Big 12: Kansas State Wildcats
- Kansas is working to prevent any more decommitments in its class, writes Matt Tait of the Lawrence Journal-World. The Jayhawks have seen three recruits decide they won't sign with Kansas on signing day during the past few weeks, including receiver Kevin Thomas, who flipped to SMU, and defensive back Arico Evans, who flipped to TCU. It's not unusual to see a recruiting class take hits after a coaching change. New head coach David Beaty is doing a solid job with the Jayhawks class, which features 23 current commitments. It's important to note that all decommitments aren't necessarily a bad thing when a coaching change occurs. There's no guarantee the incoming coach wants the recruit as much as the previous regime did and there is also no guarantee the recruit would be a good fit in the new system.
- How important is Kyler Murray's decision? Matt Hinton, our colleague at Grantland, addresses the question as the elite quarterback prospect is set to decide between Texas and Texas A&M. The No. 13 player in the ESPN 300, Murray has plenty of options with college football's elite in hot pursuit and professional baseball looming as a legitimate option as well. I can't recall so much significance riding on the decision of one recruit. The Longhorns and Aggies will each have top-notch classes no matter what but it sure seems like Murray has replaced the Thanksgiving in-state rivalry game; he's become the face of bragging rights for both sides with his final destination unclear.
- Former Kansas State receiver Tyler Lockett goes into detail about how he attacks defenders with ClevelandBrowns.com. Lockett is undersized yet not a speedster, which means it's pretty much a guarantee some teams will overlook him, much like several college football programs did when Lockett was in high school. The rest is history for KSU's all-time leading receiver. He had a solid showing at the Senior Bowl so I wouldn't be surprised if Lockett becomes one of the most productive rookie receivers in the NFL in 2015.
- Oklahoma's program is a growing presence on social media, writes Eric Bailey of the Tulsa World. Bob Stoops' Twitter feed lets everyone know when the Sooners land a commitment and the bulk of the staff has been increasing its social media presence in recent years. It's no surprise Oklahoma has seen clear improvements on the recruit trail as the Sooners began to catch up with the times and start to get more active and creative on social media. It's also not a surprise that a few of OU's top recruiters, particularly defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery, are the most active Sooners coaches on social media.
- How did West Virginia get longtime Georgia commit Shaquery Wilson to flip to the Mountaineers? By planning to put the ball in his hands, writes Allen Taylor of WV MetroNews. The Bulldogs projected him to play cornerback while Dana Holgorsen wants to put Wilson at receiver. The four-star prospect could have the chance to make an immediate impact in Morgantown with Mario Alford and Kevin White moving on. Landing Wilson is a huge credit to the WVU coaching staff, who kept pursuing him and finally landed his commitment in the home stretch of the recruiting cycle.
It's not a huge visit weekend in the Big 12 with most programs having the bulk of their class locked in and most recruits already committed to the school of their choice.
Yet Kansas State, Oklahoma and Texas are among the Big 12 schools that will be hosting prospects that could end up filling a need or stand as one of the top signees in their Class of 2015.
Below is a look back on the 13 most memorable Big 12 games of 2014:
No. 1: Oct. 11 – No. 5 Baylor 61, No. 9 TCU 58
Not only was this the game of the year in the Big 12, it might have been the game of the year in college football. TCU led by 21 in the fourth quarter after Marcus Mallet 's interception return for a touchdown. But the Horned Frogs couldn't hold on as Bryce Petty took over the rest of the way. The fourth quarter in Waco proved to be the difference in TCU not making the playoff.
No. 2: Nov. 1 – No. 7 TCU 31, No. 20 West Virginia 30
Carrying a nine-point lead into the fourth quarter, the Mountaineers were on the verge of throwing their hat into the Big 12 title race. Instead, West Virginia got conservative offensively, allowing the Horned Frogs to come back and nail a 37-yard, game-winning field goal as time expired. The Mountaineers never really recovered and wound up losing four of five games to end the season.
Once again, Bedlam delivered in the drama department. Behind two touchdowns late in the game, true freshman quarterback Mason Rudolph led the Cowboys to an improbable rally, capped by Tyreek Hill's 92-yard punt return touchdown to send the game to overtime, where the Pokes prevailed. The result had an impact on the trajectory for both programs, as Oklahoma State became bowl-eligible and the Sooners went on to get blasted in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
No. 4: Jan. 1 – No. 5 Michigan State 42, No. 8 Baylor 41
After TCU's 42-3 waxing of Ole Miss the previous day, the Big 12's top two teams were on the verge of sending a powerful message to the playoff committee. Instead, even though Petty set a Cotton Bowl Classic record with 550 passing yards, the Bears squandered a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter to sap their playoff snub argument.
No. 5: Dec. 31 – No. 6 TCU 42, No. 9 Ole Miss 3
Suggesting that they might have been one of the two best teams in the country despite getting snubbed from the playoff, TCU obliterated the Rebels in a game that was over before halftime.
