Sometimes it can be difficult for offensive coaches to get their best 11 football players on the field at the same time or put the ball in the hands of a playmaker enough times. A backup running back could be making a push for carries but have a stellar player in front of him, or a receiver who is a proven playmaker needs to get as many touches as possible.
When obstacles like that emerge, versatility can be a major asset. With that in mind, here’s a look at the five most versatile offensive players in the Big 12.
Joe Mixon, Oklahoma running back: Mixon could move to slot receiver and become one of the Sooners' top targets. Instead, he’s a versatile option behind (and sometimes alongside) Samaje Perine’s greatness. As a redshirt freshman, Mixon averaged 7.87 yards per touch from the line of scrimmage and gained 356 of his 1,109 yards from scrimmage after contact. Mixon has a combination of size, quickness and athleticism that few players can match. The sophomore isn’t a starter, but he is one of the best offensive threats in the entire conference.
Shaun Nixon, TCU running back: No offensive skill player in the Big 12 is more versatile than Nixon. After all, he shifted to receiver midway through the season and became one of the Horned Frogs' top pass catchers. In fact, his 57 targets in the second half of the season was more than KaVontae Turpin, Allen Lazard and Dede Westbrook, while his 39 receptions ranked fourth in the Big 12. Yet Nixon was an ESPN 300 running back when he signed with TCU and returned to the running back spot to sit alongside Kyle Hicks atop the depth chart after spring ball. There’s no guarantee where Nixon will line up in 2016, but there’s a really good chance he is one of the most productive playmakers on the squad.
Trever Ryen, Iowa State running back/receiver: The least-known player on this list could be the most productive. Ryen recorded yards as a rusher (71), receiver (191), punt returner (169) and kick returner (286) in 2016. Quick and speedy, Ryen scored touchdowns as a rusher, receiver and punt returner last season. The former walk on also competes in track for the Cyclones. With Mike Warren and Lazard ready to garner the bulk of the attention, Ryen could have a chance to be a versatile X-factor in Iowa State’s offense.
Justin Stockton, Texas Tech running back: The junior will have an expanded role in the Red Raiders' offense this fall, but Kliff Kingsbury would be wise to continue to use his pass-catching prowess to create problems for defenses. Stockton was exceptionally productive as a receiver with more receiving touchdowns and nearly as many receiving yards as rushing yards (367 rushing, 341 receiving). Time will tell if Stockton can handle the punishment of being a primary back like DeAndre Washington did during his time with the Red Raiders, but Stockton’s blazing speed and versatility will make him a big part of the offense either way.
KaVontae Turpin, TCU receiver: The sophomore is the only returning Big 12 player who accounted for more than 1,500 all-purpose yards a year ago. Turpin’s 1,675 all-purpose yards ranked fourth in the conference, and his 15.4 yards per touch ranked third. The shifty slot receiver is impossible to stop in the open field and has the ability to change the game on kick and punt returns. Don’t be surprised to see him lineup in the slot, on the outside and in the backfield in 2016 while continuing to create havoc on special teams.