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