A year ago at this time, Seth Russell's name was lining "Big 12 Comeback Player of the Year" lists.
While the Baylor quarterback did technically come back from a neck injury that forced him to miss the Bears' final six games of 2015, he never truly came back.
Russell was superb through six-plus games in 2015, completing 60 percent of his passes for 29 touchdowns and just six interceptions. He was averaging a staggering 10.5 yards per attempt before going down with the season-ending injury in late October.
He played good enough against inferior opponents during their 6-0 start in 2016 but didn't look the same. Then came a three-game stretch during which he threw for 656 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. Baylor lost each game, the last of which Russell suffered a gruesome leg injury and missed their final four games.
Which Big 12 players are attempting comebacks from serious injuries this year? Here are five notable players.
Marcell Ateman – WR, Oklahoma State
It's easy to get lost in a receiving corps — arguably the best in the nation — that includes James Washington, Jalen McCleskey and LSU transfer Tyron Johnson.
Marcell Ateman caught 87 passes for 1,310 yards and five touchdowns during his first three years in Stillwater. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Dallas native averaged 17 yards per catch in 2015 before missing all of 2016 with a foot injury. And while Washington and McCleskey already form the best deep-threat duo in the nation, Ateman could widen the margin with a return to his big-play ways.
“I feel like I had improvement of my last two seasons, but I feel like I could do way more,” Ateman said in March. “I just want to come out and prove it, not just to myself, but everybody else.
Chris Warren III – RB, Texas
D'Onta Foreman doesn't produce one of the best rushing seasons in college football history if Chris Warren III doesn't go down with a knee injury in Week 4.
A former four-star member of the Longhorns' stacked 2015 class, Warren has missed 12 games to injuries in two seasons. He then went down with a hamstring injury during the first practice this spring.
“I worry about seeing him in full pads,” Herman said when asked if he's more concerned about Warren's weight (252 pounds) or pad level. “He missed the last three weeks of spring ball with a pulled hamstring, so I don’t know a whole lot what to worry about."
With Foreman in the NFL and no other proven commodities on the roster, Warren is their bell cow this year — if he can stay healthy.
Cody Ford – G, Oklahoma
Oklahoma's offensive line will be one of the best in college football with or without redshirt sophomore Cody Ford. Still, he's an elite interior lineman.
At 6-foot-4, 363 pounds, Ford is a mountain of a man who started the first three games of 2016 at left guard. He suffered a broken leg on the first drive of their Week 3 loss to Ohio State and never returned.
"With the depth that we have, it's hard to just come out here every day and think you can just be mediocre,” Ford said during spring practice. “Every day, we have to push ourselves, push the next guy, push the guy after him, push the guy in front of us.
Ford is projected to retake his starting spot but he's part of a crowded group that returns eight starters — many of which will play in the NFL.
Dravon Askew-Henry – S, West Virginia
Dravon Askew-Henry burst onto the scene in 2014, starting all 13 games as a true freshman and registering 45 tackles and two interceptions. After an All-Big 12 sophomore season, he was expected to take over the secondary from Oakland Raiders' first-round draft Karl Joseph.
That never happened; Askew-Henry suffered a season-ending knee injury during fall camp.
“He’s great with his eyes," safeties coach Matt Caponi said last August, days before Askew-Henry was injured. "He makes plays in the open field
A year later, the 6-foot, 195-pounder is back and ready to form one of the nation's premier safety duos with Kyzir White.
Shaun Nixon – WR, TCU
Shaun Nixon made an immediate impact as true freshman in 2015. The all-purpose running back had 47 receptions for 501 yards and 16 carries for 66 yards. He then missed all of 2016 injury, and though that set the stage for Kyle Hicks' monster season — 1,459 total yards and 14 scores — Nixon was missed.
“With Nixon being gone, that really hurt us early in the year because we couldn’t line up in two backs,” Patterson said in November. “He could line up in empty or four-wides, any of the things we’ve done for the last couple of years.”
Now a full-time receiver, Nixon is slated to start at the Y position and give the Horned Frogs a silly amount of quickness and speed in the passing game.