No. 6: Oct. 4 – No. 25 TCU 37, No. 4 Oklahoma 33
After their Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama, Oklahoma was the preseason pick to win the Big 12. That began to unravel in Fort Worth as the Sooners went in the tank offensively late. Paul Dawson's interception of Trevor Knight and touchdown return was the only score of a fourth quarter that proved to be the springboard for TCU's 12-1 season.
No. 7: Oct. 18 – West Virginia 41, No. 4 Baylor 27
The Bears were riding high after their comeback victory over TCU. But the following week, Petty & Co. couldn't sustain that offensive momentum as West Virginia knocked off a top-five team on its third try. On the same weekend his father suffered a heart attack, Clint Trickett was magnificent, with 322 yards passing and three touchdowns as he outdueled Petty.
No. 8: Nov. 15 – No. 4 TCU 34, Kansas 30
The Horned Frogs were on the inside of the playoff as they made the trip to Kansas. That ride almost came to a complete end in Lawrence. The Jayhawks gave TCU quite a scare, holding a 27-17 second-half lead before running out of steam. Still, even though they escaped with the victory, the Horned Frogs dropped out of the top four of the playoff poll the following week.
No. 9: Oct. 18 – No. 14 Kansas State 31, No. 11 Oklahoma 30
Thanks to a late goal-line stand, K-State turned the Big 12 race on its head for good with a second consecutive victory in Norman. Quarterback Jake Waters spearheaded the upset, throwing for 225 yards and rushing for 51 more in a gutty performance in which he played through a shoulder injury. K-State stuck around in the Big 12 title race until the final week of the season, while the Sooners went on to lose three more times.
No. 10: Nov. 8 – No. 12 Baylor 48, No. 15 Oklahoma 14
Nothing signaled the changing of the guard in the Big 12 more than Baylor's absolute white-washing of Oklahoma in Norman. Petty was serious when he said the week before that he was "ready for OU" as he threw for 387 yards, including 224 to Corey Coleman. Baylor went on to join the Sooners (2006-08) as the Big 12's only other back-to-back conference champ.
No. 11: Oct. 25 – No. 10 TCU 82, Texas Tech 27
This wasn't a great game, but it was a memorable one. After all TCU set a Big 12 conference game record with 82 points. Amazingly, the game was relatively close in the second quarter. Then TCU outscored Tech 49-7 in the second half.
No. 12: Nov. 29 – No. 7 Baylor 48, Texas Tech 46
The Red Raiders ended their season going down swinging as true freshman Pat Mahomes threw for 598 yards and six touchdowns. The 25-point second-half rally came up short, though, after Mahomes was unable to get off a pass on the potential game-tying two-point conversion.
No. 13: Oct. 18 – Texas 48, Iowa State 45
Maybe the most underrated and most exciting finishes of the Big 12 season. Twenty-four points were scored in the final five minutes, including Nick Rose's game-winning field goal from 21 yards out with three seconds to go.
The next best 10 of 2014
West Virginia 37, Texas Tech 34
Auburn 20, Kansas State 14
Florida State 37, Oklahoma State 31
West Virginia 40, Maryland 37
Oklahoma 31, Texas 26
Alabama 33, West Virginia 23
Kansas State 32, Iowa State 28
UCLA 20, Texas 17
UCLA 40, Kansas State 35
Oklahoma 45, West Virginia 33
- It was a weird Wednesday in Oklahoma. Early in the afternoon, SoonerScoop.com reported that Oklahoma had put its $370 million stadium expansion plans on hold, citing a problem in fundraising due to falling oil prices as well as the Sooners' 8-5 record in 2014. But after the OU regents meeting in Lawton, president David Boren categorically denied those claims, even pulling out a printed copy of the report from his pocket calling it "false." Boren added that the stadium expansion project will be discussed at the next regents meeting in March. That will be one interesting meeting.
- Speaking of the regents meeting, the Sooners announced terms agreed to with new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley. The contract is a two-year deal that will play Riley $500,000 per year. That salary would have ranked 11th among Big 12 assistants last season. Not bad for someone only 31 years old.
- Kansas State does not have a nonconference opponent from a power league on its 2015 football schedule, and is unlikely to add one in 2016, reports Kellis Robinett of the Wichita Eagle. The Wildcats have a slot open in 2016, but it's likely they will fill it with a non-Power 5 program to get a guaranteed home game. It's difficult to hammer K-State too hard for this. After all, the Wildcats are coming off home-and-homes with Auburn and Miami in recent years. They also have a home-and-home coming up with Vanderbilt beginning in 2017. Still, when Big 12 teams schedule easy, it has a negative impact on the rest of the conference's strength of schedule, which is more important than ever in the playoff format.
- West Virginia added to its already strong recruiting class by getting four-star wide receiver Shaquery Wilson to flip from Georgia, where he had previously been committed since last summer (Wilson confirmed the flip on Twitter here). The Mountaineers helped seal the deal by recruiting Wilson as a receiver: Georgia wanted him as a defensive back. West Virginia currently has the No. 30-ranked recruiting class, though that could go up with Wilson now on board.
