Big 12: Newcomers who could make impact


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OK, so Adrian Peterson probably isn't walking through the door with his 1,925-yard freshman season.
In fact, no Big 12 team signed a five-star prospect in 2013. What that means for the league is debatable, but newcomers certainly will have plenty of chances to impact the 2013 season.
A junior college transfer may start at quarterback for Kansas State, the league's defending champion. Traditional power Oklahoma has holes to fill at safety. Kansas has holes everywhere, and an influx of junior college talent could shine at West Virginia.
The league's collective reliance on junior colleges makes the Big 12 a breeding ground for breakout rookie seasons, and a few true freshmen have strolled into beneficial situations. Somebody has to be the league's newcomer of the year, and there are plenty of players about whom to speculate.
As the college football season approaches, Rivals.com is breaking down the conferences across the country to see which five true freshmen or junior college transfers could have the biggest impact.
Kansas State QB Jake Waters
Measurables: 6-foot-2, 215 pounds. Iowa Western Community College
Recruiting ranking: No. 1-ranked quarterback and No. 20 overall in the junior college postseason top 100 2013
Buzz: When you are looking to make an immediate splash, quarterback is the place to be. Fresh out of junior college, Waters finds himself in the thick of a two-man race to replace departed Heisman Trophy finalist Collin Klein and he definitely has a chance to win it. At Iowa Western a season ago, Waters earned NJCAA Offensive Player of the Year honors by completing 72.8 percent of his passes and throwing for 3,194 yards, 34 touchdowns and just two interceptions. He can make plays with his legs as well as with his arm, which suits Bill Snyder's offensive model. Waters will need to beat out last year's Wildcats backup, Daniel Sams, to win the starting job, and if he does that no newcomer will be in position to have more of an impact on the Big 12 season.
Kansas DB Cassius Sendish
Measurables: 6-foot-2, 185 pounds. Arizona Western Community College
Recruiting rankings: No. 12-ranked defensive back and No. 59 overall in the Rivals Junior College100
Buzz: Sendish arrived in the spring and already has become a pillar of Kansas' team. Head coach Charlie Weis sent his newcomer to Big 12 media days in Dallas to represent the program, and Sendish is a lock to start at defensive back. There's no better place for a talented newcomer than KU, which needs to upgrade its talent across the board after a one-win 2012 season. Sendish is talented enough to rack up serious statistics in the pass-happy Big 12, where he will get plenty of chances to make plays on the football. Sendish has great speed and impeccable instincts. He does not have a redshirt season available, so he'll be motivated to make an impact from the jump.
Texas Tech WR D.J. Polite-Bray
Measurables: 6-foot-1, 175 pounds. Lithonia (Ga.) Martin Luther King
Recruiting rankings: No. 83-ranked wide receiver, unranked in the Rivals250 presented by Under Armour
Buzz: Bray probably won't start at wide receiver from the season's onset, but he will figure into the rotation on the outside. He'll have his chance to catch plenty of balls in what should still be a pass-happy Red Raiders offense. And if an injury should occur to a starter, the freshman will be on the short list to slide up the depth chart. Despite what happens there, though, he will have a chance to make an impact in the return game. Bray has top-level speed and the Red Raiders don't have an experienced return man, leaving the door wide open for Bray to make a mark on special teams.
Baylor DT Andrew Billings
Measurables: 6-foot-1, 305 pounds. Waco (Texas) High
Recruiting rankings: No. 12-ranked defensive tackle, No. 168 in the Rivals250
Buzz: Billings will need to move up the depth chart in camp to make a serious impact this season, but there's little doubt that he's capable of doing that. The 305-pound prospect is the best defensive tackle the Bears have signed in years, and the position isn't exactly clogged with talent. Beau Blackshear won the starting gig this spring, but his name does not seem to be firmly etched into the spot. Billings has every measurable that coaches want in a tackle, and he is a real threat to take reps from more experienced players in the fall. If he has the sort of camp he's capable of having, he could be given major playing time. The opportunity for early playing time is a major reason Billings signed with the hometown Bears.
Oklahoma DB Hatari Byrd
Measurables: 6-foot-1, 190 pounds. Fresno (Calif.) Central East
Recruiting rankings: No. 16-ranked safety, No. 189 in the Rivals250
Buzz: Byrd is a talented player, but his inclusion on this list is also the product of opportunity. Oklahoma is thin when it comes to experienced safeties, and there's plenty of room for a newcomer or two to make a mark at the position. The Sooners' returning options played mostly in nickel situations a year ago, and a player as physically gifted as Byrd should push the veterans immediately. Fellow true freshman Ahmad Thomas, who arrived for spring practice, should see playing time at safety. Still, Byrd is the better prospect and, thanks in part to a college-ready body, he should have little problem adjusting during camp. Once on the field, he'll have no shortage of chances to change games, and the Big 12's identity, combined with OU's perceived weakness at safety, will cause plenty of opportunity.
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