With Oklahoma receiving considerable attention ahead of the 2021 college football season, there is a substantial Sooners’ presence across our preseason Big 12 All-Conference squads. However, the potential for multiple teams to emerge as Oklahoma’s leading contender is apparent with a spread of talent across the conference. Which players should you be watching out for on Saturdays this fall?
Preseason Big 12 All-Conference | First-team offense
Let’s kick off with our Big 12 All-Conference first-team offense!
Quarterback: Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma
Our first-team All-American quarterback Spencer Rattler is the obvious choice to be the preseason Big 12 All-Conference signal-caller. The Oklahoma redshirt freshman led the conference in completion percentage (67.5), passing yards (3,031), yards per attempt (9.6), and passing touchdowns (28). It would be a brave man to bet against the Sooners’ slinger leading the conference once again this fall.
In a terrifying prospect for the rest of the nation, Rattler should hit the ground running right off the bat this season. After a shaky start last year, the cannon-armed quarterback showed considerable development down the stretch. With a stellar receiving group assembled around him, Oklahoma should have one of the most potent offenses in college football.
Running Back: Breece Hall, Iowa State
Forget the Big 12; Breece Hall led the entire nation in rushing yards in 2020 while finishing behind only Najee Harris in rushing touchdowns. No one in the conference came remotely close to Hall’s insane levels of production last fall. The Cyclones running back amassed 562 more yards than his closest contender, West Virginia’s Leddie Brown. Hall also had more than double the number of touchdowns of TCU quarterback Max Duggan, who ranked a distant second in the Big 12.
Some sophomore sensations might raise a challenge to Hall this fall. Nevertheless, there’s every reason to believe that the Cyclones RB can blow through the Big 12 again. Iowa State returns all their starting offensive linemen from last year. Furthermore, Hall’s combination of explosion and elusiveness make him a game-wrecking threat.
Running Back: Bijan Robinson, Texas
At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, Bijan Robinson is a beast. Robinson arrived in Austin on a wave of expectation, and as the season unfolded, he began to live up to it. The Texas rusher finished the season with the third-most rushing yards in the Big 12, a remarkable feat given he only averaged 9.56 carries a game. Additionally, Robinson led the conference with a ridiculous 8.17 yards per carry.
His performances earned him an honorable mention for the Big 12 Freshman of the Year. Robinson also set multiple school records in his first season for the Longhorns. Having ended the year in dominating style, Robinson should take momentum into a Steve Sarkisian offense that will maximize his ability. Equally adept as a rusher and receiver, the Texas running back is a strong, athletic, dominant, dual-threat out of the backfield who will run roughshod over Big 12 defenses this fall.
Wide Receiver: Marvin Mims, Oklahoma
Mims was magnificent in his first season for the Sooners in 2020. The Texas high school record holder for career receiving yards continued his record-breaking ways in the Big 12. The 5’11” pass catcher set a program record for freshman touchdown receptions with 9 while also tying the conference freshman record. Moreover, he became the first Sooners wide receiver to earn FWAA Freshman All-American honors.
In addition to leading the conference in touchdowns, Mims ranked fourth in total receiving yards (610) and fifth in yards per catch (16.49). Additionally, he finished fourth in yards per game (55.5) despite averaging 3.4 catches per game. Although Oklahoma has one of the deepest wide receiver rooms in the nation this fall, Mims’ big-play ability should ensure he once again leads the team in receiving yards.
Wide Receiver: Xavier Hutchinson, Iowa State
A first-team All-Conference JUCO receiver in 2019, Hutchinson earned first-team honors during his debut season in the Big 12 last fall. The Iowa State pass catcher begins the 2021 campaign on our preseason Big 12 All-Conference first-team after an impressive outing last year. Hutchinson led the conference in catches last season and finished behind only Tylan Wallace in receiving yards.
Although Charlie Kolar led the team in touchdowns, Hutchinson was the go-to guy for Brock Purdy as Iowa State emerged as the most prominent contender to Oklahoma in the Big 12. At 6’3″ and 210 pounds, he has ideal size at wide receiver. Meanwhile, he has some deceptive speed and route-running ability. With the Cyclones expected to challenge the Sooners once more, Hutchinson will be one of the conference’s top receivers.
Wide Receiver: Erik Ezukanma, Texas Tech
Being a wide receiver in the Texas Tech offense is akin to being a kid in a sweatshirt. In seven of the last 12 seasons, the Red Raiders have led the Big 12 in passing yards with their “Air Raid” offense. Although last season wasn’t one of those, Erik Ezukanma still emerged as one of the best pass catchers in the conference.
Ezukanma finished third in the Big 12 with 748 receiving yards in his sophomore campaign, averaging 16.26 yards per catch. His 6 touchdown grabs tied Oklahoma State’s Wallace for fourth in the conference last fall. At 6’3″ and 220 pounds, the Red Raiders’ receiver is a big-bodied pass catcher who presents a dominant big-play threat. He should once again be one of the best in the conference. However, his place on our Big 12 All-Conference first-team is dependant upon his successful return from an arm injury sustained in the spring.
