Early Commit: WR Courtney Lark to TCU 

January, 31, 2015
Jan 31
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TCU is certainly making the most of the 12-win season and top-5 finish. While the Horned Frogs were already off to a terrific start in the 2016 class with seven commitments and three ESPN Jr 300s, Gary Patterson and staff added a fourth ESPN Jr 300 pledge Saturday in receiver Courtney Lark.

Twitter went into a late Thursday night frenzy. The reason: No. 1-ranked quarterback Kyler Murray announced on twitter and through ESPN that he was in fact sticking with his commitment to Texas A&M after visiting Texas 10 days ago. And with a 25 character tweet, Murray set off a twitter reaction rarely seen by a football recruit's decision.

@HamiltonESPN: With this quote by five-star and No. 1-ranked quarterback Murray, a worried Texas A&M fan base let out a collective sigh of relief. The final decision by Murray to sign with Texas A&M also provides Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin with a shot in the arm in the final days headed to national signing day.


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Lincoln Riley’s new offense won’t hum without an engine.

The Oklahoma offensive coordinator is tasked with sparking the Sooners attack by returning OU’s passing game to the standard that helped carry Bob Stoops' team to its last BCS title game appearance in 2008.

Yet, the rebirth of OU’s explosive passing offense won’t happen without better quarterback play.

When Riley goes into detail about what he’s looking for in a quarterback, he removes any doubt that a quarterback’s success in his offense is more likely to be a result of intangibles than physical traits.

[+] EnlargeTrevor Knight
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiTrevor Knight's inconsistency was a big reason why Oklahoma's offense sputtered in the passing game at times.
“I just want a great player there,” he said. “You can go on down the line and look at places that have used this version of the offense. We’ve had tall, we’ve had short, we’ve had fast, we’ve had slow.”

Intangibles like quick, sound decision-making and leadership will rise to the forefront at quarterback in Riley’s offense. If the quarterback can consistently make the right decision and execute with precision, the defense is left searching for answers.

“We have to have a guy who can make decisions,” Riley said. "We have to have a guy that’s very accurate with the football. We want a guy who is a winner. We want a guy who, when he’s out there in the huddle and out there playing, the other 10 guys out there with him play better. If they can do those few things, then we’ll build it around the other characteristics that he may have or may not have.”

Great decisions and efficient execution were foreign to OU’s passing offense for the bulk of 2014 as the passing game took a nosedive when leading receiver Sterling Shepard went down with injury. A Sooners squad that threw as many interceptions as touchdowns in 2014 (17) never looked like the explosive offenses that had become commonplace in Norman during the program's run of Big 12 titles.

Inconsistency has become a signature of Trevor Knight, who can look like one of the nation’s top signal-callers on one Saturday then make costly mistakes the next. The sophomore’s 2014 campaign was marred by three game-changing interceptions in OU’s first three losses to TCU, Kansas State and Baylor but also supplemented by a six-touchdown outburst against Iowa State and a efficient performance in a home win against Tennessee.

Cody Thomas, who replaced Knight as the starter during OU’s final three regular season games after Knight was injured, had plenty of struggles of his own during his first extended collegiate action. He passed for 342 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions in three starts.

It’s not hard to see why that duo has sparked a search for hope. And hope’s name is Baker Mayfield.

But don’t pencil the Texas Tech transfer in as the Sooners’ starter, despite his extensive experience in the offense and impressive work on the scout team while sitting out the season due to transfer rules.

“He’s a very good player," Riley said of Mayfield. “We’re gonna be very blessed in that quarterback room. I’ve heard people on the outside say that’s a question mark. To me, we have three guys in that room who have started major college football games. There’s plenty to work with in that group.”

And, as the quarterbacks coach, it all falls on Riley. He has confidence that trio of quarterbacks can get it done, so any struggles OU has at the quarterback position this fall will be accompanied with disappointment. Not just disappointment in their growth and development, but queries into the decision to be content with them instead of looking to add another option behind center.

We’ve seen Air Raid-style offenses transform other quarterbacks into stars, with TCU’s Trevone Boykin as the most recent example. Lack of talent hasn’t been the reason for Knight's inconsistency. Mayfield’s credentials are the best of the bunch, but his career touchdown to interception ratio (12:9) looks awfully similar to Knight’s (23:17). Add Thomas and redshirt freshman Justice Hansen, and OU has four quarterbacks with resumes that would lead you to believe someone can get the job done.

There is not a talent vacuum at the position, but there isn't a go-to guy either.

“We have what we need in that room to be successful,” Riley said. “We have to get it implemented and get those guys coached.”

Big 12 morning links

January, 30, 2015
Jan 30
8:00
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Prediction time ... New England Patriots or Seattle Seahawks? I'm going with Seattle, Skittles and Sherman.
  • 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.
Earlier today, we looked back on the most memorable Big 12 games of 2014.

