Texas Tech quarterback Taylor Potts calls an audible during the game against Texas on Sept. 19, 2009.
Texas Tech quarterback Taylor Potts calls an audible during the game against Texas on Sept. 19, 2009. (Associated Press)
The next wave of stars is beginning to emerge in the Big 12.

Many of its most familiar and famous football faces of the recent past parted ways with the conference at the end of last season when players such as Chase Daniel, Jeremy Maclin, Brian Orakpo, Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree moved on to the National Football League.

The buildup to this season focused largely on the return of Oklahoma quarterback and defending Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford and Heisman runner-up Colt McCoy.

But with Bradford sidelined because of injury a few nice stories are beginning to write themselves around the conference.

This week we take a look at a few players who figure to be in the headlines the rest of this season and beyond.

Junior Taylor Potts has stepped right into the Texas Tech quarterback job Harrell owned and has been nearly as effective in his first three outings. He played well in a loss at Texas and is averaging more than 400 yards passing through his first three games as the starter.

It`s true that just about anyone who earns the starting job in Lubbock is bound to rack up significant passing totals in coach Mike Leach`s offense, but not everyone is going to be as poised and confident as Potts was in facing the Longhorns.

Two of the receivers Potts is throwing to figure to become well-known around the league in the coming years. Sophomore Tramain Swindall and freshman Alexander Torres are also off to good starts.

Daniel's shoes figured to be huge holes to fill in Columbia, Mo., but the Tigers hardly seem to miss old No. 10.

Sophomore Blaine Gabbert has stepped right in and led the Tigers to a 3-0 start, including an impressive comeback win against Bowling Green. Gabbert's pass efficiency rating of 166.10 ranks 11th nationally.

Looks like sophomore receiver Wes Kemp could be a name to remember in Missouri, too.

The Big 12 became much more of a passing league a few years ago, but that doesn't mean running backs can't still make a name for themselves.

Roy Helu Jr. is leading the league in rushing for Nebraska at 127 yards per game and 6.6 yards a carry. Helu began to emerge last season as a sophomore, but he's clearly raised his play another notch this year and is now right there with Oklahoma's DeMarco Murray and Oklahoma State's Kendall Hunter as the class of the league at running back.

If Colorado can ever get some consistency in its offensive line and keep Rodney Stewart and Darrell Scott healthy, they could join that list, but they aren't there yet.

Speaking of Colorado, there might not be a player in the league who does more for his team and gets less respect for doing it from his own fans than wide receiver Scotty McKnight.

CU fans seem too preoccupied scanning the sidelines for recent recruits to notice that McKnight now has a very real opportunity to leave Boulder at the end of the 2010 season holding most of the school's career receiving marks.

While Oklahoma would love to get Bradford back as soon as possible, his replacement, Landry Jones, has been solid when he has had time to prepare. The freshman ranks second in pass efficiency and has already thrown nine touchdown passes.

Having talent at the skill positions, such as sophomore Ryan Broyles, certainly helps. Broyles has caught seven touchdowns already and has made 22 total catches. He also averages 103 yards per game.

Bradley McDougald at Kansas and Dan Buckner at Texas are two more young receivers CU fans should get to know with both those opponents on the schedule in the next month.

Concern in the corn

Nebraska fans were alarmed on Monday by rumors that starting quarterback Zac Lee might have suffered a broken wrist and thumb in a loss at Virginia Tech. Comments from Lee after the game were curiously absent from most reports, fueling the speculation about a possible injury.

Lee didn't practice on Monday but was seen with the thumb on his nonthrowing hand heavily wrapped. Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said Lee is expected to practice later in the week and will play this week.

Aggie productivity

Texas A&M is leading the nation with 589 yards of total offense per game. The Aggies have produced only three three-and-outs in two games and they have scored on 13 of 26 possessions.

Seems like folks down in South Texas would be loving coach Mike Sherman right about now.

Not so fast.

The Aggies have racked up those totals against New Mexico, which is 114th in the nation in defense, and Utah State, which is 120th or dead last.

We probably won't have a better gauge of how good the Aggies actually are after this week. Texas A&M plays Alabama-Birmingham, which is 110th nationally in total defense.

Rugged Cowboys

Oklahoma State began the season ranked in the top-10 and looked like it deserved to be there after a season-opening win against Georgia, but the Cowboys seem to have problems that might be too significant to allow them to beat Texas and Oklahoma and finally get to the conference title game.

The Cowboys are 2-1 with a loss to Houston and an ugly second half last week against Rice. They rank 108th in the nation in pass defense and 90th in total defense, despite adding veteran defensive coordinator Bill Young in the offseason.

The offense hasn't been nearly as potent as first thought either. It is 69th in the nation in total offense and just 77th in passing offense. What happens to these numbers in Big 12 play?

Between the hashes

Landry Jones, Texas linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy and Nebraska place-kicker Alex Henery were named conference Players of the week. ... Could the league's single-season sack record be in jeopardy? Texas A&M's Von Miller already has six sacks in just two games. The league mark is 13 and is held by four different players.

Who's hot — Texas A&M freshman wide receiver Uzoma Nwachukwu scored four touchdowns on the only four times he touched the ball in a win over Utah State. He caught passes for 50, 35 and 16 yards and scored on a 39-yard run. The breakout performance came just in time. His teammate and fellow receiver Jeff Fuller broke his leg in the game and is out indefinitely.

Who's not — The Kansas State offense is averaging just 15 points a game through its first three outings in the return season of veteran coach Bill Snyder. In a loss at UCLA last week, the Wildcats had six drives into Bruins' territory and came away with nine points.