Oklahoma State will kick off its 15th season under head coach Mike Gundy this fall. Cowboys Ride For Free will have a 15-day countdown with one article each day until the Cowboys’ season opener Aug. 30 at Oregon State.
With just nine days left before Gundy and his mullet take field to kick-off another season, let’s take a look at freshmen from each opposing Big 12 team who could play a major role this season. We will go in order of top ranked recruiting class to bottom.
Texas Longhorns: Jordan Whittington- Running Back
Texas returned its quarterback in Sam Ehlinger and key wide receiver Collin Johnson. The Horns lost wide out Lil’Jordan Humphrey and have to replace three starters on the offensive line. Running back Keaontay Ingram returns, but Whittington will split carries with him and have a chance to take over the first string reps.
Last time we saw Whittington on the football field was at the Texas UIL State Championships last December, where he was named both offensive and defensive MVP in Cuero’s win over Pleasant Grove. Whittington set a state championship game record by rushing for 334 yards on 28 carries and scored all six of Cuero’s touchdowns.
Ingram said Whittington is already impressing him. Whittington enrolled at Texas back in January and practiced with the team throughout the spring.
“Jordan, he’s going to be the real deal in the future,” Ingram said. “He could still go play wide receiver if he wanted to.”
Whittington’s natural position is wide receiver, though he did play a little bit of running back at Cuero. No matter where he lines up, Tom Herman will find reps for Whittington early and often. Expect Whittington to play a major role in the Texas offense this season.
Oklahoma Sooners: Jadon Haselwood (or) Theo Wease- Wide Receiver
Both guys were five star recruits out of high school. Oklahoma brought back CeeDee Lamb to lead the receiving corps, and the Sooners bring back reliable tight end Grant Calcaterra as well. Lincoln Riley could use some depth behind those two, however, and he has plenty of shiny, new options to try out.
Jadon Haselwood originally committed to Georgia before headlining an uber talented wide receiver recruiting class at OU. Though Haselwood didn’t produce as much as Theo Wease and Trejan Bridges did in the spring game, he will be expected to produce throughout the season now that he is healthy.
Speaking of Wease and Bridges, the two combined for 144 yards in the spring game. Wease was a standout at Texas powerhouse Allen High School, and Bridges played just up the road from Allen at Hebron High School. Between these three, Cee Dee Lamb told the Norman Transcript the wide receiver depth chart is looking strong.
“Them boys are very talented. They can go. All three of them,” Lamb said. “They adapt quickly. This is a hard offense to get in to, but I feel like with all of the thinking they’ve done, they’ve put in some extra work to learn quicker. They come in for extra time to ask me for help. They wanna win. They wanna learn.”
OU needs someone to step up, and all three guys have the potential for a breakout freshman season. It’s more likely Haselwood and Wease get the early looks.
TCU Horned Frogs: Daimarqua Foster- Running Back
There may not be too many impact freshman on TCU’s roster this season, but Daimarqua Foster is a name to keep an eye on. Most will have their eyes on quarterback Max Duggan, but with so many quarterbacks, coach Gary Patterson may elect to redshirt Duggan.
A few months ago Foster was not the obvious choice. He is TCU’s second highest ranked recruit, only behind Duggan, but TCU is set to return Sewo Olonilua. Last May, Olonilua was arrested on drug charges. TCU is letting the legal process run its course before making a decision on if Olonilua will play this season or not.
If he doesn’t, Foster will need to be ready to take some snaps this year. Foster rushed for nearly 2,800 yards and 41 touchdowns last season for Wichita Falls Hirschi. Keep an eye on Foster and fellow four star running back freshman Darwin Barlow in the backfield for TCU this season.
Baylor Bears: Jalen Ellis- Wide Receiver
Baylor returns Denzel Mims at wide receiver but lost dynamic playmaker Jalen Hurd to the NFL, along with Chris Platt. Jalen Ellis comes to Baylor as a former three star recruit and All-American from Round Rock, Texas.
