- Brandon Chatmon, ESPN Staff Writer
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Spring football is coming to a close in the Big 12, with several players making a move in their respective programs and securing or bettering their role on the team. During the next two days, we’ll review the Big 12’s stars of the spring by taking a closer look at their pre-spring roles, spring performance and potential roles this fall.
Defensive end Shawn Oakman, Baylor
Pre-spring role: Oakman looked like he could be a breakout star on Baylor’s defense after recording 12.5 tackles for loss in a backup role.
What he did this spring: Oakman cemented his spot in the starting lineup and boosted the belief that he could be one of the Big 12’s top defensive linemen this fall.
What his role could be this fall: A freakish athlete at 6-foot-9 and 270 pounds, Oakman has NFL ability and could show it as the key piece in Baylor’s stellar defensive line.
Quotable: “We can't block him. And I don't think anybody else will, either. It's what I've been saying all along: Our defensive line is as good as anyone's in America. He's just one of them out of six or seven that is going to be a dynamic player for us in the fall.” - Baylor coach Art Briles.
Receiver Brett Medders, Iowa State
Pre-spring role: The redshirt junior hadn’t really made an impact during his first three seasons, so not much was expected from him.
What he did this spring: Medders emerged as a legitimate option at receiver for a Cyclones offense searching for additional playmakers this spring. He had six receptions for 48 yards in the spring game. Coach Paul Rhoads praised Medders' performance during ISU’s spring practices.
What his role could be this fall: Even though ISU has several potential options at receiver, including true freshman Allen Lazard, Medders could have carved himself a role in Mark Mangino’s offense. He’s not a game-changing target, but could help force defenses to account for receiving threats other than Quenton Bundrage.
Receiver Nick Harwell, Kansas
Pre-spring role: The Jayhawks knew they had someone who could help them in Harwell, who was forced to sit out the 2013 season after transferring from Miami (Ohio).
What he did this spring: Harwell emerged as arguably the Jayhawks’ go-to playmaker. He’s a shifty receiver who can excel in the open field. KU repeatedly tried to put the ball in his hands during its spring game, so expect that to continue this fall. The Jayhawks wanted to identify playmakers during the spring and Harwell stepped up to fill that void.
Quotable: “You try not to get too excited because he is so competitive and he runs good routes and he catches the ball. He doesn't like getting beat in drills. He wants to go against the best guy every single time. He is the type of competitor I am used to playing with. If he comes even close to the expectation I have for him, then I think we will be pretty happy.” - KU coach Charlie Weis
Cornerback Morgan Burns, Kansas State
Pre-spring role: Burns was poised to battle for a spot in the secondary after two seasons in a backup role.
What he did this spring: While the Wildcats' spring is not over yet, Burns has worked himself into a key role while separating himself among the Wildcats’ cornerbacks, who are competing for two starting positions.
What his role could be this fall: He appears poised to be KSU’s No. 1 option at cornerback unless he takes a step backward during the four months before the season kicks off.
Safety Ahmad Thomas, Oklahoma
Pre-spring role: He was very solid as a freshman, playing a role on special teams while getting spot duty on defense. Thomas was expected to battle fellow sophomore Hatari Byrd to replace Gabe Lynn at safety.
What he did this spring: Thomas showed he’s going to be on the field one way or the other with a strong spring, which he capped with several plays in the spring game. He showed the ability to line up at multiple positions in the Sooners defense, allowing OU to use him in several roles.
What his role could be this fall: Byrd had a solid spring as well, so Thomas didn’t run away with the job at safety. But it would be a surprise if Thomas is not a key contributor on OU’s defense in 2014.
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