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Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Most important targets: Big 12

By William Wilkerson

Not surprisingly, Big 12 programs have filled their rosters with ESPN 300 recruits. But, as we’ve come to learn, success on the field doesn’t always come down to how many stars you acquire each recruiting cycle. It’s about filling needs with the types of players coveted by that particular program.

Here is a look at the most important target for each Big 12 school, which features some highly ranked recruits and other recruits with no ranking at all.

CB Nick Watkins (Dallas/Bishop Dunne)
6-foot-1, 180 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: 62
The Bears have already put together one of the program’s all-time recruiting classes. But there is still work to be done, particularly in the secondary where they only have two commitments (T’Kevian Rockwell and Verkedric Vaughns). That’s why getting someone like Watkins would put this class at unprecedented heights. Watkins, one of the top players in the country, has grown fond of Baylor over the last several months. He has more than 30 offers to consider, but the Bears are squarely in the mix. If they continue to play well the rest of the season, look for it to stay that way until Watkins decides to announce.

Iowa State
OLB Nile Sykes (Lombard, Ill./Montini Catholic)
6-foot-2, 219 pounds
The Cyclones aren’t in dire need of a linebacker because Jeremiah George is the only one on the depth chart who will leave after the season. But getting someone like Sykes, a four-star recruit, is never a bad thing. ISU has only one OLB commitment (Sam Seonbuchner) so there is definitely room. One worry is that other programs in pursuit -- Illinois, Indiana and Syracuse -- might be able to offer Sykes more early playing time.

DT D.J. Williams (Lufkin, Texas/Lufkin)
6-foot-3, 270 pounds
The Jayhawks have a lot of holes in their 2014 class, which currently consists of eight commitments. One of those holes in need of a plug is at defensive tackle, where Williams would fit perfectly. He has some other big offers to consider -- Miami, Missouri and Oklahoma, to name a few -- but the possibility early playing time at Kansas could play a huge factor.

Kansas State
DT Calvin Heurtelou (Scottsdale, Ariz./Scottsdale C.C.)
6-foot-3, 305 pounds
Kansas State fills its roster with junior college players every year, and 2014 will be no different as the Wildcats already hold verbal pledges from a couple of them. One more they’d like to add is Heurtelou, which would go a long way toward filling a position of need. Right now, three-star C.J. Reese is the only DT committed. Heurtelou has a visit scheduled to K-State for Nov. 22. In addition to his offer from KSU, Heurtelou has offers from Cincinnati, Miami, Missouri, Texas State, Western Kentucky and Wisconsin.

S Steven Parker (Jenks, Okla./Jenks)
6-foot-2, 175 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: 237
There is still some work to be done in this class, particularly across the offensive line. But getting Parker, along with the commitment from Vontre McQuinnie, would be a huge victory for the Sooners. As one of the top safeties in the country, Parker could come in early and contribute. He's that polished. Also, garnering bragging rights over Oklahoma State, which is a potential landing spot for him, would be huge. This isn't exactly a head-to-head battle between the Bedlam rivals. But they are both heavily in the mix.

Oklahoma State
S Steven Parker (Jenks, Okla./Jenks)
6-foot-2, 175 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: 237
Getting Parker would be huge for a couple of reasons. The most obvious is because he could really help a Cowboys secondary that has played fairly well this season. Oklahoma State is putting together one of its best classes ever, and that’s in large part to who it has gotten on the defensive side. Another big reason to get Parker is for fear of where else he might end up. Oklahoma is high on his list. His teammate, fellow safety and OSU commitment Dylan Harding, is doing what he can to get Parker to Stillwater.

OT Braden Smith (Olathe, Kan./South)
6-foot-6, 285 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: 121
The Horned Frogs have been after Smith from day one, and it seems it is paying dividends so far. Smith has always had good things to say about TCU, which is competing mainly with Alabama and Texas A&M for his commitment. The Horned Frogs do have an advantage in that his sister is on TCU’s track and field team. TCU already has a commitment from one of Kansas’ top players, linebacker Jimmie Swain IV, who plays for Smith’s rival Olathe North.

DE Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Texas/Coppell)
6-foot-3, 256 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: 31
The Longhorns aren’t in dire need of defensive ends, with two committed, but getting one more would certainly help in the event that ESPN 300 DE Derick Roberson decides to go elsewhere (this doesn’t appear likely to happen if Texas continues to win). Thomas is the type of player Texas would take even if it were full at certain positions. His combination of skill and integrity are hard to match. He was on hand to watch the Longhorns beat Oklahoma, which made a big impression on him. But schools like Stanford, Alabama, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Arkansas still loom large.

Texas Tech
OT Fahn Cooper (Crystal Lake, IL/College of DuPage)
6-foot-5, 315 pounds
I wanted to go with running back Corey Avery (Dallas/Carter) here, but I think Tech would be fine without him as long as Justin Stockton stays put. Instead, I’m picking Cooper despite the fact that Tech already has five offensive line commitments. The reason is that four of them are high school seniors, and among them the highest position rank is No. 54 (OG Deionte’ Noel). Juco OT Drew Sarvary was a huge pickup who should play right away, and Cooper also could if he picks Tech. He visited the Red Raiders on Oct. 12, so there is interest from both sides. Texas A&M will be a player here too.

West Virginia
ATH Dravon Henry (Aliquippa, Pa./Aliquppa)
5-foot-11, 181 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: 131
A roster full of Dravon Henrys will win you a ton of games. So it should come as no surprise that programs like West Virginia have him at or near the top of their recruiting boards. Henry, the No. 1 player in Pennsylvania, has visited the Mountaineers a couple of times, including over the weekend. So interest is mutual. But there are other big players in this race, especially Pittsburgh, which will be there until the end. WVU has only one defensive back commitment (Jaylon Meyers), so getting Henry to join would help stock the cupboard.