Big 12 football players poised to break out this season
A look at football players in the Big 12 Conference this spring who are poised to have standout seasons beginning this fall:
WR Blake Lynch, sophomore. The speedy Lynch will get a chance to be a top receiving target sooner rather than later after KD Cannon and Ishmael Zamora both left school early, signing NFL free agent rookie deals after going undrafted last week. Lynch had 34 catches for 404 yards and three touchdowns last season behind his teammates who were 1-2 in the Big 12 for receptions per game.
RB David Montgomery, sophomore. Montgomery was so good as a freshman that he supplanted Mike Warren — who led all freshmen nationally in rushing yards in 2015 — toward the end of last season. Montgomery averaged 5.2 yards per carry and closed the season with 141 yards against West Virginia.
DE Josh Ehambe, junior. Ehambe dazzled in the spring game after moving back to his natural position from linebacker, where he played for the Jayhawks last season. He had three sacks while showing he could provide a dynamic bookend to last year's breakout star, Dorance Armstrong.
RB Alex Barnes, sophomore. After beginning last season buried on the depth chart, Barnes wound up rushing for 442 yards and six touchdowns on just 56 carries. That was good enough for second in school history in both categories by a freshman running back.
RBs Abdul Adams and/or Rodney Anderson, sophomores. With 1,000-yard rushers Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine both picked in the NFL draft after leaving Oklahoma early, there is a clear opening for the young, talented running backs. Adams had 283 yards rushing on 53 carries (5.3 yards per carry) in limited chances last season. Anderson is healthy again, though intentionally limited in spring practice after sustaining a broken neck in preseason camp last fall. He also broke his leg on special teams in his second game as a true freshman in 2015.
WR Tyron Johnson, sophomore. The transfer from LSU already has established himself as a favorite target for Heisman contender quarterback Mason Rudolph. The speedy Johnson was a five-star recruit coming out of high school. With so many talented players around him, including Biletnikoff Award contender James Washington, Johnson likely will have some favorable matchups.
WR KaVontae Turpin, junior. Poised for a breakout last season, Turpin suffered a knee injury early and still averaged 123 all-purpose yards in his eight games. He missed much of this spring practice for academic reasons, but coach Gary Patterson said he earned his way back. In two seasons, Turpin has averaged 27.5 yards on kickoff returns and 11.3 yards on punt returns, with two TDs. He also had eight receiving TDs as a freshman in 2015.
WR Collin Johnson, sophomore. The 6-foot-6 Californian should be the new weapon in the Texas offense. He caught two touchdowns in the spring game and has the size, speed and soft hands to be a matchup nightmare for defensive backs and a favorite target for quarterback Shane Buechele.
CB Octavious Morgan. The junior college transfer has already been called "a real Big 12 cornerback" by Texas Tech coaches. He had 42 tackles and three interceptions last season at Butler Community College. Morgan was a physical presence throughout his first spring practice with the Red Raiders, who in the past have given up as many points and yards as they have put up with their big-play offense.
WR David Sills, junior. After trying to prove himself as a quarterback at California's El Camino College last season, Sills transferred back to West Virginia and had six catches for 96 yards in the spring game. Coach Dana Holgorsen calls Sills "extremely, extremely football smart." Sills, who received a scholarship offer from Lane Kiffin at Southern California while still in middle school, had seven catches for 131 yards and two TDs while a receiver for the Mountaineers two seasons ago.