With college football rapidly approaching, it’s always difficult to predict how a season will go or how well a player will play. We have seen players like Marvin Harrison Jr. pop onto the scene for Ohio State in the 2022 Rose Bowl, most recently.
College football fans could very well see some of the same things in the 2023 season, especially with these underrated Big 12 players.
Top Five Under the Radar Big 12 Players
There are plenty of players who have either shown how good they are and just aren’t getting the attention they deserve or incoming players from another program, that the nation just seemingly doesn’t want to talk about.
All five of these players have played well and could very well take their games to the next level in 2023.
1) John Rhys Plumlee, QB, UCF
Quarterbacks are always the focal point of every team, and UCF quarterback John Rhys Plumlee did so much for the team last season. Transferring from Ole Miss last season, Plumlee stepped in as the starter, throwing for 2,586 yards with 14 touchdowns against eight interceptions.
Where he thrived for the Knights was in the running game, leading the team in rushing yards with 862 yards and 11 touchdowns.
The focus this season for new offensive coordinator Darin Hinshaw is to improve the passing game and have Plumlee be more accurate than his 63% a year ago. Plumlee can make quick decisions with the ball and obviously has great speed to break out big runs in the open field.
While the transition to the Big 12 will be tough for the Knights, Plumlee’s second season should show marked improvements in his game and absolutely should be on the radar as one of the most electrifying college football quarterbacks in 2023.
2) Lee Kpogba, LB, West Virginia
Whenever Lee Kpogba is on the field, he’ll always seem to be the focal point of the Mountaineers’ defense by the end of their games. Last season for West Virginia, Kpogba led the team in tackles (92) while also recording 5.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, and one fumble recovery.
He heads into this season being named to the First-Team All-Big 12 by us here at College Football Network, but no higher than Third-Team on any other publication.
He is quick with his reads to find the ball carrier and to make all the plays needed for the Mountaineers. His performance will be necessary for a defensive unit that ranked 115th in points allowed per game and 110th in passing defense last season.
At times, Kpogba gets lost in translation due to the defense’s overall play, but he is one of the best linebackers in the Big 12.
3) AD Mitchell, WR, Texas
Coming from the back-to-back National Champions Georgia Bulldogs, AD Mitchell knows what it takes to play in the biggest games of the season. During his two seasons at Georgia, Mitchell caught 38 passes for 560 yards and seven touchdowns.
His biggest contribution to the champs was catching a touchdown pass in each of the last two national title games, including a 40-yard score in the fourth quarter against Alabama in 2022. That touchdown gave Georgia the lead and the eventual 33-18 win.
Mitchell makes for an absolute deep threat for Texas, and he has already shown that he and quarterback Quinn Ewers have rapport after six catches for 68 yards and a touchdown in the Orange-White Game back in the Spring.
Texas is loaded at receiver with Xavier Worthy and Jordan Whittington leading the charge. While that may not lead to other-worldly numbers for Mitchell, he should still see a breakout performance this fall before he’ll have a difficult decision to make in the offseason about whether to enter the NFL Draft or not.
4) Kingsley Suamataia, LT, BYU
BYU is another team, like UCF, that is transitioning to a new conference, and it should not be forgotten the job that Kingsley Suamataia did in 2022. Suamataia came in as a redshirt freshman after just one season with Oregon and started 12 of 13 games, showcasing his ability to protect the quarterback.
He was dominant in pass protection and landed on the CFN All-Independent Team last season before being placed on the CFN All-Big 12 First-Team just this week.
Despite being on the Outland Trophy watch list this year, Suamataia was left out off other lists for preseason All-Big 12. Puzzling, to say the least.
He was one of the best pass blockers in college football last season and should only get better with time. The pass rushers in the Big 12 are strong this season and if Suamataia proves he can dominate once again, his talents may also head to the NFL sooner than later.
5) Isaiah Hamilton, CB, Houston
One of the best coverage corners in the SWAC in 2022, Isaiah Hamilton finds himself making a big jump to the Big 12 with the Houston Cougars. Last season with Texas Southern, Hamilton recorded five interceptions, returning two for touchdowns, and had 10 pass deflections in just 10 games.
His performance earned him a 2022 SWAC First-Team All-Conference selection and a bevy of interest in the transfer portal.
Houston has two key defensive backs returning in Alex Hogan and Jalen Emery, but it’s a newcomer like Hamilton that could make an impact with his ability to lock down in coverage. He made big strides with Texas Southern in 2022 by shutting down top receivers in the SWAC.
While Hamilton might have to compete to start fall camp, he should get plenty of playing time and could very well become the ballhawk Houston needs to take on their Big 12 counterparts.