Oklahoma Sooners: 2012 preseason top 25 players

Our official list of the Big 12's top 25 players entering the 2012 season marches on. Here's more on my criteria for who makes it, who doesn't and who lands where.

The official list is locked away in a vault in an undisclosed location, but we'll be revealing one player a day leading up to the season.

We're now in the top 10, so these picks might get a little ugly. Got a beef? Let's squash it. Send your complaints here.

Tomorrow, I'll reveal the No. 1 player in the Big 12 to begin the 2012 season.

Next up on the list:

No. 2: Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma

2011 numbers: Completed 355-of-562 (63.2 percent) passes for 4,463 yards, 29 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.

Most recent ranking: Jones was ranked No. 13 in our postseason list of the Big 12's top 25 players.

Making the case for Jones: I've said it before, I'll say it again: Every time Jones' name comes up, the conversation inevitably turns to what Jones is not, rather than what he is.

He's not Sam Bradford. He's not unflappable. He's not careful enough.

All true. Still, it's unfair. Jones has had a crazy career already, and should break plenty of Oklahoma's passing records this season. That's what happens when you're a four-year starter. Yes, Jones has thrown too many interceptions (41) in his career. Yes, last season was a disappointment. He completed a lower percentage of his passes and threw more interceptions and fewer touchdowns on fewer attempts than when he was a sophomore in 2010. His numbers dipped when Ryan Broyles left, though the importance of his touchdown drought late in the season was overstated, considering the success of the BellDozer.

Bob Stoops defended Jones' late-season slide this offseason when he mentioned Jones' failure to get much support. Stoops is absolutely right. His receivers looked lost without Broyles, and the drops had to be infuriating.

Count me among the believers in Jones, and the believers in his new receivers. They're a better unit than last year, and Jones' numbers will show it in 2012.

He's not the greatest quarterback to ever play for Oklahoma. Still, he's one of the nation's best quarterbacks, and might state his case as the Big 12's best by season's end.

Keep watching.

The rest of the list:
Our official list of the Big 12's top 25 players entering the 2012 season marches on. Here's more on my criteria for who makes it, who doesn't and who lands where.

The official list is locked away in a vault in an undisclosed location, but we'll be revealing one player a day leading up to the season.

Next up on the list:

No. 13: Tony Jefferson, S, Oklahoma

2011 numbers: Made 74 tackles (52 solo) and had 7.5 tackles for loss. Picked off four passes and made 4.5 sacks. Also forced a fumble and broke up three passes.

Most recent ranking: Jefferson was unranked in our postseason list of the Big 12's top 25 players.

Making the case for Jefferson: No. 13 on this list feels low for Jefferson when it comes to total talent, but for Jefferson the production has to be there too. I expect that to be the case this year, and for Jefferson to make his case as a top 10 player, if not a contender for Defensive Player of the Year.

Why? He's moving back to his more natural position under new coordinator Mike Stoops. Jefferson will be patrolling the free safety spot instead of spending so much time at the nickel back spot. Teammates know that's where Jefferson's strength lies, and we'll see it on display this year. The Sooners have a solid replacement for him at nickel back in Joseph Ibiloye, and the Sooners move arguably their most talented defender to the spot where help is needed most.

The back of the defense was exposed far too often last season, and on big stages. Jefferson's move should plug that up, and give him more freedom to roam where he's far more comfortable. Jefferson shared the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year Award in 2010, but was relatively quiet last season. Three of his four interceptions came on consecutive possessions against Ball State.

This year, I hope you're not expecting the 5-foot-11, 212-pound California native to stay quiet for long.

The rest of the list:
Our official list of the Big 12's top 25 players entering the 2012 season marches on. Here's more on my criteria for who makes it, who doesn't, and who lands where.

The official list is locked away in a vault in an undisclosed location, but we'll be revealing one player a day leading up to the season.

Next up on the list:

No. 18: Kenny Stills, WR, Oklahoma

2011 numbers: Caught 61 passes for 849 yards and eight touchdowns. Also returned eight punts for 38 yards (avg. 4.75 yards).

Most recent ranking: Stills was unranked in our postseason list of the Big 12's top 25 players, but checked in at No. 22 in our 2011 preseason list.

Making the case for Stills: Last season didn't end the way Stills wanted it to, but that was the case for everybody in crimson and cream. The Sooners lost two of their final three regular season games, including an embarassing blowout loss to in-state rival Oklahoma State, and it was all preceded by the loss of Ryan Broyles, the FBS all-time leader in receptions. Stills had to move to the slot, where he'd never played before, and had trouble creating space like Broyles could, and his ability to stretch the field was limited. Stills was uncomfortable. It showed. He and his fellow receivers all came down with the drops.

That was a short stretch, though. There's no denying Stills' production elsewhere, even though his sophomore season was a slight disappointment following a 786-yard freshman year that broke Broyles' freshman receiving record.

One third of Oklahoma's famed Cali Trio, the Encinitas, Calif. native is still one of the Big 12's most talented receivers with its most recognizable hairdo (and one with its own Twitter feed), a mohawk he says could feature some special changes this season.

Stills had a full offseason to adjust to the loss of Broyles now, instead of a week. He'll be the leader of an inexperienced receiving corps, but the All-Big 12 returnee looks due for a much better follow up to his sophomore season, motivated this offseason by 2011's unsatisfying end.

The rest of the list:
Our official list of the Big 12's top 25 players entering the 2012 season marches on. Here's more on my criteria for who makes it, who doesn't, and who lands where.

The official list is locked away in a vault in an undisclosed location, but we'll be revealing one player a day leading up to the season.

Next up on the list:

No. 20: Trey Millard, FB/TE/H-back, Oklahoma

2011 numbers: Carried the ball 24 times for 169 yards and two touchdowns. Caught 13 passes for 127 yards and a touchdown. Made 16 tackles.

Most recent ranking: Millard was unranked in our postseason list of the Big 12's top 25 players.

Making the case for Millard: Don't you dare look at Millard's modest stat line and say, "Huh? What's he doing on this list?"

Millard's the personification of what the folks around the league like to call "a football player." Millard does a little bit of everything, but he's one of the league's toughest, complete players and the most versatile player on Oklahoma's roster.

You've heard of the Belldozer, right? You may not know that Millard's maybe the biggest piece that makes it all work, the 6-foot-2, 256-pound battering ram that clears the way for Blake Bell, who scored 13 touchdowns out of the short-yardage formation last season.

That's not all he did. Far from it.

"Trey Millard is as good of a player as I've been around," Oklahoma offensive coordinator Josh Heupel told reporters at OU's media day this weekend. "He played three different positions last year."

Millard may add a fourth this season. He's expected to play a little bit of tailback. The Sooners coaches want the ball in his hands more often.

Millard, entering his junior season, mastered the fullback position and helped out the Sooners at tight end as well as H-back. When the new defensive coordinator takes notice within a few days, you know he's making a big impact, despite rarely touching the ball.

"He's ‘The Slash'," Sooners coordinator Mike Stoops said this spring. "I don't know how he remembers it all, but he does."

He remembers it, and then he goes out and does it. Better than just about anybody. Millard doesn't get enough glory around the league for what he's doing for the Sooners, but don't be surprised if that changes very soon.


The rest of the list:

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