- Sticking with recruiting, Kansas got some rough news Tuesday night when longtime tight end commit Josh Moore reopened his recruitment. Moore, who had previously pledged to Ohio State, was the top-rated recruit in Kansas' class, and had stuck by his commitment through the coaching transition from Clint Bowen to David Beaty. This is not the way Beaty wanted to close out his first recruiting class. Moore is the third recruit to decommit from the Jayhawks in the last week, joining three-star WR Kevin Thomas, who flipped to SMU, and three-star athlete Arico Evans, who is now headed to TCU.
A recruit goes largely unnoticed on signing day only to outperform highly regarded recruits in the same class during their first seasons in the program. Earlier today we looked at some "can't miss" recruits from the Class of 2014 during their first fall on campus. This afternoon we take a look at six Class of 2014 signees that went largely unnoticed on signing day but started to impact their teams immediately:
Kansas State linebacker Elijah Lee: The three-star prospect outperformed several five-star signees during their first semesters on campus. Lee forced his way into the Wildcats' plans with a strong preseason, earning a role as a pass-rush specialist. After a season featuring 19 tackles and 4.5 sacks, Lee looks like a future star for KSU’s defense.
Oklahoma State receiver James Washington: A three-star signee, Washington flashed elite potential several times during his freshman season. His competitive nature when the ball is in the air could elevate him to another level as a sophomore after a true freshman season with 28 receptions for 456 yards and six touchdowns.
Texas safety Jason Hall: The Longhorns' lowest-rated signee, Hall had the biggest impact as a true freshman. Hall hits like a fifth-year senior and has the potential to become a tone-setter for Charlie Strong’s defense in the next few seasons. The three-star recruit finished with 36 tackles in 12 games as a true freshman.
Texas Tech cornerback Tevin Madison: The three-star signee led all Tech freshmen in tackles, tackles for loss and pass breakups while starting seven games as a true freshman. ESPN300 member Nigel Bethel II was the Red Raiders’ highly regarded cornerback signee but Madison was second to none among Big 12 true freshmen at the position. He finished his debut season with 56 tackles and seven passes defensed.
TCU receiver Desmon White: The Horned Frogs' lowest-rated high school signee didn’t look like it. White earned a late-season role in TCU’s offense with his terrific open-field ability and quickness in the slot providing another potential option in the passing game. White didn’t have a major impact but he’s setting himself up to be a significant option in the offense as a sophomore. He finished with 14 receptions for 119 yards and one touchdown.
Kansas cornerback Matthew Boateng: A three-star signee, Boateng ended up providing depth at cornerback behind seniors JaCorey Shepherd and Dexter McDonald while playing in seven games for the Jayhawks. He finished with nine tackles, five pass breakups, a forced fumble, fumble recovery and interception as a true freshman. Boateng should play an even bigger role in 2015 with Shepherd and McDonald moving on.
- The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal got a copy of the contract of David Gibbs, Texas Tech's new defensive coordinator. Not surprisingly, Tech had to pony up to snag Gibbs, who was coveted by other schools. Gibbs has a two-year contract that will pay him $550,000 a year. Mike Stoops (Oklahoma), Josh Heupel (Oklahoma), Tom Bradley (West Virginia), Vance Bedford (Texas), Shawn Watson (Texas), Joe Wickline (Texas) and Phil Bennett (Baylor) were the only Big 12 assistants that made more than $550,000 last year, according to USA TODAY. After years of instability at defensive coordinator and seasons of mediocre defense, as well, this was a hire the Red Raiders needed to make. Even with the cost.
- Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman delves into the nation's hottest recruiting battle this year, which happens to be between Texas and Texas A&M. The Longhorns and Aggies are duking it out for the nation's No. 1 dual-threat QB in Kyler Murray (more on Murray here from The Sporting News). Murray has been committed to A&M for awhile, but is considering a flip to the Longhorns. "It feels like Murray or Bust for UT," Feldman writes, "especially perception-wise as Strong tries to get some momentum in-state" I can't disagree. We don't know yet what kind of QB Murray will develop into. But we do know what kind of message it would send if Charlie Strong grabbed a prospect of Murray's talent from A&M.
- Kansas State has enjoyed plenty of success with players from the Sooner State, notably from the Lockett family. Tuesday, the Wildcats picked up another Oklahoman in three-star defensive back Darreyl Patterson, who committed to K-State over the Sooners and Louisville. Patterson visited Manhattan this past weekend.
- The Charleston Daily Mail's Mike Casazza crunched the numbers on West Virginia's current scholarship situation. According to Casazza, the Mountaineers have 90 scholarship promised out at the moment, including the incoming recruiting class (the NCAA limit is 85). Even though it sounds bad, this is actually not a bad place to be. Defection strikes every program during the offseason. There's always the chance some recruit flips his commitment elsewhere before signing day. Better to be where West Virginia is then well under the 85-man limit and scrambling to add players in the week leading up to signing day.
- Oklahoma safety Hatari Byrd was cited on complaints of possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of alcohol by a minor early Saturday morning, the Tulsa World's Guerin Emig reported. Byrd will be spending a lot of time with Sooner strength coach Jerry Schmidt in the coming weeks.
