Despite all the attention given to those fresh new recruits coming straight out of high school, returning senior starters are coveted by most football coaches for their experience and leadership on the gridiron.
As coaches across the Big 12 continue developing their 2019 squads, they’ll rely heavily on those veteran returners from last season. Below is a list of the top returning true or redshirt senior for each squad in the conference – the senior, in other words, who has showcased a combination of talent and on-the-field production that makes them most invaluable to their teammates.
Reading through the list below, it’s notable that there are no senior quarterbacks, an omission that is reflective of the lack of upperclassman signal callers across the Big 12 going into next season. As of right now, none of the relatively well-established starters at that position for any of the league’s ten teams will be seniors in 2019.
The lineup of this year’s senior class across the Big 12 suggests that many of the top contributors for next season will make their living on the opposite side of the ball. A majority of the older players for many teams in the conference, in fact, play defense.
No matter what side of the ball these individuals call home, each will have a significant impact on the season from offseason workouts to the start of actual games in the fall.
Baylor – Clay Johnston, Linebacker
Johnston led the Bears last season with 99 tackles, and made significant strides in his junior year to become a second team All-Big 12 selection. Against Oklahoma State last year, Johnston had more tackles in game than any Baylor Bear since 2013. He showcased quality play recognition in 2018, and his level of comfort playing within Phil Snow’s defensive system should only increase in Johnston’s fourth season in Waco.
Iowa State – Ray Lima, Defensive Tackle
There are a lot of seniors returning this season for the Cyclones on both sides of the ball. Lima, who made the 2018 All-Big 12 First Team, has been a key cog in the Iowa State defense for the past two years. At nose tackle, the redshirt senior regularly is able to occupy double teams and provides an unmatched level of disruption for the entire Cyclone defense.
Kansas – Hakeem Adeniji, Offensive Tackle
Having started every college game he’s played in, Adenjii will be one if the most valuable veterans that Les Miles relies on in 2019. The true senior has made multiple All-Big 12 lists in his tenure, and don’t be surprised to see the same happen again going into his final season of Division I play.
Kansas State – Scott Frantz, Offensive Tackle
With so many quality lineman leaving the Big 12 from 2018, Frantz projects to be one of the best tackles in the conference next season. The senior has the kind of pass blocking skills that may land him in the NFL in 2020, and will no doubt be relied upon to help mold the Wildcats in the Chris Klieman era. Kansas State returns multiple seniors who will also be key, but Frantz may have the most upside at his respective position.
Oklahoma – Neville Gallimore, Defensive Tackle
With the early departures of so many of Oklahoma’s 2018 junior starters, Lincoln Riley’s depth chart will be noticeably lacking in seasoned senior leadership. Of those fourth year players, however, Gallimore probably has the highest potential draft stock entering 2019, and he’s by far contributed the most of any Sooner. Last season, Gallimore recorded a career high 50 tackles, had three sacks, and two forced fumbles.
Oklahoma State – A.J. Green, Cornerback
Not only is Green one of the most experienced players for the Pokes, he’s also been a highly productive player out of the secondary. Green led the Cowboys with 11 passes defended in 2018, and was the Second Team All-Big 12 last season. Head coach Mike Gundy will no doubt rely heavily on him to provide leadership for a Pokes defense that will be developing new faces up front.
TCU – Jeff Gladney, Cornerback
Despite struggling with injuries in 2018, Jeff Gladney led the Horned Frogs last season with 12 passes defended. Gladney will be one of the best defensive backs in the Big 12 this year, and he’ll bring almost three years worth of starts into his senior season. In fact, of all the seniors that will suit up for TCU in 2019, Gladney might be the most seasoned.
Texas – Collin Johnson, Wide Receiver
Despite struggling with consistency throughout parts of his career, Johnson should be one of the Big 12’s best wide receivers in 2019. If the true senior has a strong enough showing this season, in fact, he could be a potential first round pick in next year’s draft. With a lot of youth on hand for Texas going into next season, having Johnson back will be a definite boon for head coach Tom Herman.
Texas Tech – Jordyn Brooks, Linebacker
Out of all the fourth year players for the Red Raiders, Brooks might have the best shot at getting drafted in 2020. In 2018, he led the Red Raiders in tackles for the second straight year, racking up 37 solo tackles. There are other players on either side of the ball that expectedly will be pivotal to what Matt Wells is building in Lubbock. Brooks, however, is by far the most productive veteran on the roster.
West Virginia – Colton McKivitz, Offensive Tackle
McKivitz is a three year starter who’s logged over 2,000 snaps on the offensive line for the boys in gold and blue. Twice, he was the recipient of an All-Big 12 Honorable Mention, and chose to forego the NFL Draft this offseason despite some projections that had him as a possible second day draft pick. As he adjusts to life under new head coach Neal Brown, McKivitz will be the most veteran player on the Mountaineers’ entire squad.