Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Big 12 roundtable: 2015 recruiting
By Jake Trotter
Even though almost 10 months remain until the next national singing day, teams across the Big 12 have jumped off to fast starts in putting together their 2015 classes.
To catch you up on all the recruiting storylines that have developed so far, we checked in with ESPN.com senior national recruiting writer Jeremy Crabtree and Big 12 recruiting reporter Damon Sayles for their takes:
Which team has impressed you the most with its 2015 recruiting?
Crabtree: With all of the questions West Virginia faced in the offseason and the product the Mountaineers put on the field in 2013, you would think they would be struggling out of the gate with the 2015 class. But it has been the exact opposite. WVU has 10 commitments, including from one of the best receivers in the country, Jovon Durante. West Virginia is selling kids on an opportunity to play early and make a big difference in getting the program back on track. Plus, it has gone back to its roots and mined the very familiar recruiting territory of Florida for some of its best pledges.
Sayles: As much as I like what Texas Tech and TCU have done so far, I have to tip my hat to what West Virginia has accomplished. The Mountaineers have a pair of ESPN Junior 300 players in safety Kendrell McFadden and Durante. The Mountaineers are recruiting the state of Florida well; five of the 10 pledges are from the Sunshine State. West Virginia is off to a fast start, and with the program fresh off a successful spring game, more big-time commits could be coming soon.
Who has disappointed?
Crabtree: With a 4-20 record over the past two years, this could be a make-or-break year for Charlie Weis on the field. The recruits are paying attention, too, as KU is the lone Big 12 team yet to secure a commitment for the 2015 class. The Jayhawks need to pick up some recruiting momentum over the next few weeks, especially with some top local prospects, or it might be tough to turn it around on the trail in the fall. The one positive note is KU shuffled its staff in the offseason, helping bring some new energy to the program. Now Weis is hoping it pays off on the recruiting trail.
Sayles: It’s easy to point the finger at Kansas being the only Big 12 school without a 2015 commitment. Texas and West Virginia are the only teams in the conference with double-digit pledges, and TCU has nine commits. Jayhawks fans are questioning why they don’t have at least one recruit committed. Fortunately, the spring evaluation period is underway, and that could lead to the recruiting boost the program needs. Kansas State and Iowa State are hoping for a jolt, as well. The Wildcats and Cyclones have only one commit each.
Which commitment was the most important get so far?
Crabtree: I’m going to go with two commitments, because they were pledges of major needs for both programs. Both Texas Tech and Kansas State needed to land high-profile quarterbacks in the 2015 class, and both filled their needs early on. Tech scored four-star dual-threat passer Jarrett Stidham, beating out Baylor in one of the biggest surprise pledges early in the class. He’s a perfect fit for the Red Raiders' offense. And K-State landed local dual-threat quarterback Alex Delton and hopes to add another in-state passer in Ryan Willis. Delton fits the mold of the run-pass quarterbacks Bill Snyder has traditionally coveted and needs with Jake Waters graduating after this season.
Sayles: Stidham might be the biggest get in Kliff Kingsbury’s time as coach. Stidham is the nation’s top-ranked dual-threat quarterback, and with Kingsbury’s tutelage, Stidham can be a true force for Texas Tech for years to come. Stidham not only gives the Red Raiders a quality quarterback option in a pass-happy offense but also shows that Texas Tech can recruit against the Texases, Baylors and Texas A&Ms of the Lone Star State.
Who is an under-the-radar commitment you really like?
Crabtree: Nobody knows how to find players in the Lone Star State like Gary Patterson and his 2015 commitment list is littered with prospects who will develop into stars later on down the road. But with the Horned Frogs moving to a more wide-open offense, it makes recruits like receiver Jarrison Stewart even more valuable. ESPN scouts say the 5-foot-11, 175-pound receiver has explosive ability to stretch the field but is even better in space, which is something greatly needed if TCU is going to whip the ball all over the field.
Sayles: Texas has managed to build a solid 2015 class under Charlie Strong, and a player to watch will be defensive end Charles Omenihu. He’s only 220 pounds at the moment, but at 6-5, Omenihu has the build to put on 20 to 25 pounds before he arrives at the Forty Acres. Omenihu is a solid speed rusher who uses his length well and plays a lot larger than his size. It helps that Omenihu plays with a chip on his shoulder. He uses everything negative he hears as motivation.
Who has the best chance of challenging Texas and Oklahoma for the best class in the Big 12?
Crabtree: I think we’re already at the point where Oklahoma State can compete and beat Texas and Oklahoma for some of the best players in Texas, and year by year the Cowboys have crept higher up the rankings. Because they are OU and UT, I don’t know if we’ll ever get to the point of anybody outright beating them for the top class in the Big 12, but with all the things OSU has going for it right now, especially with its state-of-the-art facilities, the Cowboys are close.
Sayles: Texas Tech, West Virginia, Oklahoma State and TCU all have jumped out to great starts with their respective 2015 classes. The Red Raiders and Mountaineers are the classes to watch, but I think Texas Tech currently has the best shot at challenging Texas and Oklahoma. Stidham is becoming a household name at quarterback and is a Top 25 player nationally. Breiden Fehoko is a standout who could immediately help the defensive line. Two or three more ESPN Junior 300 commits could put the Red Raiders’ class in the same conversation not only with Texas and Oklahoma but also with some of the other national powers.