In a conference best known for producing Heisman-winning quarterbacks and Biletnikoff Award-winning receivers, Big 12 freshmen are making their names running with the football.
Four of the top nine freshman rushers from Power Five schools play in the Big 12: Iowa State’s Breece Hall, Texas Tech’s SaRodorick Thompson, Oklahoma State’s Spencer Sanders and Roschon Johnson of Texas.
Another rising star, TCU quarterback Max Duggan, has put up impressive rushing numbers the past three games.
In Big 12 play, Hall ranks second with 98.2 yards per game behind national rushing leader Chuba Hubbard of Oklahoma State. Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley knows what he’s up against when the ninth-ranked Sooners host Iowa State on Saturday.
“We thought he was a really good player,” Riley said. “Certainly were aware of him, recruited him some. Evaluated him, thought a lot of him. Knew Iowa State ended up getting a heck of a player there.”
Hall has been on a tear. It started when he ripped off 132 yards and three touchdowns against West Virginia. He followed that with 19 carries for 183 yards and two scores against Texas Tech, then he had 18 carries for 76 yards and two more scores against Oklahoma State.
His seven rushing touchdowns this season are tied with Joshua Thomas for the most ever for an Iowa State freshman. His 475 yards rank third all time for an Iowa State freshman behind Mike Warren and David Montgomery.
Thompson ranks third in the Big 12 with 91.0 yards per game in conference play. He has led the Red Raiders in rushing six times this season.
In his best game, he had 28 carries for 153 yards and two touchdowns against Baylor on Oct. 12, making him the first Texas Tech freshman to rush for at least 150 yards in a game since Shaud Williams in 1999. He has five touchdowns rushing the past three games.
Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders is 10th in conference play with 61.5 yards per game. He adds a dimension to support Hubbard. Combined, they help Oklahoma State rank eighth nationally in rushing, and first in the Big 12.
Sanders rushed for 88 yards last Saturday in a 34-27 win over TCU. He did most of his damage in the first half, setting the stage for Hubbard to have a huge second half.
“He ran really well today,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said after the game. “He had some really good medium-sized four, six, eight, 10-yard runs, which he can do.”
Sanders’ running helped pick up the slack after star receiver Tylan Wallace was lost for the season to an ACL injury earlier in the week. He also passed for 158 yards and two touchdowns and was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Week.
Johnson converted from quarterback to running back after injuries to Keaontay Ingram and others. He ran for 121 yards in a 42-31 win over West Virginia and has averaged nearly nine carries per game since then. He has 418 yards on the season — just behind Ingram for the team lead — and averages 5.3 yards per carry.
Duggan hasn’t showed up on the conference rushing leaders list yet, but he likely will soon at his current pace. He has rushed for a combined 273 yards and three touchdowns in his past three games.
“That quarterback is a good player,” Gundy said. “He’s going to be a good player in this league. This league’s going to be tired of him over the next two or three years.”
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