10. Jake Knott, LB, Iowa State:
Knott was pretty much sidelined by injuries near the end of last year. He had offseason surgery and seems ready to go. Iowa State is going to be looking to continue momentum from last year and they're going to have to rely on their strong defense to do that. Knott along with his partner in crime, AJ Klein, look to dominate Big 12 offenses in 2012.
9. Tony Jefferson, DB, Oklahoma:
The co-winner of the Defensive Freshman of the Year award is primed to have an even better season this year. Oklahoma's defense is still strong and another year of experience is only going to help him have a huge year. He’s going to be the anchor in this brutal secondary.
8. Stansly Maponga, DE, TCU:
The Horned Frogs have been producing top defenses for the last few seasons. 2012 looks like it isn't going to be any different and the leader of the unit is going to be Maponga. He had nine sacks and five forced fumbles last year. This will be his first year on the big stage; and he'll be ready.
7. Nick Florence, QB, Baylor
: Nick Florence is going to have some big shoes to fill, left by Heisman winner RG3, and he only has one season to do it. Baylor’s arrival as a contender has been invigorating for the school. Florence only played in one game last year, but he played well. He hasn't had any extended playing time since 2009, but now he has his chance. He could easily breakout with a year like Ryan Tannehill and Brandon Weedon had last year.
6. Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State:
Arthur Brown transferred from Miami(Florida) after struggling in 2010. Even though his seasons at Miami weren’t great, don’t forget Brown was a top recruit coming into college. He played well last year, and looks to improve on that. He won Big 12 Newcomer of the Year award. I look for him to be the running for the Dick Butkus award this year, plus it’s always nice to play on a team with your brother.
5. David Ash/Case McCoy, QB, Texas:
I put both of these guys at the same position because Mack Brown won't pick one. Texas’ two QB system didn't work last year. They are going to have to commit to one of these guys at starting QB. It looks to be David Ash's job to lose, and he has shown plenty of promise though has struggled heavily. Case McCoy, little brother of Texas QB legend Colt McCoy, is a cool story, and has marginally better stats than Ash with almost equal playing time. My bet is that Ash will keep the job and finally emerge as a solid quarterback.
4. Joseph Randle, RB, Oklahoma State:
Joseph Randle is good. He is, by far, the best running back in the conference. His 24 touchdowns last year is second on OSU’s list only to Barry Sanders. Yes, that Barry Sanders. Those touchdowns came out of 1,216 yards, and that was with Brandon Weedon and Justin Blackmon taking most of the offensive touches last year. Those guys are gone. Randle is expected to carry the Cowboys’ offense and he will. He has the size, speed, and talent.
3. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia:
Geno Smith had a huge year last year. He blew up with 4,385 yards and 31 touchdowns. He only threw 7 picks last year on top of that. 2012 isn't going to be a cakewalk for the Mountaineers, but they couldn't have a better player leading them into it. Look for Smith to not only have a huge year, but he'll be a Heisman hopeful for sure.
2. Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas:
I know what you’re thinking; “A defensive player is your second most important, best player for 2012?” But the simple answer is Jackson Jeffcoat is a beast. That is the only way I can say it…beast. He had a stellar 2011 season, with 8 sacks and 54 tackles, and is on a staggering Longhorns defense for 2012. Anchoring the D-line opposite Alex Okafor is going to be hard for any O-line to stop. Honestly, I think he’s going to be a top ten pick in the 2013 NFL draft. Oh, I thought of another word to describe him…‘monster.’
1. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma:
Landry Jones is expected to be one of the best, if not the best, quarterback in college football next year. This kid is good, no great. He looks almost like a pro behind center. The Sooners live and die on Jones’ play. Jones threw for 4,463 yards and 29 touchdowns, but I expect 2012 to be more like 2010, for Jones, when he threw for almost 5,000 yards and 40 touchdowns. The battle for the 2012 Heisman is going to be a shootout between Jones and USC’s Matt Barkley.