Great Names, Players Headline Big 12 Ah You Team
By Mike Casazza
By this time next month, we’ll have all of our preseason watch lists for college football’s major awards, starting July 8 with the Maxwell Award given to the player of the year and ending 11 days later with the Walter Camp Award for the nation’s most outstanding player. In between are another 13 awards for the best at every position, from center to placekicker and everything in between. We’ll then dip into the conference media days and the preseason all-conference teams and coaches’ polls.
You’ll learn a bunch about a lot of teams, players and coaches, especially with regard to the Big 12, which will have candidates and favorites for many of the individual awards. Then what figures to be a revealing all-conference team and preseason poll is announced during Big 12 media days July 22-23 in Dallas.
But you’ll never see this: The Big 12’s Ah You Team, named in honor of former Oklahoma defensive lineman C.J. Ah You Jr., and reserved for promising players with names so irresistible they make you say, “Ah, you.”
The 2013 Preseason Ah You Team
Chanse Creekmur, Iowa State
A fun one to say with bonus points for an original spelling of a common first name. Creekmur is an interesting individual, too. He set all sorts of records for completions, yardage and touchdowns in high school in Iowa, but decided to play basketball at Arizona State. He started 13 times two years ago and averaged 4.7 points and 2.3 rebounds before deciding he wanted to play football. He’s a walk-on for the Cyclones and they hope the 6-foot-5, 245-pound Creekmur rediscovered his former self sitting out last season. If not, Iowa State basketball coach Fred Hoiberg loves transfers.
Dreamius Smith, West Virginia
This was a dream come true for the Mountaineers, who needed a big back to complement their tinier veterans who haven’t been able to withstand full seasons. The 5-foot-11, 215-pound Smith is a thumper who takes the ball through the middle and through linemen and linebackers. He played on Butler Community College teams that won the national title in 2011 and lost in the championship game last season. Smith totaled 1,674 yards and 26 touchdowns on only 220 carries along the way. That wasn’t a fluke. As a high school senior, he managed 1,837 yards and 34 scores on 142 carries.
Lache Seastrunk, Baylor
The best player on what should be the Big 12’s best offense, Lache (Lake) Seastrunk’s name is as entertaining as his game. He averaged 7.7 yards per carry last year and exploded in the late part of the season, averaging 138.5 yards in the final six games and 159.3 yards in the final four. He’s proclaimed himself a Heisman Trophy favorite already and no one ought to argue with those numbers or this one: 4.34 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
Aaron Ripkowski, Oklahoma
There aren’t any good stats to explain Ripkowski’s impact, unless you can find the one for opponents he’s knocked silly through the years, but Ripkowski is best defined by his physicality. A former Texas powerlifting champion who would get 650 pounds into the air, he’s the 6-foot-1, 260-pound fullback who was the key to Oklahoma’s Belldozer set with bulky backup quarterback Blake Bell. Bell is in line to start now, so Ripkowski’s impact might be reduced, but fellow fullback Trey Millard will get carries to compliment Damien Williams and the thought of Ripkowski and Millard together, perhaps with Bell, is kind of scary.
Rashodrick “Shock” Linwood
We’ve yet to see Linwood, but we can’t wait to see what the Bears have in mind for the 5-foot-8, 200-pounder. Is he a running back? A slot receiver? Both? They’ll find a spot because he’s capable. He was first-team Class 2A all-state as a running back and honorable mention all-state as a quarterback as a senior in Linden, Texas. He also played linebacker and safety and returned kicks.
Kameron Doolittle, Oklahoma State
His surname doesn’t fit because he’s done a lot for himself in two years. Doolittle was a high school star in Oklahoma, but didn’t have many scholarship offers and the situations he liked took on different looks after coaching changes. Doolittle opted for Northeast Oklahoma A&M for two seasons of junior college and was very good last season with 42 catches for 538 yards and eight touchdowns, plus another 129 yards on 18 carries. The only trouble? He went from 6-foot in junior college to 5-foot-8 when the Cowboys measured him.
Tuswani Copeland, Baylor
Copeland was a military brat who moved around a bunch growing up, so hopefully he’s been prepared for the starts and stops he’s experienced in college. He redshirted in 2010, tore an ACL in 2011, happily and effectively played special teams and some cornerback last season and was promising in his debut at receiver in spring football before tearing an Achilles’ tendon.
Lynx Hawthorne, Baylor
Not that he needed it, but Hawthore’s candidacy was helped appreciably by his middle name: Gunner. The all-state punter and receiver also lettered in track and basketball in a Class 2A school in Texas, but he was regarded as one of the country’s best small school athlete recruits. He caught 73 passes for 1,776 yards and 26 touchdowns for a state champion as a senior and enrolled at Baylor in January 2012, but redshirted last season.
