Freshmen often have ambitions to get significant playing time when they begin their college football careers, but many have to bide their time for a couple of years. The players on this list, however, managed to stand out last season as novices to the college gridiron, and became key assets for their respective teams.
Below is a list of the top returning true or redshirt sophomores for each squad in the Big 12 – the sophomore who, in other words, has showcased a combination of talent and on-the-field production that makes them most invaluable to their teammates.
This list runs the full gamut, from players who were high impact starters for most or all last season, to players that logged less playing time in 2018. All of them will look to improve and settle into their roles now that they’ve moved past their rookie seasons.
Baylor – Christoph Henle, Tight End
A major contributor for the Bears in 2018, Henle started at tight end in six games last year. Receptions are usually more rare for his position in college football, but as a true freshman that enrolled in the spring, the native Austrian recorded seven interceptions last fall. If the Bears offense can make some much anticipated progress this year, expect to see Henle’s numbers go up.
Iowa State – Brock Purdy, Quarterback
Purdy carried on the tradition of Iowa State backup quarterbacks who provide a spark for the offense in 2018. As a true freshman, Purdy posted a 16-to-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio, and he burst multiple school records on his way to having the best performance by a first year quarterback in Iowa State history. Despite losing a couple of stars that surrounded him last year, expect the sophomore to be one of the better signal callers in the Big 12.
Kansas – Corione Harris, Cornerback
As a four star recruit out of Louisiana, Harris was a rare find for the previous staff. As a true freshman last year, he played in all of the Jayhawks’ games and eventually won a starting job at cornerback. Harris had 33 solo tackles last season, and will no doubt be seen as an asset for Les Miles, who has a history of coaching strong defensive backs.
Kansas State – Chabastin Taylor, Wide Receiver
The Wildcats rarely let freshman see the playing field under Bill Snyder, but Taylor managed to log a couple of games of playing time in 2018. Taylor has ideal size for a wide receiver at 6’4″ tall and 229 lbs. With a new coaching staff taking over in Manhattan, look for Taylor to make a name for himself in 2019.
Oklahoma – Creed Humphrey, Center
Those who follow Oklahoma football were singing Humphrey’s praises from the minute he stepped onto campus. He was a four star recruit out of high school, and so far he’s lived up to those expectations. After redshirting in 2017, Humphrey became the starting center for the Sooners last season and started 12 games for them at the position.
Oklahoma State – Chuba Hubbard, Running Back
The Pokes face a staunch challenge in replacing the departed Justice Hill this season, but after racking up 740 rushing yards last year, Hubbard could well fill that void. As a redshirt freshman taking over for Hill last season, he average over 100 yards per game in four separate contests.
TCU – Taye Barber, Wide Receiver
Of all the Big 12 freshman receivers who saw significant playing time last year, Barber probably had the best season. He had a reception in each of the 13 games that he played in, and notched seven starters in 2018. Barber’s athletic versatility helped him average 9.5 yards per reception, and he’ll be relied upon as a starter when fall rolls around.
Texas – Caden Sterns, Safety
In 2018, Sterns became the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year after having one of the best seasons that we’ve seen in a while from a freshman defensive back at Texas. He had four interceptions from his safety position last year, including two such picks in one game. As a sophomore, Sterns will likely see his name on some preseason watchlists, and will have the opportunity to be a leader in what will be an otherwise young Texas secondary.
Texas Tech – Alan Bowman, Quarterback
As an early enrollee last season, Alan Bowman took advantage of his opportunity to step in for an injured McLane Carter and exploded onto the college football scene. He completed just under 70 percent of his passes while throwing for over 2,600 yards despite missing much of the season due to injury himself. Despite not having a full season of games under his belt, Bowman has almost assuredly secured his spot as the starting quarterback with new head coach Matt Wells.
West Virginia – Leddie Brown, Running Back
Last year, West Virginia had mostly a committee approach to the running game, as three different players rotated in for the Mountaineers. Brown had a strong contribution to that effort, rushing for 446 yards and four touchdowns. He averaged nearly five yards per carry in 2018, and he’ll be one of several running backs who give new head coach Neal Brown reasons for optimism.