Best of the best

West Vir­ginia re­ceiver and re­turn man Austin beats out Kansas State QB Klein for top honor.

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - By Suzanne Hal­libur­ton shal­libur­ton@states­man.com JAY JAN­NER / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN MAX FAULKNER / FORT WORTH STAR-TELE­GRAM In­side: The States­man’s all-Big 12 first team se­lec­tions, C

For the sec­ond straight year, the Amer­i­can-States­man chose its 12 best play­ers in the Big 12, re­gard­less of po­si­tion, head­ing into the sea­son.

Back in Au­gust, West Vir­ginia quar­ter­back Geno Smith — who spent the early part of the sea­son in the thick of the Heis­man Tro­phy con­ver­sa­tion — topped the list, one of three con­fer­ence quar­ter­backs among the 12.

Now, with the reg­u­lar sea­son fin­ished and the bowl games ahead, our fi­nal 2012 list still fa­vors of­fense over de­fense, with the spec­tac- ular get­ting the nod over the stead­i­est.

That’s why West Vir­ginia’s ace re­ceiver and re­turner Tavon Austin — not Kansas State quar­ter­back Collin Klein, who fin­ished third in the Heis­man race — has been se­lected as the best over­all player in the league by the Amer­i­can-States­man col­lege sports staff.

Klein, who led the Wild­cats to within one vic­tory of the na­tional cham­pi­onship game, is sec­ond on the list. Smith fell off it com­pletely. So did Ok­la­homa’s Landry Jones.

Five of­fen­sive play­ers are among the Big 12’s Big 12, along with six de­fen­sive play­ers and one spe­cial teams stand­out. Kansas State has the most play­ers on the list, with three. Ok­la­homa State has two, as does Bay­lor. Seven of our pre­sea­son picks re­main among the fi­nal 12.

Austin amassed 2,764 all-pur­pose yards, an av­er­age of 230.6 per game. The yardage to­tal broke his own school record of 2,574, set last year, and he still has a game to play — the Pin­stripe Bowl on Dec. 29.

Klein was con­sis­tent but not flashy in help­ing lead the Wild­cats to a con­fer­ence co-cham­pi­onship and Fi­esta Bowl berth. He scored 37 touch­downs — 15 pass­ing and 22 rush­ing. Klein also won the Uni­tas Golden Arm Award, which is pre­sented to the coun­try’s top se­nior or fourth-year ju­nior quar­ter­back. And he re­ceived a trip to New York for the Heis­man cer­e­mony.

The sin­gle-sea­son Foot­ball Bowl Sub­di­vi­sion allpur­pose yardage record is within reach if Austin can ac­cu­mu­late 433 yards in the Pin­stripe Bowl against Syra­cuse. That’s not a stretch, con­sid­er­ing the game he had against Ok­la­homa. He was moved from flanker to tail­back and ran for a school­record 344 yards.

In a 50-49 loss to the Soon­ers, he to­taled 572 all-pur­pose yards. So, in Austin’s world, 433 is doable.

Here is the Amer­i­canS­tates­man’s Big 12 of the Big 12: No. 1: Tavon Austin West Vir­ginia’s star re­ceiver led the Big 12 in all-pur­pose yardage, with 230 to­tal yards a game. (Pre­sea­son rank: 6th) No. 2: Collin Klein Kansas State’s se­nior quar­ter­back fin­ished third in the Heis­man race and scored 37 to­tal touch­downs. (Pre­sea­son rank: 3rd)

No. 3: Ter­rance Wil­liams

Just be­cause Robert Grif­fin III left Bay­lor didn’t mean the Bears dropped off of­fen­sively. Wil­liams, a re­ceiver, av­er­aged 18.6 yards per catch. (Pre­sea­son rank: not ranked)

No. 4: Arthur Brown

Kansas State’s stand­out line­backer isn’t just our pick as the con­fer­ence’s top de­fen­sive player; coaches named him the Big 12’s de­fen­sive player of the year. (Pre­sea­son rank: 9th) No. 5: Tony Jef­fer­son The lone Sooner on this year’s list, Ok­la­homa’s leader in the sec­ondary led the Big 12 with 84 solo tack­les. (Pre­sea­son rank: 12th) No. 6: Alex Okafor One of two Longhorns on the pre­sea­son list, Okafor is the lone Texas player in the fi­nal rank­ings. He was one of Texas’ stead­i­est play­ers, with eight sacks and three forced fum­bles. (Pre­sea­son rank: 2nd) No. 7: Quinn Sharp Let’s hear it for spe­cial teams. Ok­la­homa State’s kicker and punter not only was the best at both po­si­tions this year, but also led the Big 12 in scor­ing. (Pre­sea­son rank: 8th)

No. 8: Me­shak Wil­liams

His big sea­son at de­fen­sive end — Wil­liams’ nine sacks led the con­fer­ence — was a key to the Wild­cats’ sur­pris­ing run to the Big 12 co-cham­pion-

West Vir­ginia wide re­ceiver Tavon Austin, out­run­ning four Texas de­fend­ers to the end zone early this sea­son, av­er­aged a Big 12-best 230.6 all-pur­pose yards per game.

Bay­lor quar­ter­back Nick Florence fol­lowed Robert Grif­fin III’s bril­liant 2011 sea­son with one of his own in 2012.

BO RADER / WI­CHITA EA­GLE

Kansas State QB Collin Klein, third in vot­ing for the Heis­man Tro­phy, led the Wild­cats to a Big 12 co-cham­pi­onship and a spot in the Fi­esta Bowl .

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