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Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Most important targets: Big 12

By Damon Sayles

With less than 30 days till national signing day, Big 12 programs are finalizing their recruiting classes. Some are looking to build to their classes at the 11th hour while others are trying to hold on to the commits they have.

Feb. 5 will be a huge day for all the programs in the conference, but with the help of verbal pledges from some of the following targets, a good class could turn into a great class. Here is a look at the most important remaining 2014 target for each Big 12 school.

ATH Davion Hall (Texarkana, Texas/Liberty-Eylau)
6-foot-2, 194 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: No. 45
It’s been a good year for Baylor, so all that’s needed right now is for the Bears to keep their future stars in green and gold. Hall has been a Baylor commit since last February but has been a major target of the SEC, particularly Alabama and Texas A&M. Hall has said that his love for Baylor and Texas A&M is split down the middle, which means the Bears must work on keeping an important player who can play on both sides of the ball. Expected to play wide receiver in college, Hall lined up as a defensive back at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

Iowa State
OLB Micquell Cotton (O’Fallon, Ill./O’Fallon Township)
5-foot-10, 185 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: Not ranked (three stars)
Iowa State now has 22 commitments, including two linebacker pledges in three-star Sam Seonbuchner (Hartland, Wis./Arrowhead) and junior college standout Jordan Harris (Clarksdale, Miss./Copiah-Lincoln Community College). Cotton, a three-star linebacker, could fit into the Iowa State system well. He has offers from Iowa State, Michigan State, Indiana, Syracuse and Toledo. He’s still yet to make an official visit, but Iowa State could be his school of choice. The Cyclones would welcome his athleticism and tackling skills.

OT Kelby Johnson (Hyattsville, Md./ASA College)
6-foot-8, 315 pounds
ESPN Junior College 50 rank: Not ranked
Kansas has plenty of room to add players in what’s about to be the 11th hour of college football recruiting, and Johnson could be that main addition. Johnson’s size and length alone make him an intimidating offensive tackle, and Charlie Weis and his coaching staff feel they can develop Johnson into an NFL-caliber lineman. Johnson has only taken one official visit, and that was to Kansas in November. The former Virginia signee also has Purdue, East Carolina, South Florida and UAB offers, so Kansas will be in a fight to land him on or after national signing day.

Kansas State
CB Quintavious Knight (Ellenwood, Ga./Georgia Military College)
6-foot, 170 pounds
ESPN Junior College 50 rank: Not ranked (three stars)
Kansas State has a strong reputation for recruiting and landing talented junior college players, and Knight is a player with tons of potential to be a shutdown cornerback. Ole Miss, Kentucky and Big 12 schools Texas Tech and West Virginia have offered Knight, but the Wildcats could win him over with an official visit scheduled for the weekend of Jan. 24. With 17 commitments, Kansas State has several spots still available for the 2014 recruiting class. Knight can be a big-time contributor for the defense and an immediate game-time player.

ATH Michiah Quick (Fresno, Calif./Central East)
6-foot, 170 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: No. 40
Quick, the nation’s No. 4 athlete and also the No. 4 player in the state of California, would be an excellent fit to a Sooners 2014 class that has really taken off since the start of the new year. Oklahoma now has 20 commits, including new pledges from ESPN 300 running back Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif./Freedom) and four-star offensive guard Natrell Curtis (Phoenix/Mountain Pointe). Quick’s elusiveness, explosiveness and field vision make him dangerous on both sides of the field. If Oklahoma can land Quick, look for him to be on the field very early in his college career.

Oklahoma State
ILB Kenny Young (River Ridge, La./John Curtis)
6-foot-1, 210 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: Not ranked (four stars)
Arguably the most consistent defender at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, Young has shown two things: first, that he plays at a high level all the time, and second, that football is an all-day, everyday thing with him. Young has a passion for the game and his position that attracts big-time coaches. While the Cowboys will have to fight off Arkansas and Texas A&M, they feel they have a good shot with Young, a hard-hitting defender who reads his options well on the field. Young loves the physical nature of football, and he’d be a great fit in the Big 12.

OG Braden Smith (Olathe, Kan./Olathe South)
6-foot-6, 285 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: No. 123
Official visits are on deck for Smith, the top-ranked player in Kansas and the seventh-ranked offensive guard in the country. Notre Dame will first see Smith the weekend of Jan. 17, and Texas A&M will get an official visit the weekend of Jan. 24. TCU will be the last official visit the weekend of Jan. 31, and many feel Smith is TCU’s to lose. Smith has built a strong relationship with the TCU coaches, and his older sister, Megan, is a thrower on the TCU women’s track and field team. His presence wherever he ends up will be appreciated, as he’s a physically imposing athlete.

DE Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Texas/Coppell)
6-foot-2, 256 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: No. 31
After Tuesday’s string of defensive lineman decommits, Texas is now in need of some good players to line up on the ball for Charlie’s Strong defensive front. Texas is still considered a favorite for Thomas, who said he’s a fan of the Strong hire. Stanford, Ohio State, UCLA and Arkansas are also very much alive in the race for Thomas, who has upcoming official visits set up for Stanford (weekend of Jan. 17), Arkansas (Jan. 24) and Ohio State (Jan. 31). The U.S. Army All-American is expected to make his official decision on national signing day.

Texas Tech
DE Brandon Thorpe (Tucker, Ga./Highland Community College)
6-foot-5, 275 pounds
ESPN Junior College 50 rank: Not ranked (three stars)
Texas Tech’s class is shaping up to be pretty solid, and every player landed now will be a bonus. The Red Raiders can always use help along the defensive front, and Thorpe could be an immediate-impact player. College coaches are attracted to the three-star juco talent’s size, anticipation and ability to take on double teams. Right now, Fiesta Bowl champion Central Florida appears to be the only school that can get in the way of Texas Tech. Thorpe is expected to take an official visit to Lubbock this weekend, followed by a visit to Central Florida.

West Virginia
RB Donte Thomas-Williams (Durham, N.C./Hillside)
6-foot-0, 217 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: No. 114
West Virginia is in a recruiting battle with Florida State and North Carolina, but the Mountaineers feel they are in the lead for Thomas-Williams, the nation’s No. 12 running back and the No. 9 player in the state of North Carolina. Thomas-Williams would be a nice change-of-pace back in Dana Holgorsen’s offense, as he meshes power, speed and durability. Thomas-Williams has already visited Florida State and has scheduled an official visit to Morgantown the weekend of Jan. 24. Look for Thomas-Williams to make a decision on national signing day.