Position to improve: Running back
Why it was a problem: The Wildcats had a prolific air attack last season with 3,000-yard passer Jake Waters and 1,000-yard receivers Tyler Lockett and Curry Sexton. But the running game bogged down for much of the season, especially after Waters' shoulder injury midseason limited the frequency he could keep the ball on read options. The previous three seasons, John Hubert was a standout in the backfield. But neither Charles Jones nor DeMarcus Robinson adequately filled Hubert's shoes as a feature back. Robinson averaged just 3.67 yards per carry. Jones didn't fare much better, ranking 21st in the Big 12 with an average of 4.06.
How it can be fixed: The Wildcats need one of their young backs to emerge. Dalvin Warmack redshirted last season after a heralded prep career in Blue Springs, Missouri, rushing for more than 4,500 yards and 77 touchdowns his final two seasons of high school. At 5-foot-9, 185 pounds, Warmack is in the mold of former K-State great Darren Sproles and offers some big-play ability. The Wildcats also have an intriguing three-star recruit Alex Barnes on the way. Barnes brings some much needed size to the K-State backfield and in theory would complement Warmack's scatback style well. Though Bill Snyder usually redshirts incoming freshmen, Barnes has the physical maturity to help right away.
Early 2015 outlook: With Waters, Lockett and Sexton all gone, the Wildcats have to get way more out of their running game to have any chance of finishing in the top half of the Big 12. With four starters back, the offensive line should be solid at the very least. But the Wildcats have to get more playmaking and consistency out of their backs. Whether it's Jones, Warmack or Barnes -- or some combination of the three -- running back will be a huge key to whether K-State factors again into the Big 12 title race.
Which Big 12-targeted uncommitted recruit is most intriguing?
Olson: I think Chris Warren III is going to make one Big 12 team very happy on national signing day. He's one of the best running back recruits in the country, and he can make an immediate impact at Texas, Oklahoma State, or Texas Tech. All three earned official visits, and Washington gets his final one this weekend. Don't sleep on that visit -- his father Chris Warren was an All-Pro running back for the Seattle Seahawks, so the distance isn't a prohibiting factor -- but it's a safe bet Warren ends up in Big 12 country, and ends up getting a lot of snaps as a true freshman.
Trotter: Mack would be a tremendous capper for TCU's class at a position of need; he would also seal what already is a fabulous class for Charlie Strong at Texas. Without a high school running back committed, Oklahoma State would love to sign Warren III, though he would boost the classes in Austin and Lubbock, too. But to me, the Kyler Murray saga is the most fascinating storyline in Big 12 country. Forget the schools, the contentions chase for the nation’s No. 13 overall player and top dual-threat quarterback has even triggered a feud between recruiting writers in Austin and College Station. If the Longhorns can pluck Murray away, what a message it would send to Texas A&M.
Who is the Big 12 team to pay attention to leading up to signing day?
Chatmon: I’ll be among many keeping an eye on the Longhorns as Texas looks to make a statement with the first full recruiting class under Strong. It’s already a strong class, but it feels like the Longhorns are poised to finish with a couple of surprises. Will they be good surprises, or bad surprises? Well, that’s why Texas is the team to watch as it looks to flip quarterbacks Murray and Kai Locksley, close on Mack and Soso Jamabo, and lock down the rest of its class.
Olson: Texas could be the talk of the country on signing day and finish with a top-three caliber class. Or the Longhorns could strike out. It's a high-risk, insane-reward gamble. If the Longhorns somehow persuade Murray to flip from A&M, I really wouldn't be surprised if Mack, Jamabo, and Damarkus Lodge follow him. Throw in Warren and cornerback Holton Hill, too, and you're talking about a group of potential Day One starters all teaming up in Austin after a 6-7 season. If that pans out, it would be one of the most improbable signing day sweeps we've ever seen.
Trotter: It's definitely the Longhorns, in my opinion. With quarterback issues that date to 2009, Texas is gambling it can flip a quarterback in the final week. But what if Murray sticks with A&M, and Locksley stays true to Florida State? Texas will be in a major hole at the most critical of positions, which could set Strong's rebuilding back for years. The Longhorns also remain in the mix for several high-profile prospects. It will be compelling to see how Texas finishes.
Who is your underrated (non-4 or 5-star) Big 12 commit to watch?
Chatmon: It will be interesting to see what Tony Brown can do in Texas Tech’s offense. The three-star receiver from California decided to play for Kliff Kingsbury despite offers from UCLA, Nebraska, Arizona State, and others. He would bring terrific size (6-foot-1, 185 pounds) to the Red Raiders' receiving corps. He doesn’t have blazing speed, but would bring quickness and good ball skills to Lubbock.
Olson: There are way too many three-stars in the Baylor and TCU classes. And by that, I mean you just know a bunch of these guys are going to outperform those above-average expectations over the next few years. I particularly like several of the Frogs' receiver commits, led by Dallas-area playmakers Jaelan Austin and Jarrison Stewart, and I think Baylor linebacker commit Clay Johnston will be sneaky good.
