The Big 12 is the nation’s most dynamic offensive league, so you could argue all day about which player most deserves the league’s offensive player of the year.
Two Oklahoma players were Heisman Trophy finalists: quarterback Baker Mayfield passed for 3,669 yards and 38 touchdowns while Biletnikoff Award winner Dede Westbrook made 74 catches for 1,465 yards and 16 touchdowns.
All Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes did was lead the nation with 5,052 yards passing while throwing for 41 touchdown.
But the Tribune-Herald’s choice for Big 12 offensive player of the year is Texas running back D’Onta Foreman. The Longhorns’ junior was the nation’s only 2,000-yard rusher as he finished with 2,028 yards with 15 touchdowns.
Foreman is a load at 6-0, 238-pounds but has surprising open-field speed. Just check out his 74-yard touchdown run against Texas Tech or his 62-yarder against Oklahoma State.
The big man picked up steam as the season progressed. In his last five games, Foreman burned Baylor for 250 yards, Texas Tech for 341, West Virginia for 167, Kansas for 250 and TCU for 165.
If he’d played for a better team, he would have been a Heisman finalist.
“Well the thing that always gets your attention when you see you have a 250-pound running back, you immediately know that, if you let that guy build up a head of steam, you’ve got some issues,” said Baylor interim coach Jim Grobe. “The thing about him that’s so impressive is he’s got great balance and he’s got deceptive foot speed. He gets out on the edge and outruns people to the perimeter sometimes. So you’ve got a running back that’s not only big and physical, but he’s also very athletic.”
On the flip side, there weren’t nearly has many outstanding candidates for Big 12 defensive player of the year.
But one player stood above the rest: Kansas State senior defensive end Jordan Willis.
Willis led the Big 12 with 11.5 sacks and ranked second with 16.5 tackles for loss. He finished the regular season with 48 tackles, and collected two sacks against West Virginia, Texas Tech and Texas.
Kansas State coach Bill Snyder credits Willis’ great work ethic for his superb college career.
“He’s one of those individuals who attempts to do everything the right way, and not just on the field,” Snyder said. “I admire that a great deal. He’s the kind of worker any coach would enjoy. When you watch him play he plays equally hard every minute of game.”
Willis primed himself for a dominating senior year with a superb junior year in which he amassed 15.5 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks and forced four fumbles. He’s been an inspiration to his Kansas State teammates.
“He’s a leader in his own quiet way and they see the effort,” Snyder said. “He worked diligently to be a better player and continues to get better and better.”
The Big 12 defensive freshman of the year is Willis’ Kansas State teammate, defensive lineman Reggie Walker who finished with 6.5 sacks. The league’s offensive freshman of the year is Oklahoma State’s Justice Hill who collected 1,042 yards and five touchdowns.
Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops is the coach of the year after leading the Sooners to a 9-0 record in the Big 12 following a 1-2 start in nonconference play. Stoops has led the Sooners to 10 Big 12 titles in his 18 seasons, and they became the first team to go unbeaten in league play since the round-robin format started in 2011.
Oklahoma clinched the title with a 38-20 win over Oklahoma State in the season finale.
“I’m so proud of the seniors for their leadership going out this way,” Stoops said. “Nobody has bellyached about it or had anything negative to say. It’s great to win another Big 12 championship. The players worked hard during a tough stretch. I couldn’t have been more pleased to see how our players continued to improve throughout the season.”
