Oklahoma Sooners: 2013 Big 12 final player countdown

With signing day quickly approaching, it’s time to close the chapter on the 2013 season. We’re counting down the top 25 players in the Big 12 in 2013 with a list collaboratively selected by Jake Trotter, Brandon Chatmon and Max Olson. We continue the postseason countdown with the No. 7 player in the Big 12.

No. 7: Gabe Ikard, C, Oklahoma

Previous ranking: Ikard was No. 4 in the blog’s preseason list of the Big 12’s top 25 players.

Making the case for Ikard: The Sooners’ senior made his strongest case behind closed doors, in the halls of the Switzer Center, OU’s football complex. Then he went onto the field and more than held his own, earning All-Big 12 first-team honors for the third-straight season.

Ikard was the anchor of an OU offensive line that paved the way for the Sooners to average 223.9 rushing yards per game and provided a consistent on-field voice for an offense that saw three different quarterbacks take snaps in 2013.

Ikard brought intelligence, durability and competitiveness to the offensive line along with his leadership, which helped the Sooners win 11 games, including a Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama. The offensive line was the foundation of the Sooners’ success and Ikard was the foundation of it.

OU would not have found a way to win 11 games and earn a BCS bowl berth without Ikard anchoring the middle of its offensive front and bringing strong leadership to the locker room.

The rest of the list:
With signing day quickly approaching, it’s time to close the chapter on the 2013 season. We’re counting down the Top 25 players in the Big 12 in 2013 over the next few days with a list collaboratively selected by Jake Trotter, Brandon Chatmon and Max Olson. We continue the postseason countdown with the No. 10 player in the Big 12.

[+] EnlargeSaunders
Richard Rowe/USA TODAY SportsJalen Saunders might not have been the biggest player on the field, but the Sooners receiver/returner was one of the best.
No. 10: Jalen Saunders, WR, Oklahoma

Previous ranking: Saunders was No. 19 in the blog’s preseason list of the Big 12’s Top 25 players.

Making the case for Saunders: He was often the smallest player on the field. And, just as often, he made game-changing plays that sparked the Sooners’ run to the Allstate Sugar Bowl. His quickness and ability to change direction made him nearly impossible to cover in the open field. His two-touchdown performances in OU’s 33-24 Bedlam win over Oklahoma State and against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl were the perfect way for him to end his college career.

With inconsistent quarterback play hampering his opportunities, Saunders finished with 61 receptions for 729 yards and eight touchdowns with 57.4 percent of his receptions going for first downs. And he averaged 15.4 yards per punt return with returns of 20 yards or more in five different games.

As a receiver and returner, Saunders proved size doesn’t matter. Talent and will to win does.

The rest of the list:
With signing day quickly approaching, it’s time to close the chapter on the 2013 season. We’re counting down the top 25 players in the Big 12 in 2013 over the next few days with a list collaboratively selected by Jake Trotter, Brandon Chatmon and Max Olson. We continue the postseason countdown with the No. 16 player in the Big 12.

No. 16: Aaron Colvin, CB, Oklahoma

Previous ranking: Colvin was No. 6 in the blog’s preseason list of the Big 12’s top 25 players.

Making the case for Colvin: Kansas State receiver Tyler Lockett made a better case than anyone else could. With Colvin nursing injuries and playing part-time, Lockett had six receptions for 206 yards and three touchdowns in the first half against the Sooners.

The Sooners coaching staff had seen enough, inserting Colvin full-time in the second half. Lockett caught six passes for 72 yards in the second half but didn’t score another touchdown.

Colvin’s contribution to the Sooners defense was unparalleled. He brought excellence, experience and leadership to a secondary that began the season with uncertainty and with Colvin as the only returning starter playing the same position he played in 2012. A great coverage cornerback who was willing to stick his nose in the running game, Colvin did it all for OU as a senior. He finished with 55 tackles, including five tackles for loss, and one interception in 11 games.

The rest of the list:

Top 25 players in the Big 12: No. 23

January, 21, 2014
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With signing day quickly approaching, it’s time to close the chapter on the 2013 season. We’re counting down the Top 25 players in the Big 12 in 2013 over the next few days with a list collaboratively selected by Jake Trotter, Brandon Chatmon and Max Olson. We continue the postseason countdown with the No. 23 player in the Big 12:

[+] EnlargeEric Striker
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesSooners LB Eric Striker wreaked havoc on opposing QBs this season.
No. 23: Eric Striker, LB, Oklahoma

Previous ranking: Unranked in the blog’s preseason list of the Big 12’s top 25 players.

Making the case for Striker: Leading up to the Allstate Sugar Bowl, Striker was asked about Oklahoma’s underdog status against Alabama. Striker called it “a terrible question,” then went out on the field and showed why.

Outside Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight, no player had a bigger impact on the Sugar Bowl than Striker, who had three sacks and the biggest play of the game. With roughly a minute left, Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron had one final chance to lead the Crimson Tide on a game-tying drive. Instead, Striker came barreling around the edge and crashed into McCarron’s blindside. The hit popped the ball loose, and Sooners defensive end Geneo Grissom scooped it up and rumbled in for the game-clinching touchdown.

Striker had a penchant for creating big plays all season. On the first possession at Notre Dame, Striker slammed into quarterback Tommy Rees, knocking the ball into the air and into the arms of linebacker Corey Nelson, who gave the Sooners a quick 7-0 lead on the way to a 35-21 victory. He also gave Oklahoma the exclamation point in a win at Oklahoma State by returning a fumble for a touchdown as time expired.

Striker finished fourth in the Big 12 in sacks and was a major part of the Sooners’ surge late in the season. Just a sophomore this past season, Striker figures only to get better in 2014, too.

The rest of the list:

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BIG 12 SCOREBOARD

Monday, 12/22
Saturday, 12/20
Tuesday, 12/23
Wednesday, 12/24
Friday, 12/26
Saturday, 12/27
Monday, 12/29
Tuesday, 12/30
Wednesday, 12/31
Thursday, 1/1
Friday, 1/2
Saturday, 1/3
Sunday, 1/4
Monday, 1/12