Trotter: At Kansas State, it will be interesting to see whether quarterback Alex Delton or running back Alex Barnes can become the rare players to see the field for Bill Snyder as true freshmen. The Wildcats have a void at quarterback, though sophomore Joe Hubener will be the massive favorite to succeed Jake Waters. Still, Delton has a skill set in the mold of past K-State signal callers. Though the passing attack with Waters was tremendous, the Wildcats had a mediocre running game last season. At 212 pounds, Barnes brings much needed size to the position. He has a chance to be an immediate factor.
Total commits: 18
ESPN 300 commits: 3
ESPN JC50 commits: 1
Class rank: 27th
The latest: The Bears added a fourth offensive lineman to their class on Sunday in the form of Ringling, Oklahoma, guard Riley Daniel. He chose Baylor after an official visit this weekend and a trip to Texas Tech last weekend. Baylor is also battling the Red Raiders for three-star Louisiana cornerback Henry Black, who visited Waco over the weekend.
Total commits: 18
ESPN 300 commits: 0
ESPN JC50 commits: 1
Class rank: Not ranked
The latest: Iowa State is searching for a running back to replace Devine Ozigbo, who flipped to Nebraska earlier this month. Might the answer be Joshua Thomas? The three-star back from Buford, Georgia, appears to be down to Iowa State and Wisconsin. A decision is expected soon. Thomas visited the Badgers this weekend. Another recruit to keep an eye on: Julian Good-Jones, the Cyclones' tackle commit who visited Louisville this weekend.
Total commits: 24
ESPN 300 commits: 0
ESPN JC50 commits: 0
Class rank: Not ranked
The latest: Kansas picked up five intriguing pledges from the state of Texas in the last week -- DE Dorance Armstrong, WR Jeremiah Booker, WR Steven Sims, LB Osaze Ogbebor and former Tulsa CB commit Shola Ayinde -- but also lost two significant commits over the weekend. On Sunday, three-star receiver Kevin Thomas flipped to SMU and three-star athlete Arico Evans made his flip to TCU.
Total commits: 17
ESPN 300 commits: 0
ESPN JC50 commits: 0
Class rank: Not ranked
The latest: Kansas State will be a finalist for one Georgia prospect on signing day and will have to do some work to ensure another stays in the fold. Three-star defensive end G.G. Robinson, a Louisville commit, visited K-State over the weekend and hails from Lilburn, Georgia. Meanwhile, three-star OLB commit Mohamed Barry took an official visit to Nebraska and will make his final decision between KSU, Nebraska and Miami on Thursday.
Total commits: 20
ESPN 300 commits: 8
ESPN JC50 commits: 3
Class rank: 17th
The latest: The Sooners are likely going to part ways with ESPN 300 defensive tackle Marquise Overton, whose ACT score has the OU staff concerned he won't qualify. A key target to take his place in the OU class is four-star Darrion Daniels. The Dallas defensive tackle visited Iowa this weekend and is expected to decide this week, though Texas Tech might be the favorite at the moment.
Total commits: 18
ESPN 300 commits: 3
ESPN JC50 commits: 1
Class rank: 35th
The latest: The Cowboys moved quickly to land ESPN 300 athlete Louis Brown after he parted ways with Texas last weekend. Brown took an official visit to OSU and made his commitment on Saturday night. The Burton, Texas, native will likely play defensive end. OSU also held its first junior day for the 2016 class this weekend.
Total commits: 24
ESPN 300 commits: 0
ESPN JC50 commits: 0
Class rank: 37th
The latest: The Horned Frogs loaded up on speed this weekend. First they secured a commitment from Kavontae Turpin, an electric receiver and returner from Monroe, Louisiana. Then came the commitment from Arico Evans, who'd pledged to Kansas earlier this month. He accounted for 34 total touchdowns as a quarterback at Dallas Hillcrest this season.
Total commits: 23
ESPN 300 commits: 9
ESPN JC50 commits: 1
Class rank: 9th
The latest: Texas had a big-time weekend with five-star DT Daylon Mack, ESPN 300 running back Soso Jamabo and ESPN 300 athlete Kai Locksley in town for official visits. Mack and Jamabo will announce their decisions on signing day. Locksley, an important QB target for Texas after losing Zach Gentry to Michigan, will go home and mull over whether he should flip from Florida State. The Horns also brought in Georgia DB commit Deandre Baker and Dominique Reed, the nation's No. 4 juco receiver. Texas also picked up a re-commitment on Monday from ESPN 300 wide receiver John Burt, who'd backed out earlier this month to reconsider Auburn.
Total commits: 16
ESPN 300 commits: 3
ESPN JC50 commits: 0
Class rank: 33rd
The latest: The Red Raiders picked up a commitment last week from three-star offensive lineman Cody Wheeler of powerhouse Allen High School in Texas. He was one of the many official visitors in Lubbock over the weekend, a list headlined by ESPN 300 running back Chris Warren III. Three-star defensive end pledge Lonzell Gilmore visited Baylor over the weekend.
