Players entering their junior year are often making a key transition, going from talented contributors to experienced upperclassmen ready to lead their squads. Many of this year’s upcoming juniors flashed their potential last season, but come August they’ll be counted on to consistently perform at a high level.
Below is a list of the top returning true or redshirt junior for each squad in the Big 12 – the junior who, in other words, has showcased a combination of talent and on-the-field production that makes them most invaluable to their teammates.
Looking at this group, which is dominated mostly by offensive players, suggests that not only will 2019 feature its share of fireworks, but the Big 12 could be even more exciting the next season. In fact, many of the juniors in 2019 will likely have interesting decisions to make about possibly entering the NLF Draft.
That will make the coming offseason critical for these upperclassmen, many of who are going to step in and be expected to be major playmakers for their respective squads.
Baylor – Charlie Brewer, Quarterback
After Brewer fortified his status as starter last season, Matt Rhule said now’s the time for him “to take the next step and be one of the best players in the Big 12.” Improving on his 3,000 yards passing from last year will help Brewer accomplish that feat. The junior signal caller has become a major leader for the Bears, and will be a major factor in how much his team progresses in Year Three of the Rhule era.
Iowa State – Greg Eisworth, Defensive Back
As a stalwart part of the Iowa State secondary, Eisworth was named First Team All-Big 12 and Defensive Newcomer Of The Year in 2018. Eisworth led the entire Cyclone defense – which was one of the best defenses in the entire Big 12 – in tackles per game with 7.3. Iowa State will in all likelihood have one of the best defenses in the country once again in 2019, and look for Eisworth to be one of the biggest contributors to that effort.
Kansas – Stephon Robinson, Wide Receiver
Most of last year’s contributors were upperclassmen for the Jayhawks, but Robinson stands out as one of the few younger players whose productivity was pivotal in 2018. He amassed 330 yards receiving as a sophomore in an offensive system that seemed to always be rotating quarterbacks. As the only returning starter in the wide receiver group this season, Robinson should be heavily relied upon in whatever offensive schemes Les Miles chooses to employ in Year One.
Kansas State – Skylar Thompson, Quarterback
New head coach Chris Klieman stepped into a good offensive situation with Thompson, who’s attempted 291 passes over two years with the Wildcats and started 14 games. Thompson has a career 59.45 completion percentage and is also the presumptive starter at quarterback going into 2019. After having contributed over a third of the team’s total yardage last season, Thompson brings back more productivity than anyone else on the roster.
Oklahoma – CeeDee Lamb, Wide Receiver
The Sooners continue to reload at wideout, and Lamb appears ready to step fully into the role of number one receiver on this team. He’s amassed almost 2,000 yards receiving over two years while earning multiple All-Big 12 Honors. Lamb will almost surely see his name on preseason watch lists, and a look at his uncanny ability to haul in difficult passes should explain why. Despite working with a different quarterback for the third season in a row, expect Lamb to be a critical part of another productive offense in 2019.
Oklahoma State – Tylan Wallace, Wide Receiver
Wallace really exploded onto the scene for the Pokes last season, recording almost 1,500 yards receiving as a sophomore. He’ll be the leader of the pack in Oklahoma State’s wide receiver room this season, and opposing defenses will certainly do their best to prevent him from getting the ball. Wallace is such a talent, however, that new offensive coordinator Sean Gleeson will likely find creative ways to position the wideout for more big plays.
TCU – Jalen Reagor, Wide Receiver
With some of the injuries the Horned Frogs had last season on offense, Reagor stepped up to become the go-to guy whenever TCU needed explosive plays. In 2018, he was Second Team All-Big 12 and made the Pro Football Focus Second Team All-Big 12. Reagor’s 1,061 yards receiving ranks second in school history, and the junior accounted for 30.1 percent of his team’s receptions. He projects to go down as one of the best receivers the Horned Frogs have had, and don’t be surprised if there’s talk about Reagor as a possible first or second round draft pick next year.
Texas – Sam Ehlinger, Quarterback
After multiple seasons of struggle at the quarterback position, the Longhorns find themselves with a signal caller who finds himself in Heisman discussions entering 2019. Ehlinger was responsible for 41 touchdowns in his sophomore season, a number that ranks second all time at Texas. The junior passer also threw for just under 3,300 yards last season as he helmed an offense that was able to put up both points and yards on Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. He’ll be depended on in Year Three for Tom Herman as Texas tries to have repeat double digit-winning seasons.
Texas Tech – T.J. Vasher, Wide Receiver
Vasher enters this offseason with the potential to be one of the best receivers in the country, especially with last year’s freshman sensation, Alan Bowman, back at quarterback for the Red Raiders. The junior will have to navigate a new offensive system, of course, but offensive coordinator David Yost definitely will look to spread things out and throw the ball, so don’t expect too big of an adjustment there. Last year the long, tall Vasher fell just short of 700 yards receiving, but with him as one of the lone returning receivers, anticipate him hitting the 1,000 yard mark in 2019.
West Virginia – Kenny Robinson Jr., Safety
After losing a good group of senior leaders from last year’s defense, the Mountaineers will rely heavily on Robinson for leadership in 2019. Robinson has 20 career starts under his belt, and he tied for second in the Big 12 last season with interceptions, having logged four picks as a sophomore. Robinson is an All-Big 12 First Team defensive back who could be primed for a standout season in 2019, something is assuredly good news for new West Virginia head coach Neal Brown.