|TCU's Devonte Fields' promising spring would indicate the defensive end is primed for a big year.|
Some of college football's biggest storylines the past two years have come thanks to a pair of breakout freshmen (at the time) in Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston. While it will be tough to duplicate what the two Heisman Trophy winners accomplished, there is no doubt that some under-the-radar players will go from a few lines in the media guide to national sensations.
With that in mind, CFB 24/7 is going to pick 10 players who go from being talked about on local message boards to familiar names for fans from coast to coast.
Today, we look at the Big 12's top 10 breakout candidates for the 2014 season.
10. RB Keith Ford, Oklahoma
Particulars: 5-foot-11, 211 pounds, sophomore.
Buzz: The Sooners are a trendy college football playoff pick after their Sugar Bowl triumph, but they still need to figure out some replacements in the running game. Alex Ross and incoming five-star back Joe Mixon figure to get carries, but Ford is penciled in as the workhorse. He's a physical back who can be the backbone of the offense that can take pressure off Trevor Knight.
9. WR Jakeem Grant, Texas Tech
Particulars: 5-6, 160, junior.
Buzz: Texas Tech's high-flying offense produces some great receivers, and that's one way a player who had 796 yards last season could possibly be termed a breakout star. With Jace Amaro and Eric Ward gone, Grant figures to be the top passing target in an offense perfectly suited to his size, speed and quickness. He'll put up big numbers and has a chance to challenge Antwan Goodley and Tyler Lockett for first-team All-Big 12 in 2014.
8. WR Allen Lazard, Iowa State
Particulars: 6-5, 210, freshman.
Buzz: Four-star receivers with Lazard's size and speed don't come along often in the state of Iowa, but the Cyclones locked up the talented receiver and fended off challenges from bigger schools leading up to signing day. With a lack of depth in the receiving corps and a need for playmakers, Lazard should be able to quickly climb up the depth chart and become one of the quarterback's best friends. He's a lot more polished than some freshmen receivers and should be a name Big 12 defensive backs will know early and often.
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7. DE Devonte Fields, TCU
Particulars: 6-4, 240, sophomore.
Buzz: Whether you want to call it a breakout season or a comeback year, Fields is primed to return to form after a disappointing 2013 campaign. Injuries and a few off-the-field issues limited him, and he was barely present when he was on the field. He's had a good spring and looks to be even stronger than he was when he had a terrific freshman year. If he's 100 percent, he's a nightmare for opposing offenses.
6. WR Nick Harwell, Kansas
Particulars: 6-1, 193, senior.
Buzz: He had a great career at Miami of Ohio, but he steps up in competition for a Kansas team in desperate need of playmakers. He should immediately be the team's top option in the passing game, and his wealth of experience is a huge boost to Charlie Weis' squad. With more no-huddle mixed in for the Jayhawks this year and a better foundation, Harwell is primed to be a quality receiver in a league full of them.
5. WR Marcus Johnson, Texas
Particulars: 6-1, 189, junior.
Buzz: There's a reason Johnson is a trendy pick to be a breakout star for the Longhorns and put up a big year after a nice set of spring practices. Certainly there are issues at quarterback, but Johnson should be a deep threat for the team with a chance to put up some decent numbers despite Texas' likely run-first, run-often offense. He had big games against top-notch secondaries last year in TCU and Oklahoma, and will be looking to be more consistent in 2014.
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4. RB Shock Linwood, Baylor
Particulars: 5-8, 200, sophomore.
Buzz: With Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin gone, Linwood figures to be the featured back in the Bears' high-flying offense that is much better at running the ball than most people think. He had a terrific run when injuries forced him to be the starter, and he should be ready to put up big numbers for Art Briles as the No. 1 option in the backfield.
3. RB Tyreek Hill, Oklahoma State
Particulars: 5-10, 185, junior.
Buzz: He's probably one of, if not the, fastest players in the Big 12 and will be a key weapon for an Oklahoma State team that is replacing many starters this year. He'll play a little running back and spend some time in the slot, but he's simply a good, old-fashioned playmaker for the Cowboys. Think Percy Harvin or Tavon Austin in terms of his role, and Hill will likely get enough touches to put up big numbers just like those two.
2. DE Shawn Oakman, Baylor
Particulars: 6-9, 275, junior.
Buzz: The Penn State transfer is ready to have a monster year to match his monster measurables. Art Briles has heaped high praise on his defensive line, and Oakman figures to be one of the anchors of the line with his talent. He had a big spring and is primed to top his impressive 12.5 tackles for loss as a backup from last year and draw plenty of attention from NFL scouts.
1. DE Shaquille Riddick, West Virginia
Particulars: 6-6, 244, senior.
Buzz: An All-American at the FCS level, Riddick figures to have an immediate impact for the Mountaineers given the lack of depth along the defensive line. He has the size and speed to be an All-Big 12 performer and shouldn't have too many FBS transition issues in chasing after the passer. If West Virginia wants to get back to a bowl game, they'll need a huge year out of Riddick.
Follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter @BryanDFischer.