Total commits: 24
ESPN 300 commits: 3
ESPN JC50 commits: 1
Class rank: 25th
The latest: In addition to landing a commitment from three-star lineman Rob Dowdy, West Virginia had a big-time weekend with three Florida studs visiting Morgantown: four-star Miami pledge RB Mark Walton, four-star Georgia commit WR Shaquery Wilson and ESPN 300 receiver Antonio Callaway. Another Florida native, four-star athlete Jordan Cronkrite, will decide between WVU and Florida on signing day.
On to the 'bag:
@Jake_Trotter Really enjoyed the Top 25 players series, but curious why the underutilized and underrated DeAndre Washington wasn't on it.— Robert Jones (@wr_jones) January 23, 2015
Trotter: We're big fans of Washington here on the blog. We made him a second-team All-Big 12 selection. But the top 25 player ranking was a tough list to crack. A number of other terrific players like Oklahoma's Sterling Shepard and Baylor's Antwan Goodley didn't make the list, either. Washington has a chance, though, to open next year on the preseason top 25 list as one of the league's top returning running backs.
@Jake_Trotter who takes the opening handoff for Oklahoma State next year?— Brian Murphy (@Bmurphy47) January 23, 2015
Trotter: Rennie Childs is the obvious bet at this point, since he's the only healthy scholarship running back currently on campus. But I think the Cowboys land a marquee back before signing day. Oklahoma State has a powerful pitch to make, and that's immediate playing time. Keep an eye on Chris Carson, who is an ESPN Junior College 50 prospect. Carson has been committed to Georgia since August, but he's reportedly taking a visit to Stillwater this weekend. Because they can offer playing time -- and Georgia can't having Nick Chubb -- I think the Cowboys have a decent chance to flip Carson.
@Jake_Trotter do you believe Art Briles when he said Baylor was only 3 votes short of making the playoff?— Floyd_Sign (@sign_floyd) January 23, 2015
Trotter: I believe that Briles believes or was told that. But after Heather Dinich spoke with College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock, it doesn't seem very likely that Briles got good info, considering the playoff votes are taken via secret ballot over computer.
@Jake_Trotter red river rivalry or black Friday showdown more important game next year?— BearsCanClimb (@TideNormand) January 23, 2015
Trotter: The Red River Showdown hasn't been the league's most important game in seven years. I don't see why next season would be any different.
@Jake_Trotter favorite Kurt Russell movie?— Michael Van (@MichaelVan17) January 23, 2015
Trotter: "Miracle." But "Death Proof," "Escape from L.A.," "Tombstone," "Poseidon" and even "Overboard" have high rewatchability.
@Jake_Trotter Should BU redshirt Stidham, letting him backup Seth Russell next year, then having a 3 yr starter with maturity & experience?— Mike McGown (@mikemcgown) January 23, 2015
Trotter: Yes, but only if he's not the best quarterback. If he is, Baylor should start him. That would give him four seasons.
@Jake_Trotter is Joe Hubener Kstates most like go to starter next year at QB?— Nathan Davis (@nate_davis17) January 23, 2015
Trotter: I think so. Incoming freshman Alex Delton is an intriguing prospect, but Bill Snyder isn't prone to playing true freshmen anywhere, much less at quarterback. Joe Hubener has three years in the system, which gives him a huge advantage over the others. He has good size, good speed and a good arm, from what I hear. If he takes care of the ball he will be tough to unseat.
@Jake_Trotter The latest on Big XII expansion/conf. championship game ?— Chris Hartzler (@cykowboyz) January 23, 2015
Trotter: No latest. If you read my Q&A with commissioner Bob Bowlsby from earlier this week, you'll know that there are no immediate plans for either. The only change I see the Big 12 making is eliminating the "co-champions" rule. Otherwise, expect status quo.
@Jake_Trotter if you were doing your preseason power rankings today, who #3?— John Cassidy (@TheRealJCassidy) January 23, 2015
Trotter: I already did a too-early Big 12 power poll for 2015, and I had Oklahoma State third. The Cowboys clearly have something that OU, Texas, Kansas State and West Virginia don't at the moment, and that's a quarterback (Mason Rudolph).
@Jake_Trotter what's tcu's chance of making the playoffs next year without dawson, hackett or kevin white— Sasha Lueck (@Sasha02997) January 23, 2015
Trotter: Pretty good. Last I checked, Trevone Boykin is still on the roster.
Trotter: He will if he flips the gem of Texas A&M's recruiting class, Kyler Murray who is the nation's No. 13 overall player and top dual-threat quarterback, to Texas. That would send a strong message to College Station.
Our countdown concludes below with Nos. 1-5:
1. Trevone Boykin, TCU (preseason rank: NR): Boykin put together one of the most stunning one-year turnarounds in Big 12 history. After finishing 2013 as a wide receiver, Boykin transformed himself into one of the top quarterbacks in the country in 2014. He threw for more than 3,900 yards and totaled 41 touchdowns while leading TCU to a 12-1 record. Boykin also finished fourth in the Heisman voting and figures to enter 2015 on the short list of Heisman favorites, especially with nine other offensive starters back for the Horned Frogs.