SportsNation

Who had the most memorable individual Big 12 offensive performance of 2014?

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    24%
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    16%
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    16%
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    16%
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    28%

Discuss (Total votes: 3,810)

 Now, in our weekly Big 12 poll, we're looking back at the most memorable individual offensive performances of the season.

Samaje Perine's record-breaking performance against Kansas has to top the list. After all, the Oklahoma true freshman set an FBS game rushing record with 427 yards.

But what about some of the other memorable performances of 2014?

Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty had some terrific showings in his final college season. But his magical comeback against TCU on Oct. 11 was something special. Petty threw for 510 yards and six touchdowns, while leading the Bears to 24 unanswered fourth-quarter points, catapulting Baylor to an improbable 61-58 win.

Petty, however, wasn't the only quarterback to deliver a notable performance.

On Oct. 25, TCU's Trevone Boykin threw for 433 yards and a school-record seven touchdown passes against Texas Tech. Behind Boykin, the Horned Frogs also scored a Big 12 conference-game-record 82 points in their 55-point annihilation of the Red Raiders.

While the showing against TCU was one they'd just as soon forget, the Red Raiders also had a memorable performance of their own in a valiant defeat. In Texas Tech's regular-season finale on Nov. 29 vs. Baylor, quarterback Patrick Mahomes set a Big 12 freshman record with 598 yards on 30 of 56 passing. He also tossed six touchdowns, including a 40-yarder to Bradley Marquez with 1:42 left that erased a 25-point second half deficit and handed Tech a chance to tie the game with a two-point conversion. The try failed, but Mahomes was still magnificent.

West Virginia wideout Kevin White was magnificent all year, as he opened the season with seven straight 100-yard receiving games. But the highlight of that impressive run came when he torched Baylor for 132 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns in the Mountaineers' 41-27 upset victory over the then-fourth-ranked Bears.

Like White, Kansas State's Tyler Lockett put up monster receiving numbers. Like White, it wasn't easy to single out one game. But Lockett's second half in the Valero Alamo Bowl against UCLA was downright dominant. In the second half alone, Lockett had 10 receptions for 116 yards and two touchdowns, as K-State almost came all the way back from a 31-6 halftime deficit before losing 40-35. It was a memorable performance for a memorable career.

Now we put the question to you: Of these five, who had the most memorable performance of 2014? Let us know by voting in this week's Big 12 poll.

Kevin Hart visits Longhorns

January, 29, 2015
Jan 29
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Texas had an interesting visitor Wednesday.

Actor/comedian Kevin Hart met with the Longhorns. Then he worked out with them. I wonder how many times that will be mentioned to the several blue-chip recruits still out there the Longhorns are attempting to close on.

Here's the photographic evidence of Hart's visit:

More photos from the visit by @KevinHart4real in weight room and @Strong_TexasFB's Office. #hookem

A photo posted by Texas Football (@longhornsfootball) on

Position that needs improvement: TCU

January, 29, 2015
Jan 29
11:00
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This week, we’re taking a closer look at one specific area each Big 12 team needs to improve before 2015. We continue the series with TCU, which doesn't have much to improve after a 12-1 season:

Position to improve: Secondary

Why it could be a problem: The TCU secondary was the best in the Big 12 last season, with safeties Chris Hackett and Sam Carter and cornerback Kevin White all earning all-conference honors. The problem is, Carter and White have both graduated, while Hackett declared early for the NFL draft. The Horned Frogs have talented secondary players coming back, but Carter has been a linchpin on the TCU defense, while Hackett and White were difference-makers this past season. The Horned Frogs will have to rely on some semi-new faces in the defensive backfield.

How it can be fixed: The good news is that many of the expected new faces aren't exactly new. Kenny Iloka likely will step in for Carter or Hackett in the starting lineup after playing a key reserve role last season. In TCU's three-safety defense, they'll be alongside Derrick Kindred, who's been a quality starter the last season-and-a-half. Ranthony Texada is coming off a banner 2014 as a starting redshirt freshman cornerback opposite White. Texada got better as the season wore on and seems primed to take over as TCU's primary corner. Someone will have to step in at the other corner, but the Horned Frogs have plenty of possibilities in Nick Orr, Torrance Mosley and Corry O'Meally -- who were all newcomers last season -- and Cameron Echols-Luper, who will be converting over from receiver.

