As we wrap up the 2020 season and take a look back at the slate of performances that made up this strangest of years, one area to focus on is which position groups stepped up for every team in the conference. Below is a look at the top performing position groups for each squad in the Big 12 over the past four months.
Baylor: Defensive Backs
The Bears saw their share of struggles in Dave Aranda’s initial 2-7 campaign, but the defensive side of the ball was a bright spot. Baylor’s defensive backfield was a major part of the reason that the Bears were able to hold Big 12 offenses to 203 yards per game passing and nab 12 interceptions on the year. One member of the secondary, Jalen Pitre, was the sole selection on the All-Big 12 First Team Defense.
Iowa State: Running Backs
The Cyclones found themselves in the conference championship this season because they fielded some of the best individual units in the Big 12 in 2020. Yet, sophomore Breece Hall had an outstanding individual season, garnering Offensive Player of the Year honors and being named a finalist for the Doak Walker Award. With Hall and senior Kene Nwangwu, Iowa State averaged 5.4 yards per carry, which allowed them to have one of the more productive offenses in the Big 12 this season.
Kansas: Defensive Backs
This certainly wasn’t a good season for the Jayhawks, who went winless for the second time in a decade. Despite the lack of wins, though, Kansas did have some players show promise in their secondary. Freshman Karon tallied the third most pass breakups in the Big 12, and the Jayhawks held opposing passing attacks to just 234.2 yards per game in league play.
Kansas State: Special Teams
Special Teams comes in as the best position group for the Wildcats, who had one of the most dangerous return men this year in Phillip Brooks. Against Kansas Brooks set a single game record for return yardage, totaling up 189 yards. Kansas State, in addition, led the league in field goal kicking, putting 79 percent of their kicks through the uprights.
Is the quarterback, once again, the story of the season for the Sooners? There’s an argument to be made for maybe one or two other position groups here, but the quarterback position absolutely strong once again for Oklahoma. As a redshirt freshman, Spencer Rattler certainly had his share of hiccups, but the first time starter also posted arguably the best passing statistics in the Big 12 this season. Rattler ended his initial season as a starter with 278.4 yards per game through the air, and a 25-to-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Oklahoma State: Running Backs
While it’s true that Chuba Hubbard did not have the season he was hoping for, were it not for injuries and a shortened season, the redshirt junior would likely have another 1,000 yard campaign to work with. This group proved to be extremely deep for the Pokes, however, as backup L.D. Brown exploded onto the scene early and ended up rushing for 5.6 yards per carry in limited action. When both Brown and Hubbard couldn’t go, junior Dezmon Jackson rushed for over 500 yards through only seven games.
TCU: Defensive Backs
You can usually depend on Gary Patterson to have his secondary well-coached and prepared, and there was no exception to that this season. Defensive backs Trevon Moehrig and Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson both early First Team All-Big 12 spots, and they were part of a pass defense that held Big 12 teams to a 54.2 pass completion percentage.
The Longhorns averaged 41.3 points per game in this shortened season, the best single season average they’ve hit in over a decade. That scoring average was bolstered by senior quarterback Sam Ehlinger’s ability to help get Texas into the endzone both as a passer and a runner. Through nine games, Ehlinger was responsible for 33 touchdowns (25 through the air, 8 on the ground), more than any other player in the Big 12.
Texas Tech: Wide Receivers
Despite some offensive struggles in 2020, some of the Red Raiders’ best performances were on that side of the ball. Texas Tech seems to never have a dearth of wide receivers, and this was definitely a strength for this year’s team that averaged over 260 yards per game through the air. Sophomore Erik Ezukanma turned in one of the best seasons in the Big 12 for a receiver, racking up 748 yards receiving and six touchdowns.
West Virginia: Defensive Line
This was understood to be an elite unit heading into the season, and West Virginia’s defensive line helped them have the best scoring defense in the Big 12. The two most prominent pieces of this unit were a couple of the best defensive linemen in the conference, the brothers Darius and Dante Stills. While Dante has indicated that he’ll be returning to Morgantown for his senior season, Darius has already declared for the NFL Draft, and has been named the Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year and an All-American by ESPN.