of Xavier Worthy there were no really notable performers on offense, and the defense could not stop a nose bleed, leading to a six-game losing streak in the middle of the season.

Offensive Player of the Year – Breece Hall, Iowa State

Even though the Cyclones didn’t have the season they wanted, Hall was still outstanding, rushing for nearly 1,500 yards and 20 TDs, which was good for third in the nation. He is in the fight for being the top running back in next year’s draft.

Defensive Player of the Year – Malcolm Rodriguez, Oklahoma State

There were a surprising amount of defensive players who had really good seasons in the Big 12, but Rodriguez was a cut above the rest. The All-American linebacker led the conference with 118 tackles and was the heart and soul of one of the best defenses in the country.

Freshman of the Year – Caleb Williams, Oklahoma

This could have easily gone to Xavier Worthy as well, but Williams showed why he was a five-star talent. Oklahoma galvanized around him in the Texas game, and he’s absolutely the guy moving forward for Brent Venables and the new coaching staff. New offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby is going to have fun scheming up plays for him.

Coach of the Year – Dave Aranda, Baylor

As if this could go to anyone else. Not even the most ardent Bears fan could have predicted Baylor winning the conference title and heading to the Sugar Bowl. I’ll be the first to admit I was skeptical of Aranda’s ability as a head coach, but he’s proven that he deserves to be ranked among the best.

NFL Draft Stock Up (Offense) – Breece Hall, Iowa State

Can we say Hall raised his stock? He had a very good year as expected, but he’s still in the Round 2 range as well. But as a running back that’s not so bad as the position has been downgraded overall. Despite Iowa State’s struggles he has been impressive.

NFL Draft Stock Up (Defense) – DL Perrion Winfrey, Oklahoma

Nik Bonnitto was supposed to be the top defensive player on the board for Oklahoma, but it could very well be Winfrey who has become more consistent, which is what scouts wanted.

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