2. Tyler Lockett, Kansas State (2): Lockett was absolutely tremendous in his final season in a K-State uniform. He topped the Big 12 with 1,515 receiving yards and 11 receiving touchdowns while also leading the country in punt returns. Lockett finished with a flurry too, as he racked up 57 receptions and seven touchdowns in K-State’s final five games to pass his father, Kevin, as K-State’s all-time leading receiver.
3. Bryce Petty, Baylor (1): A back injury in the opener prevented Petty from becoming a serious contender for the Heisman Trophy. But even though his numbers were slightly down from his junior season, Petty was still lethal in his second year operating the Baylor offense. He finished sixth in the country with 321 passing yards per game to go with 29 touchdown passes. Petty was especially magical in Baylor’s stunning, come-from-behind win over TCU, in which he threw 510 yards and six touchdowns to erase TCU’s 21-point fourth-quarter lead. Petty finished his Baylor career by setting a Cotton Bowl Classic record with a career-high 550 yards passing against Michigan State.
4. Malcom Brown, Texas (15): Brown was the tone-setter for Texas’ stout defense and one of the most dominant interior defensive linemen in the country. With 6.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss, Brown became the first defensive tackle to lead the Longhorns in both categories since Lombardi Award winner Tony Degrate in 1984. As a result, Brown was a consensus first-team All-American and finalist for the Outland (best interior lineman) and Nagurski (top defensive player) awards. Brown, who is married with children, is leaving Texas early for the NFL draft, where Mel Kiper Jr. projects him to be a first-round pick.
5. Paul Dawson, TCU (NR): Dawson, who was a former high school receiver, spearheaded the TCU defense with a speculator senior season. The Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year teamed with Marcus Mallet to give the Horned Frogs the best linebacker tandem in the Big 12 and one of the finest in the country. Dawson led the conference with 136 tackles and tied for third in the league with four interceptions. One of those picks resulted in a game-winning touchdown return in the fourth quarter of TCU’s 37-33 win over Oklahoma. All year, Dawson was the heart and soul of a Horned Frogs unit that led the Big 12 in both total defense and scoring defense.
- Kansas quarterback commit Carter Stanley has completely shut down recruiting, reports Tom Keegan of the Lawrence Journal-World. The Jayhawks pledge told the new coaching staff he would shut things down if they stopped recruiting other signal-callers. It's a clear sign the Jayhawks think pretty highly of Stanley if they are willing to stop recruiting other quarterbacks. That's not to say that he is going to step into the starting lineup from Day 1 but new head coach David Beaty and offensive coordinator Rob Likens obviously think they may have a hidden gem in Stanley, who added an offer from Connecticut in recent weeks.
- Who is going to be Texas' starting quarterback? Tyrone Swoopes? Jerrod Heard? Kyler Murray? Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News takes a stab at predicting the starter, with percentages for each potential option. Finger tabs Heard as the favorite to start and I'd have to agree. Murray set social media on fire with his tweet of a Longhorns jersey earlier this week and UT might be the Texas A&M commitment's best option if he hopes to play immediately. But it seems like Charlie Strong and the Longhorns are playing with fire a little it with long-time commitment Zach Gentry flirting with Michigan while UT flirts with Murray. I guess we will see if Charlie has any game.
- Former Oklahoma offensive coordinator Josh Heupel appears to have landed on his feet as the new offensive coordinator at Utah State. OU fired Heupel earlier this month after the Sooners' offense struggled to find balance and explosive plays for the second-straight season. Yet it seems like a good fit for Heupel, as he gets the opportunity to blaze his own trail, and a good hire for Utah State.
- Baylor coach Art Briles discusses several things including freshman quarterback Jarrett Stidham and his coaching hires in this story from John Werner of the Waco Tribune. One interesting tidbit is Baylor holding its spring game at McLane Stadium for the first time. It will be a drastic change for the Bears, which held the spring game on their practice field in the past. Baylor's spring game should be a much better recruiting tool this year with recruits getting a much more game-like feel for the program.
- Kansas State receiver Tyler Lockett is making himself some money in Mobile, Alabama. Lockett has shined during Senior Bowl practices, showing scouts the quickness and shifty moves that made him one of the Big 12's most explosive playmakers for the past four years. He had 28 plays of 30 yards or more during his Wildcats' career and could be a terrific value pick for an NFL team with his route running, return prowess and willingness to play special teams.
Yet while Kansas State might not require another miracle to remain a Big 12 title contender, Snyder faces another major rebuild in 2015.
The heart and soul of the 2014 squad is graduating after the Wildcats stuck around in the Big 12 title chase all the way to the final week of the season.
All-American Tyler Lockett, the all-time leading receiver at K-State, is gone.
Jake Waters, among the most efficient quarterbacks in the country this past season, is gone.
In many ways, the Wildcats will be a blank canvas next season.
That is exciting, but also scary.