2016 TRIBUNE-HERALD ALL-BIG 12 FOOTBALL TEAM
|Offensive player of the year: D’Onta Foreman, Texas|
|Defensive player of the year: Jordan Willis, Kansas State|
|Offensive freshman of the year: Justice Hill, Oklahoma State|
|Defensive freshman of the year: Reggie Walker, Kansas State|
|Coach of the year: Bob Stoops, Oklahoma|
|QB||Patrick Mahomes||Texas Tech||Jr||Led nation with 5,052 passing yards|
|RB||D’Onta Foreman||Texas||Jr||Led nation with 2,028 rushing yards|
|RB||Justin Crawford||WVU||Jr||1,168 yards rushing|
|OL||Connor Williams||Texas||So||One of Big 12’s best young OL|
|OL||Ben Powers||Oklahoma||So||Established himself this season|
|C||Tyler Orlosky||WVU||Sr||Among best centers in country|
|OL||Dalton Risner||KSU||So||Keyed strong Wildcat ground game|
|OL||Orlando Brown||Oklahoma||So||Great NFL potential|
|WR||Dede Westbrook||Oklahoma||Sr||Won Biletnikoff Award|
|WR||James Washington||Oklahoma St.||Jr||62 catches, 1,209 yards|
|WR||KD Cannon||Baylor||Jr||73 catches, 11 TDs|
|Util:||Joe Mixon||Oklahoma||So||1,183 rushing, 494 KO return|
|K||Cole Netten||Iowa State||Sr||16 of 17 FG|
|QB||Baker Mayfield||Oklahoma||Jr||Heisman Trophy finalist|
|RB||Samaje Perine||Oklahoma||Jr||974 rushing in 9 games|
|RB||Justice Hill||Oklahoma St.||Fr||1,042 yards rushing|
|OL||Victor Salako||Oklahoma St.||Sr||Senior leader of Cowboys OL|
|OL||Terrale Johnson||KSU||Sr||Force for Wildcats|
|C||Kyle Fuller||Baylor||Sr||Three-year Baylor starter|
|OL||Blake Jarwin||Oklahoma St.||Sr||Powerful lineman|
|OL||Baylen Brown||Texas Tech||Sr||Experience up front|
|WR||Jonathan Giles||Texas Tech||So||1,158 yards, 13 TDs|
|WR||Allen Lazard||Iowa State||Jr||1,018 yards, 7 TDs|
|WR||Steven Sims,||Kansas||So||72 catches, 859 yards|
|Util||Byron Pringle||KSU||So||659 yards KO, 1 TD|
|K||Ben Grogan||Oklahoma St||Sr||18 of 23 FG|
|DL||Jordan Willis||KSU||Sr||Big 12-high 11.5 sacks|
|DL||Josh Carraway||TCU||Sr||8 sacks, 11 tackles for loss|
|DL||Vincent Taylor||Oklahoma St.||Jr||6 sacks, 11.5 tackles for loss|
|DL||Dorance Armstrong||Kansas||So||10 sacks second in league|
|LB||Travin Howard||TCU||Jr||League-high 125 tackles|
|LB||Ogbonnia Okoronkwo||Oklahoma St.||Jr||9 sacks, 10.5 tackles for loss|
|LB||Elijah Lee||KSU||Jr||98 tackles for strong defense|
|DB||Rasul Douglas||WVU||Sr||Big 12-high 8 interceptions|
|DB||D.J. Reed||KSU||So||18 passes defended|
|DB||Jordan Sterns||OSU||Sr||96 tackles, 3 ints|
|DB||Denzel Johnson||TCU||Sr||84 tackles|
|P||Michael Dickson||Texas||So||47.4-yard average|
|DL||K.J. Smith||Baylor||Jr||6 sacks for young D-line|
|DL||Reggie Walker||KSU||Fr||Veteran amassed 6.5 sacks|
|DL||Aaron Curry||TCU||Sr||5.5 sacks, 8 tackles for loss|
|DL||Noble Nwachukwu||WVU||Sr||Leader on superb defense|
|LB||Breckyn Hager||Texas||So||6 sacks|
|LB||Jordan Evans||Oklahoma||Sr||89 tackles, 4 ints|
|LB||Ty Summers||TCU||So||113 tackles 2nd in Big 12|
|DB||Ranthony Texada||TCU||Jr||8 passes defended|
|DB||Patrick Levels||Baylor||Sr||12 tackles for loss|
|DB||Orion Stewart||Baylor||Sr||5 ints, 4 pass breakups|
|DB||Fish Smithson||Kansas||Sr||93 tackles, 11 passes defended|
|P||Nick Walsh||KSU||Jr||42.8-yard average|