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August 28, 2012

Big 12: Top prospects who need to step up

MORE: Rivals100 | Rivals250

Bill Snyder built a big-time football program in a small-time town and did it without much recruiting gusto. Since he took over the program in 1989, Kansas State has, more often than not, been greater than the sum of its star rankings. On the rare occasion that K-State does pull in a sought-after high school recruit, expectations tend to be magnified.

Running back DeMarcus Robinson was the jewel of the Wildcats' 2010 class and is one of just two four-star high school prospects currently in the program. Describing his college statistics as "pedestrian" is one way of saying it. Calling them "non-existent" is more accurate.

Zero carries for zero yards in zero appearances.

Rivals.com takes a conference-by-conference look back at former highly rated prospects from each team who need to start justifying their hype.
TuesdayBig 12
WednesdayBig Ten, Pac-12
FridayBig East/ND/Others

It's important to note that Robinson is just a sophomore thanks to a redshirt year. Also important, though, is the fact that the former Rivals250 member was buried behind three-star running back John Hubert and junior college transfer Angelo Pease on the depth chart last season.

Cracking K-State's two-deep as a sophomore might be tall order, as the two tailbacks that were listed in front of him a year ago remain with the team. Still, Snyder, usually tight with praise, thinks this could be the year that Robinson takes the first step toward matching the high school hype.

"I think he had a good spring," Snyder said of Robinson. "He certainly caught our attention. He's continued to make improvement at the practices we've had to this point in time. I think everything he's done has been very positive. Hopefully, he'll get the opportunity."

Snyder says talent has never been the issue with Robinson. He's always had plenty of that. As for what's holding him back, Snyder won't go into specifics. Robinson's high school coach, Weston Schartz, on the other hand, doesn't mind sharing his take.

"I think the same thing that made him so special in high school is what's hurting him now," Schartz said. "He's such an unselfish player. I was watching spring practice and there was no rhyme or reason to who was taking reps. Everyone was just taking as many as they wanted. DeMarcus was just kind of hanging out in the background. He wasn't stepping up and taking carries like the other guys.

"He's not the type to be forceful. Those things -- things like summer workouts -- have held him back, but I think he's getting more aggressive now."

Below is a look at the other former top prospects who need to step up in the Big 12. (Click player's name for a look at his prospect profile coming out of high school):

Player: Glasco Martin, running back. No. 26-ranked athlete in the class of 2009.
Buzz: Martin redshirted his first season and has functioned in a reserve role in the two since. It seems likely that the junior will have his chance to start this season, and expectations remain high for the former four-star.

iowa state
Player: Chris Young, wide receiver. Top-ranked player in Iowa State's 2010 recruiting class.
Buzz: Heading into his final season of college football, Young, a junior college transfer, hasn't done much. He caught just six passes as a junior a year ago and is currently listed as a backup on the Cyclones' depth chart.

Player: Brandon Bourbon, running back. No. 29 running back in the class of 2010.
Buzz: Injury sidelined Bourbon in the middle of his redshirt freshman season. He ranked fourth on the team in rushing yards at the time of the incident. Plenty of time remains for the sophomore tailback to step up, but he's in danger of starting this season as No. 3 on the Jayhawks' depth chart.

Player: Jamarkus McFarland, defensive tackle. No. 26 overall player in the Rivals250 class of 2009.
Buzz: McFarland was a five-star for much of his senior season, but dropped to four stars in the final rankings. He started just 10 games in his first three seasons at Oklahoma and will need to raise his game this year to help an OU defensive front that was thin at tackle even before it lost Stacy McGee to suspension.

oklahoma state
Player: Kye Staley, fullback. The No. 130 overall prospect in the Rivals250 class of 2008.
Buzz: Once the No. 3 high school player in the state of Oklahoma, Staley redshirted first college season and missed the next two in because of a serious knee injury. He bounced back to become a second-team All-Big 12 fullback as a junior last season. The 81 yards he's accounted for during his career are underwhelming, but the Cowboys don't often use a fullback in their offense. The biggest question mark surrounding Staley is his durability.

Player: Waymon James, running back. The No. 10 running back in the class of 2009.
Buzz: James wasn't bad by any stretch a season ago, racking up 875 yards and garnering Honorable Mention All-Mountain West honors. Still, TCU fans expect more from the former four-star prospect. James was the No. 10 overall player in the 2009 class, but has started just one game since arriving on campus. He'll see more opportunities as a redshirt junior this year and should find himself in a starter or co-starter role.

Player: Jordan Hicks, linebacker. No. 1 outside linebacker in the class of 2010.
Buzz: Hicks is a former five-star prospect that hasn't shown the same flash he did in high school. The junior has gone on record saying that even he believes he underperformed a season ago, when he recorded 65 tackles and just one sack. Hicks is projected to start at linebacker for a solid Texas defense that, as a group, faces lofty expectations.

texas tech
Player: Jace Amaro, tight end. No. 6 player in Texas in the class of 2011.
Buzz: Fairly or not, Amaro, a high school tight end, drew comparisons to NFL great Tony Gonzalez as a four-star recruit. He didn't start a single game at Texas Tech in his first season, but was effective in spurts. Amaro could be in for breakout year, though, as he's set to receive more looks in the Red Raiders' high-powered passing game. Amaro still has a long career in front of him, but he's being relied on to take the next step in 2012.

west virginia
Player: Quinton Spain, tackle. No. 2 guard in the Rivals250 class of 2010.
Buzz: Spain was a U.S. Army All-American in 2010 and closed out his high school career with a four-star rating. He was forced to play right tackle as a redshirt freshman because of injuries to the Mountaineers' defense, but has since moved back to the left side, where he'll battle for starts. Spain's massive, 334-pound frame makes him an interesting player and one that needs to step up in order to match the fanfare that surrounded him in the prep ranks.



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