Lacolton Bester, Oklahoma
Bester led his high school team in rushing and passing in 2009 and then went on to star as a receiver in junior college. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Bester caught 76 passes for 1,042 yards and 17 scores as a sophomore in 2011 and was first-team all-conference. Last year was slightly different, though, with three catches for 39 yards.
Jimmay Mundine, Kansas
Mundine is something of a role model for the Jayhawks. He was a scout team player of the year when he redshirted as a freshman in 2010 and he made the athletic director’s honor roll last spring. He’s played a lot in between for some iffy teams, but was honorable mention all-conference last season and was lauded this spring for being in the best shape of his career – and that says something about the motivation of a veteran with three wins in the 24 games he’s played. The 6-foot-2, 240-pound junior tied for the team lead with two touchdown catches last season, but met regularly with newcomer quarterback Jake Heaps in the offseason so that the Jayhawks might have more than seven touchdown receptions next season.
Desmine Hilliard, Baylor
This is it for Baylor, honest, but it proves their offense really can spread the field. Hilliard didn’t miss a game last season and was a regular on special teams and a backup on the offensive line who could fill a hole this season. He’s also another product of the Baylor’s ridiculous strength and conditioning program. He’s squatted 655 pounds, bench pressed 415 pounds and taken 395 pounds off the floor in a hang clean. Hilliard also throws the shot put and discus on the track and field team. Earlier this month, he finished ninth at the NCAA championships and broke his own school record in discus by chucking it 194 feet.
Bronson Irwin, Oklahoma
Irwin has been building toward his senior season, when he hopes to be one of the league’s best guards. He was all-state in 2009 and considered a top five recruit in the state of Oklahoma and a top five guard in the nation. He played as a true freshman and increased his playing time as a sophomore before starting all 13 games at right guard last season. Whether splendidly named Gabe Ikard plays center or left guard, the Sooners ought to be very good up the middle.
Dylan Admire, Kansas
A top 10 recruit in Kansas and a top 30 guard in the 2011 class, the same year he had 67 pancake blocks, he’s given his fans plenty to admire since joining the Jayhawks. He carried a 4.0 GPA last spring and has made the Dean’s List and the athletic director’s honor roll and last season was academic first-team all-Big 12. Admire also played all 12 games last season, though never in a featured role, but he could be the team’s starting center next season.
Boston Stiverson, Kansas State
He fits the mold at Kansas State with a 6-foot-4, 315-pound frame and we might know more about him by now if not for a preseason foot injury last year. He was poised to be the team’s right guard, but the injury forced changes and Stiverson started just twice while the Wildcats’ offensive line took form and then took control. Stiverson, now a redshirt sophomore, is a tough guy up front who was his league’s defensive MVP as a high school senior and he’ll be again looking for a starting spot in the fall.
Stone Underwood, West Virginia
He hasn’t even practiced for the Mountaineers, never mind played, but it doesn’t matter for the player recruited to start beginning next season. Underwood must be the keystone for a WVU line that’s replacing both guards and the center. At 6-foot-4 and 285-pounds, he’s a big center, but it’s worked. Underwood was an all-conference and all-region player who started all 12 games in junior college last season after playing sparingly at Southeastern Louisiana the year before.
Kirby Van Der Kamp, Iowa State
Hard to pick what’s better about Van Der Kamp. Is it that he’s 6-foot-4 and 215-pounds and willing to lower his shoulder or that he’s 4-for-4 on fake punts in his career? Let’s call it a tie. He’s turned four carries into 55 yards and moved the chains four times in three seasons, but he’s also averaged 42.8 yards per punt in his career. Last season, 29 of his 77 punts ended up inside the 20-yard line while only two attempts went into the end zone. A high school receiver turned into a Ray Guy semifinalist last season, Van Der Kamp is striding toward a NFL career.
Torshiro Davis, Texas
The young man has done himself and all of us a disservice by accepting the nickname “Shiro,” because there’s something to the idea of this speedy defensive end racking up Torshiros or making fans exclaim “Torshiro!” at Texas Memorial Stadium these next three years. The Longhorns hauled in a number of impressive defensive line recruits last season, but Davis played an awful lot in the final seven games — that coinciding with teammate Jackson Jeffcoat’s season-ending injury. A U.S. Army All-American and top 150 player nationally in the 2012 class, the 6-foot-2, 235-pound Davis will get after quarterbacks for the Longhorns. At a Nike combine in 2011, his vertical leap was measured at 34.2 inches and his 40-yard dash was timed at 4.56 seconds.
Kindred Evans, Texas Tech
Evans was a top 30 outside linebacker prospect in the 2011 recruiting class and he earned playing time right away his first season and even had a sack in his college debut. He was hurt in the third game and took a medical redshirt and only played six games last season. If healthy and rejuvenated, the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Evans could have a role for what should be a good defensive front in defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt’s alignment.
Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas
He’s probably the best player and professional prospect on the list, with 14 ½ sacks and 38 tackles for a loss in 27 career games, but hate the player, don't hate the name. Jeffcoat is equal parts productive and consistent at end and has 12 sacks in his last 13 games. He was on all the watch lists last season and on his way to a special season with four sacks and 11 tackles for a loss in six games, but ruptured a pectoral muscle against Oklahoma and missed the final seven contests.
Jeremiah Tshimanga, Oklahoma State
A good name and a great story. Tshimanga was born in the Democratic Republic of Conga and lived in a variety of foster homes and shelters after moving to the United States. Life was never stable. Years apart, his father and then his mother deserted Tshimanga, his brother and two sisters. He ended up with a friend’s family and became one of the best players in all of Texas in the 2012 recruiting class, picking the Cowboys over dozens of other suitors. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Tshimanga enrolled in January 2012 and likely would have played if not for a season-ending injury.
Chaquil Reed, Kansas State
Reed made a real name for himself when playing on the same Wichita East High team in Kansas with Art Brown and Bryce Brown. He made 216 tackles in three seasons, but also doubled as a barreling fullback. He wound up at a junior college and did like many others and turned that into a spot with Kansas State. Reed’s 2011 junior college season produced 43 tackles and five sacks, but the 6-foot-3, 310-pound Reed only played four games and made one tackle last season.
Knute Severson, Iowa State
The Cyclones need replacements for Jake Knott and A.J. Klein and Severson at least looks the part. He was an all-conference player twice in high school, but also a two-time state qualifier in wrestling. Severson redshirted as a freshman last season, but the last time he played, he made 133 tackles as a high school senior.
Eric Striker, Oklahoma
Striker isn’t big for a linebacker at 6-foot and barely 200 pounds, but he’s aptly named because he’s quick around the corners and has been known to get to a spot and let the ball carrier know he’s there. Striker played at Armwood High, in Seffner, Fla., the same school that counts a few other college and NFL stars as graduates. Striker owns the school record with 42 career sacks, one reason he made the Sports Illustrated All-American team in 2011. Striker played very little last season, but had all six of his tackles in mop up duty against Kansas. His coaches have faith and are planning to play him in the middle next season.
Prinz Kande, Kansas
Things seemed sweet for Kansas and for Kande last season as the former safety and special teams contributor was in place as a starting linebacker. But after making three tackles in the opener and then starting for the first time in 25 career games and making three tackles in the second game, Kande tore knee ligaments and was lost for the season and wasn’t entirely recovered for the start of spring football.
Cassius Sendish, Kansas
A possibility for the Big 12’s defensive newcomer of the year award, Sendish was one of the country’s better junior college prospects in the 2012 recruiting class. Sendish is big and aggressive and broke up 17 passes in two years at two different schools. He was an all-conference and all-region pick last year at Arizona Western. The 6-foot, 185-pound Sendish enrolled in time for spring football and hit hard enough and covered tightly enough to stand out as one of the defense’s best players.
Miketavius Jones, Oklahoma State
Jones was a top 30 cornerback in the 2011 recruiting class who broke up 21 passes and made 61 tackles as a high school senior. He redshirted his first season, but played last season as the Cowboys had all sorts of trouble in the secondary. Jones played in 10 games, including the final nine, and turned that into a promising spring in what is now a deep group of cornerbacks.
Daytawion Lowe, Oklahoma State
His name is misspelled and mispronounced, but any way to look at it DAY-twon Lowe is going to be one of the Big 12’s best defenders next season. Perhaps the prize of the 2009 recruiting class, he lost the 2010 season to injury, but he’s started the last 26 games and made them count. Lowe has led the team in tackles both seasons and seems like a trustworthy guy. Remember that controversial touchdown/fumble call that went in Texas’ favor last season even though Lowe came out of a goal line scrum with the football? Lowe as adamant it was a fumble and the video apparently agreed.
Terrance Bullitt, Texas Tech
Bullitt wasn’t having a great season last year as he played with a bad shoulder that had bothered him since the fall of 2011. Ultimately, he aggravated that old thing and missed the final three games. He finished with 19 tackles after making 56 as a sophomore the year before. Safeties figure to be active on the new Red Raiders defense and, if nothing else, it sounds like Bullitt is healthy and happy and should be able to fly around the field. He tweeted in March that football was “actually fun” again. “Last year having fun was impossible in every aspect,” he wrote.
Bobby Stonebraker, Oklahoma State
Congratulations to Stonebraker, who won a close competition with Iowa State’s Cole Netten and Texas Tech’s Ryan Bustin. Stonebraker’s story is worth some points, too, as a walk-on who first redshirted in 2010 and then watched Quinn Sharp do his thing the last two years. He has a solid track record as well after making all of his extra points his last three years in high school and 17 of his 20 field goal attempts. When he did get on the field last season, he attempted five kickoffs against Savannah State. Three were touchbacks.