We took a look at our All-Big 12 Freshman team earlier today, but let's hand out a few superlatives from the young guys around the league.
Before we begin, a quick word: Devonte Fields was my defensive player of the year in the entire league. He is ridiculous. He would also dominate this post if we included him. As such, I'm excluding him from all of these awards so we can talk about a few other outstanding freshmen. We love Fields here at the Big 12 Blog. We also like talking about people other than Fields. So, no worries Frogs. He will continue to dominate Big 12 offensive lines. He just won't dominate this post.
Best offensive performance: J.W. Walsh, QB, Oklahoma State. Walsh lost the QB derby, but stepped up when Wes Lunt was hurt to lead Oklahoma State to a near-win over Texas, but did beat Iowa State and Kansas. After returning from a leg injury, he played a major role in a short-yardage package and accounted for five touchdowns in Oklahoma State's final three games. He finished with 11 touchdown passes to just three interceptions and completed 66.7 percent of his passes, the fourth-highest percentage in the Big 12. Walsh's passer rating of 165.67 led the Big 12.
Best non-Devonte Fields defense performance: Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia. Joseph was probably the single best player on a struggling West Virginia defense all season long. The freshman stepped in and made 95 tackles to lead the team, but his ballhawking ability is what earns him this award. He forced three fumbles, broke up six passes and intercepted two more, adding a sack and seven tackles for loss. Quite the debut for Joseph.
Biggest upside: Dalton Santos, LB, Texas. Santos' teammate, Kenny Vaccaro, has the current title of the Big 12's biggest hitter, but Santos reminds us of a young Ronnell Lewis in the special teams. He made one start at linebacker this year, but had his biggest impact in the special teams, looking like a cruise missile at times. He had just 18 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss, but hopes are high for him when he earns a bigger role on the defense. Honorable mention: Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma.
Biggest impact: Johnathan Gray, RB, Texas. Texas needed help with Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown banged up, and Gray was there to pick up the slack. He racked up 100-yard rushing games in wins against Texas Tech and Kansas, and I don't think it's a stretch to say that if he's not out there logging those carries, Texas doesn't win those games. The Longhorns were 8-4, but could they be 6-6 without Gray? He led the Longhorns in rushing as a true freshman.
Best offensive lineman: Spencer Drango, Baylor. He was on our watch list for fresh faces to begin the season, and showed why with a huge year after beefing up during his redshirt season. The 6-foot-6, 310-pounder seized a starting position at tackle and helped block for the nation's No. 1 offense. Honorable mention: Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech.