Technically, there’s still one game left in the Big 12’s 2019 season, as the Oklahoma Sooners are set to face the Baylor Bears in Arlington this Saturday. That kind of thing has never stopped anyone in college football from handing out awards prematurely, has it?
Here’s how I would vote for this year’s all-conference team if asked, which they most certainly did not. I’m using my own position designations, but I capped each side at 13 players for propriety’s sake.
I’ve also added some picks for the standard awards. In fact, let’s start there:
Coach of the Year: Matt Rhule, Baylor
When schools are forced to part ways with successful coaches, they often look to stay in the same coaching tree for the successor. Baylor essentially started anew when it hired Rhule to move on from the Art Briles era. Although it certainly doesn’t make up for enabling Briles as his program ran amuck, bringing in a coach from Temple with no ties to the school or region represented a clear effort to break with the past by Baylor’s administration.
We can let history judge if hiring Rhule detoxified Baylor football away from the field. Between the lines, he got the Bears to play excellent ball in his third season in Waco. A superb defense carried Baylor to an 11-1 regular season and a bid to this weekend’s conference championship game. He is the Big 12 coach of the year in a landslide.
My 2019 All-Big 12 First Team
QB: Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma
RB: Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State
RB: Kennedy Brooks, Oklahoma
RB: Breece Hall, Iowa State
WR: Devin Duvernay, Texas
WR: CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma
WR: Denzel Mims, Baylor
TE/H-back: Charlie Kolar, Iowa State
OL: Hakeem Adeniji, Kansas
OL: Adrian Ealy, Oklahoma
OL: Marquis Hayes, Oklahoma
OL: Creed Humphrey, Oklahoma
OL: Marcus Keyes, Oklahoma State
Offensive Player of the Year: Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State
You could make a strong case for Hurts or even Humphrey here. Lamb had the honor all but locked up at one point earlier in the year.
Hubbard deserves the award, though, for carrying the load for the Cowboys this season. Coach Mike Gundy and offensive coordinator Sean Gleeson essentially built the OSU offense around their Canadian workhorse, who ended the regular season with 309 rushes for 1,936 yards and 21 touchdowns.
That kind of workload borders on inhumane for a college running back in this day and age. Frankly, the Pokes probably needed every single one of Hubbard’s carries to get to eight wins this year.
*I admit the thought crossed my mind to just fill out the offensive line with OU’s five starters. In a season in which the OU’s line was supposed to be in flux, it turned into a dominant unit by the end of the year. This group will qualify as the best in the country next season if Humphrey returns for another season.
*Duvernay isn’t the Texas receiver anyone would have expected to make this list back at the start of the year. A season in which a player catches 103 balls will change opinions quickly. Duvernay provided a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing season for the Longhorns.
*Mims stalled last season before bouncing back in a big way in 2019 with 61 receptions for 945 yards and 11 touchdowns. The Bears desperately needed the threat he provided outside to keep their offense from bogging down.
*Eight of 10 Big 12 teams will bring back their starting quarterbacks next season, and one of the other two has an elite talent in the mix for its job – OU’s Spencer Rattler. In other words, competition for that spot on next year’s team will be fierce.
DL: James Lynch, Baylor
DL: Ronnie Perkins, Oklahoma
DL: Darius Stills, West Virginia
DL: Wyatt Hubert, Kansas State
LB: Jordyn Brooks, Texas Tech
LB: Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma
LB: Garret Wallow, TCU
LB: Terrel Bernard, Baylor
DB: Greg Eisworth, Iowa State
DB: Jeff Gladney, TCU
DB: Brandon Jones, Texas
DB: Parnell Motley, Oklahoma
DB: Malcolm Rodriguez, Oklahoma State
Defensive Player of the Year: James Lynch, Baylor
Lynch might have had more of an impact on his team than any other player in the Big 12 this season. His emergence as a force on Baylor’s defensive line mirrored the gigantic leap forward made by the program during the 2019 campaign. Every coach in the conference is hoping not named Matt Rhule is hoping Lynch opts for the NFL draft this spring.
*If you’re looking for evidence that things are changing in the Big 12: I had to leave off a host of deserving players on the defensive line. OU’s Neville Gallimore comes to mind. Same thing goes for WVU’s Dante Stills. And it really hurt omitting big Rey Lima of ISU.
*Pound for pound, is Tech LB Jordyn Brooks the best defender in the conference? ISU DB Greg Eisworth would probably give him a run for that title.
*I was skeptical about even including Murray on the all-conference team in the preseason, let alone naming him the preseason defensive player of the year. He proved me and any other doubters wrong. As a physical specimen who can get after the passer and cover in the middle of the field, Murray’s big junior season could have him bound for the NFL.
*Is the Motley inclusion a prisoner of the moment deal? Quite possibly, but he made a number of game-changing plays for the Sooners down the stretch.