Every year, young players emerge in training camp and perform way above expectations, whether those expectations were set by a lower recruiting ranking, a stacked position group in front of them or the general expectation that they’ll need more time to develop.
Below are seven Big 12 true freshmen who have emerged as surprises at camp. Most were overlooked somewhat as recruits. But a few others entered with big-time expectations and have somehow managed to succeed at a level greater than those expectations.
■ Corey Avery, RB, Kansas — When the Jayhawks held an open practice on Saturday, Avery was taking repetitions with the No. 1 offense at running back and motioning into the slot at times. The cat-quick back makes a nice complement to Kansas’s 225-pound lead back Brandon Bourbon. Avery had a 247Sports Composite rank of 0.8582, making him a three-star prospect.
■ Dimitri Flowers, FB, Oklahoma — Wide receiver Michiah Quick and safety Steven Parker have both had outstanding camps to date. But both of those prospects were among the nation’s top 110 prospects, so it was expected. Less was anticipated from Flowers (6-1 234), who enrolled early after earning a 0.8321 Composite and a three-star ranking. Flowers was the 1,136th-rated player in the Composite … now he could wind up playing a major role as a true freshman.
■ Jason Hall, S, Texas — Hall has been earning first-team reps and figures to play a major role this season. With a Composite ranking of 0.8438 (three stars), Hall was 20th-rated commitment of Texas’s 23-man recruiting class. Hall played both corner and safety at South Grand Prairie (Texas) and has both the fluidity and physical nature to succeed in the defensive backfield.
■ Dravon Henry, S, West Virginia — Like Lazard below, this one isn’t necessarily a shock from a recruiting ranking standpoint. Henry’s 247Sports Composite of 0.9353 makes him a four-star prospect. But Henry has still exceeded expectations in making a leap into the Mountaineers’ starting lineup opposite one of the Big 12’s top safeties in Karl Joseph. A do-it-all type from Aliquippa, Penn., Henry could be the early front-runner for Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year.
■ Allen Lazard, WR, Iowa State — OK, so Lazard was Iowa State’s most highly regarded recruit with a 247Sports Composite ranking of 0.9616, making him a four-star prospect. But there were still some concerns about his transition from Urbandale, Iowa, to major college football, concerns that he’s done a nice job of alleviating early on. The Cyclones are expecting to play just two true freshmen this season … one is Lazard and the other is punter Colin Downing, who was fully expected to win the vacant punting job coming in.
■ Austin Schlottmann, OC, TCU — At 6-6 280, Schlottmann played tackle at Brenham, where he set the school record in the bench press at 450 pounds. It’s been a surprise then, to see how well the true freshman has taken to center. He’s received rave reviews from the coaching staff and is currently No. 2 on the depth chart behind experienced center Joey Hunt. Schlottmann’s 247Sports Composite ranking of 0.8220 (three stars) might wind up being too low for a player who could start the next three years in the middle for the Horned Frogs.
■ James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State — Stamford (Texas) isn’t a big school, so it isn’t hard to see how Washington wound up with a Composite rating of 0.8451 (three stars). But after a strong camp to-date, he could work his way into a deep and talented wide receiver rotation in Stillwater. Washington led Stamford to a state title game win by catching four passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns and returning an interception 76 yards for a score in a 41-28 victory.