What makes it less scary, though, is that Snyder, fresh off his election to the College Football Hall of Fame, has indicated that at age 75 he will coach again at least through next season. But to keep K-State on the heels of TCU and Baylor, he’ll have to win with a new cast in several areas on either side of the ball.
With Waters, Lockett and Sexton as well as tailback DeMarcus Robinson and tight end Zach Trujillo all out of eligibility, Snyder will have to lean offensively on a line that returns mostly intact. Replacing Finney, who has been the linchpin of the K-State line the last four seasons, won’t be a cinch. But the Wildcats do have an All-Big 12-caliber performer coming back in tackle Cody Whitehair, who should take over for Finney as the anchor of the unit. Whitehair will be flanked again by guards Boston Stiverson and Luke Hayes, who both started as juniors this past season.
“Our guards have really stepped up,” Whitehair said. “Boston and Luke both returning next season is going to be very helpful, but our younger guys like Will Ash, they are doing some nice things for us. Our young tackles – I guess not so young – have really been crucial to the mix. Aaron Bennett and Ajahne Brager are both stepping up and contributing to the mix. We are looking forward to seeing what they can do in the spring.”
The rest of the offense, however, will be a work in progress this spring. Former walk-on Joe Hubener will be the favorite to take over for Waters at quarterback. Hubener has good size (6-foot-4, 205 pounds), good speed (three rushing TDs in mop-up duty) and a good arm. But he has virtually no meaningful experience.
The receivers are largely untested, too. Lockett, Sexton and Trujillo made 75 percent of K-State’s receptions last season. The Wildcats will ask rising junior Deante Burton and sophomore Judah Jones to replenish much of that production. Fullback Glenn Gronkowski could assume a greater role in the offense, as could running back Charles Jones, who led the Wildcats with 540 rushing yards last season. Dalvin Warmack, one of the gems of the 2014 recruiting class who redshirted last year, could also be a factor at running back.
Defensively, the Wildcats have more experienced pieces to retool around. Dante Barnett was one of the top safeties in the Big 12 last season, and the returning cornerback tandem of Morgan Burns and Danzel McDaniel should be among the best in the league. K-State also brings back Travis Britz, who, assuming he makes a full recovery from a late-season ankle injury, should be among the top returning defensive tackles in the Big 12. Elijah Lee will also be back after breaking out in his true freshman campaign as a pass-rushing specialist.
After a brutal 2014 slate, the schedule flips back in K-State’s favor next season. The Wildcats have a light nonconference schedule this time around, and they get TCU, Oklahoma and Baylor in Manhattan. The key stretch will come in early October, when K-State will travel to Oklahoma State, then get the Horned Frogs and Sooners at home in back-to-back weeks. That three-game span will likely determine the Wildcats’ fate for 2015.
Of course, Snyder has accomplished more with less certainty before. That's why he's a Hall of Famer. And next season, the Wildcats will need their Hall of Fame coach to conquer another rebuild yet again.
But before then, we want to mention the players who narrowly missed the cut.
The unfortunate part of our top 25 ranking is that only 25 players can make the cut. But we considered at least a dozen other standouts who were also worthy of inclusion.
KD Cannon, who totaled more than 1,000 receiving yards as a true freshman; Texas' Jordan Hicks, who led a stout Longhorns defense in tackles; West Virginia's Mario Alford, who was a big-play threat on offense and special teams; Kansas State's Curry Sexton, who was third in the league in receptions despite playing alongside Tyler Lockett; Baylor's Shock Linwood, who finished second in the Big 12 in rushing; and Texas' John Harris, who finished fifth in the league in receiving.
But there were five other players who proved most difficult to leave out.
Oklahoma receiver Sterling Shepard most definitely would have made the top 25 had he not suffered a groin injury that severely limited him late in the season. Still, with more than 900 receiving yards before November, Shepard almost made the cut anyway.
So did his teammate, offensive right tackle Daryl Williams. The first-team All-Big 12 selection helped pave the way for the Sooners' powerful running game. His tackle cohort Tyrus Thompson, however, did crack the top 25 at No. 20.
Like Shepard, Baylor wideout Antwan Goodley would have been a lock had it not been for an early-season injury. After totaling more than 1,300 yards receiving last year, Goodley finished with just more than 800 this season. Still, Goodley re-emerged as one of the most dominant pass-catchers during Big 12 play, placing seventh in the league in receiving during conference games. He had 158 yards receiving and two touchdowns in Baylor's critical 61-58 victory over TCU.
The final two players who nearly made the list didn't play for prolific teams, but they stood out nonetheless. Iowa State tight end E.J. Bibbs tied for seventh in the Big 12 with eight touchdown receptions. Kansas' JaCorey Shepherd, meanwhile, surfaced as one of the top cover corners in the conference for an underrated Jayhawks defense. Shepherd was fourth in the country with 18 pass breakups.
So we put the question to you in our weekly Big 12 poll.
Of Shepard, Williams, Goodley, Bibbs and Shepherd, who has the biggest gripe about being left out of our Big 12 top 25 player ranking?