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College Football 2022: Offensive and defensive spotlights for all Big 12 teams

Manhattan, Kansas, USA; Kansas State Wildcats running back Deuce Vaughn (22) finds room to run during the second quarter against the Baylor Bears at Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

While this offseason has been a revolutionary whirlwind for the future of the Big-12 Conference, their upcoming 2022 football season still presents a variety of tantalizing football programs and intriguing storylines.

The Texas Longhorns will be embarking on Year Two of the Steve Sarkisian era with a highly touted freshman signal-caller under center in quarterback Quinn Ewers. The Oklahoma Sooners will have to pick up the remnants left behind after Lincoln Riley's departure. However, new headman Brett Venables seems up for the challenge on and off the field.

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All analysis below is credited to PFF's 2022 College Football Preview Magazine.

Editor's note: This analysis focuses on non-quarterbacks. 

Baylor Bears

Offensive Spotlight Player: OT CONNOR GALVIN

Baylor offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes’ scheme significantly reduces stress on his offensive line, but Galvin fits the system like a glove and his production is still quite impressive. The 2018 four-star recruit earned a 91.2 pass-blocking grade in 2021 and allowed only three pressures in total. On true pass sets, he lost only five reps and earned the fourth-best pass-blocking grade in the Power Five. Galvin also committed just one penalty on 936 snaps in 2021. Don’t be surprised if he performs at an all-around elite level in 2022.

Defensive Spotlight Player: DI JAXON PLAYER

Dave Aranda and company landed one of the top defensive players out of the transfer portal in Jaxon Player, who produced at a high level in four seasons with Tulsa. He earned PFF grades of 74.8 and 80.6 in 2018 and 2019, respectively, as a pure nose tackle before transitioning to a versatile role in 2020 and 2021 and posting PFF grades of 74.0 and 87.3. Despite playing more than 100 snaps at nose, defensive tackle and edge defender in 2021, Player managed to record an 85.0 grade as both a run defender and a pass rusher. His athleticism allows him to be such a versatile piece, and that’s going to be valuable for Baylor’s front in 2022.

Iowa State Cyclones

Offensive Player Spotlight: WR XAVIER HUTCHINSON

Hutchinson wins with his ball skills and body control. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound receiver has a knack for making acrobatic catches — if the ball is in his vicinity, he’s getting it. Hutchinson reeled in 95.1% of his catchable targets beyond the line of scrimmage in 2021, the fourth-highest rate in the Power Five. He also owns elite strength that shows at the catch point and when defenders attempt to arm-tackle him. Hutchinson has produced 17 contested catches and 27 broken tackles after the catch since 2020. He’s one of the top possession receivers in the Big 12.

Defensive Player Spotlight: EDGE WILL MCDONALD IV

The 2021 season may have been McDonald’s first year as a starter for the Cyclones, but he has always been a highly productive player. Over the past three years, the 6- foot-4, 245-pound edge defender has posted a 90.0 pass-rush grade, a 21.1% win rate and a 17.4% pressure rate on 550-plus rushes — all of which are top-five marks in the Big 12 in that span. And most of that production came from three-man rushes. McDonald’s 2021 campaign was as consistent as it gets, with him tallying multiple pressures in every game played.

Kansas Jayhawks

Offensive Player Spotlight: OT EARL BOSTICK JR

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