Ellis spurned an offer to stay home and play for Texas when he signed with Baylor. He will likely be rewarded for making that decision with plenty of early playing time. Mims should have a productive year, but he will be the go-to option for Charlie Brewer on offense. If Ellis can step up and produce, that could help open up Mims.
In high school, Ellis had 46 receptions for 1,153 yards and 14 touchdowns. Watch for Ellis to get early playing time and plenty of looks with defenses keying in on Mims throughout the season.
Iowa State Cyclones: D.J. Miller (or) Kym-Mani King- Cornerback
Iowa State is young at the cornerback position and needed guys to step up in camp. D.J. Miller and Kym-Mani King are true freshman who might earn some heavy playing time after impressing coaches throughout camp.
New Iowa State cornerbacks coach Matt Caponi told the Des Moines Register that both guys have caught the eyes of the coaching staff because of their work ethic.
“Kym-Mani and D.J. both have very good football IQ’s,” Caponi said. “So they’ve done a really good job, especially in the first week, with as much as we’ve thrown at them as an install. It’s been pretty good. Not too many missed assignments. But they love the game of football. They practice really, really hard which gives them a leg up they’re very coachable too. They’ve been asking questions. They’ve been in the film room, watching. So I have been really, really impressed with how those guys have been.”
Being a cornerback in the Big 12 is one of the least enviable jobs in football, but the Iowa State cornerbacks will need to have a productive year and at least slow down some of the top talent in the Big 12. Having good corners can really make a difference in this conference, so look out for Miller and King this fall.
West Virginia Mountaineers: Winston Wright- Wide Receiver
Wide receiver has been the position to talk about at West Virginia over the last decade. The Mountaineers have had some great wide receivers roll through Morgantown recently, and West Virginia fans are excited about Winston Wright’s potential.
Wright was a two-time state sprint champion in his home state of Georgia in the 100 and 200 meter race. Now he takes that speed to Morgantown where he will likely end up fielding kicks and punts before taking many snaps at receiver.
Wright has a steep depth chart climb ahead of him, but impressing on special teams could certainly help his case. It also doesn’t hurt to have a guy with blazing speed who can blow the top off a defense. Wright could be a guy that plays a decent roll on this football team this season.
Texas Tech Red Raiders: Dequanteous Watts- Cornerback
Dequan Watts came out of Maynard Jackson High School in Atlanta, Georgia, with over 30 offers. He spurned schools such as Virginia Tech, Oregon and South Carolina to play at Texas Tech. Because the Red Raiders are short at safety, Watts may get a chance at early playing time.
If new head coach Matt Wells decides to move some of his more experienced cornerbacks over to safety, that would open up an opportunity for Watts to get some game reps in. If Watts gets reps in the non-conference portion of the schedule and performs, expect him to play often the rest of the season.
Kansas State Wildcats: Chris Herron- Wide Receiver
Chris Herron is actually a quarterback. He was a really good one, in fact, at Langham Creek High School in Houston, Texas. However, Herron won’t be getting many reps at the position this year with Skylar Thompson as the clear cut starter.
New head coach Chris Klieman said he was going to put his best athletes on the field in a position to succeed. Herron falls under that category, listed as a three star athlete out of high school.
The Kansas State coaching staff has been experimenting with Herron playing wide receiver in practice lately. Quarterbacks coach Collin Klein expressed that he wanted Herron at quarterback for the long term, but his best chance at seeing the field this season will be at wide receiver.
Kansas Jayhawks: Gavin Potter- Linebacker
Last season Joe Dineen Jr. was one of the few bright spots for the Jayhawk football program. Unfortunately for them, he has used up his eligibility. Now Gavin Potter comes in and will help usher in a new era in Lawrence.
The coaching staff, including new head coach Les Miles, have had good things to say about Potter recently. It was one of his childhood dreams to play college football, and he set a goal to get on the field as early as possible. After making the move from outside to inside linebacker, that is looking more and more like a possibility.
OSU fans may remember Potter for the way he announced his college decision, but that likely won’t be the way fans remember him in a few years. Not only is he one of the most likely freshman to see playing time for Kansas this year, he should have a long and successful career at Kansas. Only time will tell.