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Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Critical positions in Big 12 recruiting

By Damon Sayles



What’s the most critical position in the Big 12? It depends on who you talk to. In a conference that rides its offensive reputation, some coaches are hoping to land players that will help them score points, while others are looking for the prospects to prevent points.

As official visits become finalized and uncommitted players get closer to announcing their commitments, here is a look at some of the most critical positions in recruiting for the Big 12 teams.

Baylor

Most important position: Quarterback

Who they have: None

Who they want: When Robert Griffin III won the Heisman Trophy, it set a precedent. Baylor is in demand for a play-making quarterback of the future. The 2014 recruiting class, however, has zero quarterback commits so far. The Bears have 23 commits, but they have room for a quarterback, and Randall Cunningham II (Las Vegas/Bishop Gorman) could be that player. The fact that Cunningham, the son of the former NFL quarterback, and Griffin are both football and track standouts is coincidental, but fans are starting to compare the two on the field.

Iowa State

Most important position: Defensive lineman

Who they have: None

Who they want: In a conference like the Big 12, putting the clamps on a pass-happy offense is a priority, but maintaining the run can be considered just as important. The Cyclones have 12 commitments, none of which will play on the defensive line, but there’s still time to pick up a few targets. The junior college ranks have two potential gets in DT Terrell Clinkscales (Dodge City, Kan./Dodge City Community College) and DE Edmond Boateng (Roswell, N.M./New Mexico Military Institute).

Kansas

Most important position: Offensive lineman

Who they have: OC Jacob Bragg (Nacogdoches, Texas/Nacogdoches), OG Apa Visinia (Hillsboro, Mo./Grandview)

Who they want: As good as the Jayhawks can be with the run, none of that matters if the center, guards and tackles aren’t doing their jobs. Kansas has a 1,000-yard running back returning in James Sims, and 2014 commit Traevohn Wrench (Gardner, Kan./Gardner Edgerton) has the tools to be special, but players like juco OT target Phil ford (Shawnee, Kan./Iowa Western Community College) could help solidify a quality ground game for the Jayhawks for the next couple of years.

Kansas State

Most important position: Defensive linemen

Who they have: DT C.J. Reese (San Antonio/Madison)

Who they want: If last Friday was any indication, Kansas State will be looking for defensive linemen to help contain rushing offenses. In the loss to two-time defending FCS national champion North Dakota State, the Wildcats gave up 215 rushing yards and the game-winning touchdown with 28 seconds remaining. Bill Snyder and Co. are looking for defensive players who can help return the program to Big 12 championship status, and high school DE Tramal Ivy (Muskogee, Okla./Muskogee) and DT Cedric Johnson (Rowlett, Texas/Rowlett) are still available, as is juco DT Calvin Heurtelou (Scottsdale, Ariz./Scottsdale Community College).

Oklahoma

Most important position: Offensive tackle

Who they have: None

Who they want: Protecting the edges in passing situations can make or break the success of Bob Stoops’ respected offense. When OT Ty Barrett (Dallas/Skyline) chose to commit to TCU and not Oklahoma, it left a hole in the Sooners’ 2014 class, but there are still several players to keep an eye on. The Sooners like finding talent on the West Coast, and juco OTs Patrick Au (Ephraim, Utah/Snow College), and David Hedelin (San Francisco/City College of San Francisco) could come in and be immediate contributors about Big 12 bookends.

Oklahoma State

Most important position: Offensive lineman

Who they have: OT Matthew Mucha (Houston/Clear Lake), OG Lem Galeai (Euless, Texas/Trinity)

Who they want: In Saturday’s win against Mississippi State, Oklahoma State finished with 432 total yards and, more importantly to offensive line coach Joe Wickline, the big men up front didn’t allow a sack. Wickline and Mike Gundy are always looking for quality linemen for the program’s up-tempo offense. OG Joseph Paul (New Orleans/St. Augustine) is a target to watch. The Cowboys are also hoping to land 6-foot-7, 307-pound OT Dontavius Blair (Anniston, Ala./Garden City Community College), considered one of the best junior college prospects in the country.

TCU

Most important position: Defensive lineman

Who they have: DT Zaycoven Henderson (Longview, Texas/Longview)

Who they want: Defense is TCU’s bread and butter. More specifically, the Horned Frogs have had a few defensive linemen wreak havoc on the football field in previous years. Henderson has the tools to be a solid lineman, but having him team up with a player like ESPN 300 DE Myles Garrett (Arlington, Texas/Martin) would be huge for the Horned Frogs. Garrett has TCU among his favorites, and while it’ll be tough for the Horned Frogs to land him, the once advantage TCU has over other schools is that it’s roughly 15 minutes away from home.

Texas

Most important position: Safety

Who they have: Jason Hall (Grand Prairie, Texas/South Grand Prairie)

Who they want: Texas is pretty deep at several positions. Safety isn’t one of them. That could change if the Longhorns land a couple of big-time recruits. When 2013 Erik Huhn went down with an ACL injury and fellow 2013 Chevoski Collins moved from the secondary to wide receiver, it hurt the Longhorns’ depth at the position. Texas, however, can score big with commitments from ESPN 300 DBs Jamal Adams (Lewisville, Texas/Hebron) or Edwin Freeman (Arlington, Texas/Bowie) or four-star DB John Bonney (Houston/Lamar).

Texas Tech

Most important position: Outside linebacker

Who they have: None

Who they want: Wide receiver and quarterback seems to be the most important position for the Red Raiders each year, but the program appears to be set for the next three years at both positions. Texas Tech wants to earn victories, but they don’t want to have to outscore opponents to win. This is where solid defenders come into play, and Texas Tech is still looking to land its first outside linebacker pledge to help defend the multiple spread offenses of the Big 12. ESPN 300 OLBs Rashaan Evans (Auburn, Ala./Auburn) and Dwight Williams (Gardena, Calif./Junipero Serra) are out-of-state targets who will be tough to land but could be impact players early for the Red Raiders.

West Virginia

Most important position: Defensive back

Who they have: CB Jaylon Meyers (North Augusta, S.C./Hutchinson Community College)

Who they want: The Mountaineers only have one 2014 commitment for its secondary. Fortunately for Dana Holgorsen, there’s still plenty of time to pull a couple of top prospects. ESPN 300 CB Parrker Westphal (Bolingbrook, Ill./Bolingbrook) is a longshot, but the Mountaineers believe they are in the hunt for him. If Westphal isn’t available, players like DeAndre Scott (Philadelphia/Imhotep Institute Charter), D.J. Copeland (Daytona Beach, Fla./Mainland) and juco CB Marcus Caffey (Council Bluffs, Iowa/Iowa Western Community College) are definite possibilities.