Tight End: Austin Stogner, Oklahoma
Despite residing on one of the most potent pass-catching portfolios in college football, TE Austin Stogner might be the biggest mismatch on the Oklahoma roster. The 6’6″, 260-pound tight end is a reliable receiver while possessing deceptive athleticism as a nightmare for opposition defenses. Unlike many pass catchers at the position, Stogner doesn’t give anything away as an in-line blocker either. Additionally, Stogner demonstrated his versatility and athleticism with a punt return touchdown in 2019.
Although he lagged behind Kolar in tight end receiving yards and touchdowns, those statistics didn’t tell the whole story of Stogner’s impact last fall. His 16.23 yards per catch were significantly higher than the Iowa State tight end. Furthermore, he achieved his production while losing a chunk of game time to injury. With the expectation that Oklahoma’s passing offense far outstrips the Cyclones this fall, Stogner edges out Kolar in our Big 12 All-Conference first-team.
Offensive Tackle: Obinna Eze, TCU
A three-year starter at Memphis, Obinna Eze transferred to TCU this fall and immediately became one of the best offensive tackles in the conference. The 6’8″ behemoth has insane size at the position. Eze originally came to the USA from Nigeria, intending to make it to the NBA. Instead, his transfer to a Power Five program gives him an incredible opportunity to head to the NFL as one of the top offensive tackles in the 2022 NFL Draft.
In addition to his obvious size advantage, Eze also possesses exceptional length — making him a challenging proposition to navigate. The new Horned Frogs’ left tackle is also strong and athletic, giving him the building blocks of a talented offensive lineman. Although he never received All-Conference recognition at Memphis, that should change this fall, starting with first-team Big 12 honors from us.
Guard: Jacob Gall, Baylor
Remember that game last season where Jaret Patterson rushed for 409 yards and a record-tying 8 touchdowns against Kent State? How could you not remember it? It was epic. What you probably don’t remember and the history books won’t include is that Jacob Gall was the left guard in Buffalo’s offensive line that helped Patterson power to that incredible performance.
Gall was hot property in the transfer portal this spring. As a result, he’s a huge get for a Baylor offensive line that allowed the second-most sacks in the Big 12 last fall. His mobility, athleticism, and previous scheme experience make him the perfect fit on the Bears’ wide zone offense.
Center: Colin Newell, Iowa State
Who better to lead our first-team Big 12 All-Conference offensive line from the pivot than the man who led the way for the conference’s leading running back? Newell returns as Iowa State’s starting center after helping Hall rush for over 1,500 yards and 21 touchdowns last fall. With 26 starts, not only is Newell the best in the conference, but he’s also one of the most experienced.
With football intelligence, play strength, quickness off the snap, and the athleticism to impact the ground game in the second level, Newell possesses the ideal skill set to be a successful center.
Guard: Marquis Hayes, Oklahoma
It should come as no surprise to see Oklahoma offensive linemen in our Big 12 All-Conference first-team. The Sooners frequently produce outstanding talent in the trenches and won the Joe Moore Award for college football’s best offensive line in 2018. Although Hayes wasn’t a regular starter on that award-winning line, he did see time on the line in three games.
Over the last two seasons, Hayes has been a full-time starter at left guard. He’s been responsible for protecting Spencer Rattler and Jalen Hurts. Last season, he earned first-team Big 12 All-Conference honors after allowing just 2 sacks from over 400 pass-blocking snaps. As Rattler draws significant attention this fall as a 2022 NFL Draft prospect, Hayes will hope to elevate his own stock while in the media spotlight.
Offensive Tackle: Wanya Morris, Oklahoma
The bookends of our first-team Big 12 All-Conference offensive line are both transfers into the conference ahead of the 2021 college football season. Wanya Morris is no ordinary transfer, however. A former five-star recruit at Tennessee, he’s now a two-year starter in the SEC whose performances in 2019 earned him Freshman All-SEC honors.
Morris has all the tools to be a dominant college football offensive lineman. He came out of high school already built like an NFL player, with a robust, muscular frame making him an imposing opponent to go against. Furthermore, Morris has strength, athleticism, and has shown flashes of technique that just need some refinement to make him an elite talent. Thankfully for the young offensive tackle, his transfer to Oklahoma puts him in the hands of Bill Bedenbaugh, one of the most renowned offensive line coaches in the nation.
Offensive Flex: Deuce Vaughn, Kansas State
With 122.1 all-purpose yards per play last fall, Vaughn is the perfect player to fill out the offensive flex position on our first-team Big 12 All-Conference roster. The diminutive running back put up 642 rushing yards and 434 receiving yards last fall. He also added 155 kick return yards, taking him past 1,000 all-purpose yards. Meanwhile, he tallied 7 rushing touchdowns and 2 receiving touchdowns.
Preseason honors aren’t the first and won’t be the last of Vaughn’s young career. The phenomenal 5’6″ do-it-all playmaker was named the Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year by the conference’s coaches. He also earned various All-American accolades from multiple media outlets. Furthermore, he was named True Freshman of the Year by 247 Sports. An impeccable work ethic combined with electric playmaking ability make Vaughn a must-watch player in college football this, and every, fall.