With the start of the college football season less than three weeks away, multiple players across the Big 12 are getting ready to suit up for their respective teams for the first time. Some of those new faces are transfers from other Division I programs, while some are heralded recruits straight out of high school.
Which of these Big 12 newcomers could have the biggest impact on the 2018 season? Below we go through each team in the conference and highlight newcomers most likely to draw attention in 2018.
Baylor: Jalen Hurd, Wide Receiver
There has been a lot of excitement building about Hurd, who was a running back for the Tennessee Volunteers from 2014-2016, where he came close to setting some rushing records. A former five star recruit, the tall, 240-pound tailback racked up over 2,600 yards before he suffered a concussion in 2016 and decided to transfer.
Earlier this year, Hurd talked more about why he decided to change both school and position after his injury. Coaches and teammates alike have raved about the redshirt senior at wideout, so pay attention to this name for the Bears as the 2018 season moves along.
Iowa State: Brayden Narveson, Kicker
After 2017, the Cyclones were hit hard by attrition in their special teams, particularly with the loss of kicker Garrett Owens. That should give the Cyclones a reason to be concerned about the position, but Matt Campbell has a potential answer in Brayden Narveson, a kicker that signed with Iowa State in January and enrolled in the spring.
Narveson was one of the highest rated place kickers in the country in 2018, so he could potentially come in and fill in the void left in special teams for Iowa State.
Kansas: Mavin Saunders, Tight End
Saunders was a four star recruit out of who headed to play for David Beaty after spending time on the roster at Florida State. As a redshirt senior, he brings a veteran presence to an offense at Kansas that only scored 18.7 points per game in 2017.
Saunders has the most potential to shine as a pass catcher, so if teams focus on teammate Steven Sims Jr. too heavily, expect the Jayhawks to toss it up to the senior tight end. At almost six-and-a-half feet tall, Saunders might be a good option in the red zone come fall.
Kansas State: Chabastin Taylor, Wide Receiver
Bill Snyder’s offenses seem to always be in need of a playmaking wide receiver to keep defenses honest, and redshirt junior Chabastin Taylor might be able to provide that next season. Taylor was a standout in the Wildcats’ spring game earlier this year, something that bodes well for Kansas State’s passing game.
The redshirt freshman has prototypical size for a wide receiver at six-feet-four-inches and 223 pounds, which would make him one of Kansas State’s biggest receiving threats.
After having some attrition in the offseason, we’ve written that the wide receiving corps for Kansas State is looking for some answers. If Taylor can develop under new offensive coordinator Andre Coleman – himself a former wide receiver for the Wildcats – he could follow in a long line of standouts that seem to come out of nowhere for the Kansas State head coach.
Oklahoma: Brendan Radley-Hiles, Defensive Back
The media voted “Bookie” the Big 12 Newcomer Of The Year in the preseason, so it only makes sense that this true freshman would be on this list. Radley-Hiles seems destined to play the nickel back position in Mike Stoops’ defense this season, something that speaks to the talent being brought to Norman.
Though young, Bookie was a five star recruit who played at IMG Academy in Florida before signing with the Sooners in the spring. An early enrollee, he participated in spring workouts, so expect to see Radley-Hiles on the field and possibly even starting at some point for Oklahoma.
Oklahoma State: Dru Brown, Quarterback
All indications from Mike Gundy since Big 12 Media Days have been that senior Taylor Cornelius will be the starting quarterback for Oklahoma State to begin the 2018 season. That doesn’t mean, of course, that graduate transfer Dru Brown doesn’t have a shot at QB1.
Brown, a shorter yet fairly mobile quarterback, completed over 60 percent of his passes in 2017 at Hawaii, amassing close to 2,800 yards in the process. Cornelius might be the favorite for the job right now, but the history of that position is on his side – the last time the Pokes replaced a generational talent there, they had two different quarterbacks throw at least 190 passes in a season. It would be wise to keep an on Brown, then, to see what he can do if he gets his chance in 2018.
TCU: Anthony McKinney, Offensive Tackle
After losing four senior starters along their offensive line, TCU was in need of some experienced players up front. Last December, the Horned Frogs got such help in the form of Anthony McKinney, a former four star recruit who’d played at Iowa Western Community College.
By all accounts, the JUCO tackle has been in a heated competition for a starting tackle spot, one that he will undoubtedly have to earn if he keeps it. It will be interesting to see what happens with McKinney as part of a revamped TCU offensive line.
Texas: Tre Watson, Running Back
Even though he’s only been a Texas Longhorn for such a short time, practice reports have Cal transfer Tre Watson moving up the running back depth chart in Austin. Perhaps that shouldn’t be surprising, especially since Watson stepped on campus as the most experienced back on the roster.
Keep an eye on the senior, who carried the ball 273 times out in the Pac-12 and averaged 10.2 yards per catch as a receiving option out of the backfield. If he can stay healthy, Watson might really be able to contribute to a Longhorn offense that struggled for most of 2017.
Texas Tech: Alan Bowman, Quarterback
There has been much debate about the quarterback position for the Red Raiders this fall, especially over who is going to start for Texas Tech in their opener against Ole Miss. Currently, there’s an ongoing battle between Jett Duffey, McLane Carter, and Alan Bowman, a highly touted true freshman.
In spite of his youth and the fact there are two older quarterbacks ahead of him, there is good reason to think that Bowman might start at some point this season for the Red Raiders. Reports on both Duffey and Carter since spring have indicated their inconsistency, and if Bowman can show Kliff Kingsbury some steady improvement, the head coach just might take a chance on the true freshman signal caller.
West Virginia: Jabril Robinson, Defensive Lineman
A priority for the Mountaineers this season will be improving their defensive line, something West Virginia sought to shore up in the spring with the help of graduate transfers. With the attrition up front, however, there’s also a chance for multiple players to step up and nab a starting spot headed into 2018.
One player to look out for there is Jabril Robinson, who transferred from Clemson when players on the vaunted Tigers’ defensive line decided to not forego their senior seasons to enter the NFL. Robinson played in 23 games for Clemson as a backup, but look for him to shine now that he has an opportunity excel as a starter.