Heading into the 2011 season, the Big 12 Conference has plenty of standout playmakers on special teams. Leading the way for the conference in the kickoff and punt return category is Oklahoma's Ryan Broyles and Texas's D.J. Monroe. However, Nebraska wide receiver Niles Paul is in the conversation as well for top return man honors. Here is the complete ranking list of the Big 12's top return specialists.
Also the Big 12's top returning receiver in 2010, Oklahoma's Ryan Broyles is one of the top punt return specialists in all of college football. As a sophomore Broyles led the league with a 15.9 yard average on 31 punt returns to go along with one touchdown. Broyles will once again be counted on to provide a spark for the Sooners in this category.
2. D.J. Monroe, Texas, 5-9, 171, So.
As a redshirt freshman Texas cornerback D.J. Monroe lived up to his Rivals top 100 ranking for the Longhorns. Monroe was the Big 12's top kickoff return man with an average of 33.6 yards per return to go along with two touchdowns. Monroe should continue to blossom in this area as he transitions into his sophomore season.
3. Niles Paul, Nebraska, 6-1, 220, Sr.
Nebraska senior Niles Paul is one of the most versatile players in the entire Big 12. Besides being one of the league's top wide receivers, Paul also ranked third in both kickoff return (27.9 yards per return) and punt return (10.7) yardage. All together Paul racked up 853 return yards as a junior, which ranked second only to Kansas State's Brandon Banks. Paul consistently provided NU with big plays on special teams, especially down the final stretch of the season.
4. Cyrus Gray, Texas A&M, 5-10, 196, So.
Texas A&M's Cyrus Gray is another standout sophomore in the Big 12. Besides being one of the league's top running backs, Gray averaged 23.8 yards on kickoff returns for the Aggies to go along with one touchdown. He's definitely a player you have to respect on special teams.
5. Eric Stephens, Texas Tech, 5-8, 182, So.
Texas Tech sophomore Eric Stephens is the top returner in the Big 12 for total kickoff return yardage. As a freshman Stephens was second with 823 yards on 32 returns only behind KSU's Banks. His 25.7 yards per return average ranks third heading into the 2010 season only behind Monroe and Paul.