Early 2015 outlook: On paper, the Horned Frogs have the potential to be solid in the defensive backfield, if not better than that. But they are replacing a ton of playmaking from a secondary that helped the Horned Frogs lead the nation in interceptions. Kindred is the only returning Horned Frog that had more than one pick this past season. With 10 starters back, the offense is going to remain a juggernaut, so the Horned Frogs don't have to be great in the back end. But to contend for a Big 12 title and a playoff spot, they need at least to be pretty good. That will hinge on how the likes of Texada and Iloka respond to their expanded roles.

Most memorable Big 12 games of 2014 season

January, 29, 2015
Jan 29
10:00
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What a 2014 season it was in the Big 12. The league featured major upsets, thrilling finishes and a pair of elite teams in TCU and Baylor who staged a shootout classic in Waco.

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.

[+] EnlargeKD Cannon
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsKD Cannon and Baylor won in what turned out to be arguably the most pivotal game in the country this season, a shootout victory over TCU.
No. 3: Dec. 6 – Oklahoma State 38, Oklahoma 35
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
Wednesday on the recruiting trail was fast-paced and exhausting, as expected, for prospects and coaches with national signing day now only six days away. Here is a look at some of the social media headlines, with five-star defensive tackle Daylon Mack's change of plans serving as the headliner.

@HamiltonESPN: On Tuesday it was Texas head coach Charlie Strong in-home with the Mack family. Yesterday, it was Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin's turn to try to win back the five-star defensive tackle, a long-time commitment. Mack told RecruitingNation on Wednesday night that he was cancelling a planned unofficial visit to TCU this weekend to spend time with his family and come to a decision as his national signing day announcement, live on ESPN, approaches. TCU remains scheduled to make an in-home visit Thursday, with a decision trending the way of the Aggies or Longhorns.


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Big 12 programs have done a solid job on the recruiting trail in the Class of 2015, with seven teams ranking in the top 40 nationally as signing day approaches next Wednesday. Texas leads the way with a top 10 class, while TCU, Oklahoma State and West Virginia are among the squads that have put together quality recruiting classes.

Yet, every Big 12 program still has questions to answer as they aim to finish their 2015 recruiting classes with some late additions.

In this ESPN Insider story, you can get a detailed look Insider at where every Big 12 team stands heading into the final days of this recruiting cycle.

Hidden gems in the Class of 2014

January, 28, 2015
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It happens every year.

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.

Position that needs improvement: Oklahoma

January, 28, 2015
Jan 28
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Oklahoma’s football roster has too much talent to finish 8-5.

From the coaching staff to the players, the Sooners underachieved in 2014. And it’s hard to lay the sole blame on one position as OU quarterbacks and receivers struggled while several other positions were inconsistent. But the secondary proved to be a clear weak link on a defense that finished No. 8 nationally against the run.

Position to improve: Defensive backs

Why it was a problem: It would have been easy to single out the cornerbacks, but that would have let the safeties off the hook. And vice versa. Thus the entire defensive backfield shoulders the blame as OU simply couldn’t trust its defensive backs to win their one-on-one battles in 2014. Cornerback Zack Sanchez won his share of individual battles on his way to six interceptions and All-Big 12 honors while safeties Ahmad Thomas and Quentin Hayes were among OU’s top five tacklers. Yet, OU’s defensive backs as a whole struggled throughout the season as the Sooners allowed 276.23 passing yards per game, ninth in the Big 12 and No. 117 among FBS teams. The Sooners' blowout home loss to Baylor spotlighted the lack of answers in the secondary.

How it can be fixed: Cornerbacks coach Bobby Jack Wright has retired so OU is likely to add another coach to help Mike Stoops coach the secondary, meaning new ideas and a change in approach could be step one. ESPN300 cornerback and current OU commit P.J. Mbanasor should help while upping the competition at cornerback. Sophomore cornerback Jordan Thomas, who flashed his talent at times as a freshman, should be improved and sophomore safety Steven Parker could help answer some questions at safety. Add ESPNJC50 cornerback William Johnson and the Sooners should have the depth to match up with spread offenses much better in 2015. The key for the Sooners is having at least eight defensive backs ready to play at a starting level next fall instead of having five clear starters then watching the secondary fall apart when the injury bug hits and an untested player gets thrown into the fire.

Early 2015 outlook: Recruiting misses and slow development played a major role in OU’s terrible pass defense in 2014. Added depth, competition and a new coaching style should combine to make this an improved unit. After all, it’s hard to go anywhere but up for OU's secondary.

Revisiting the Big 12's top 2014 signees

January, 28, 2015
Jan 28
10:00
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The first Wednesday of February brings hope to every college football fan as the stars of the future sign on the dotted line, changing the destiny of their programs.

It’s easy to look at a recruiting class on paper and slot newcomers into need positions. But it doesn’t always work out that way. Now is a good team to revisit the Class of 2014 and see what “can’t miss” prospects fulfilled those expectations and which ones are still striving to meet those lofty projections.

Here’s a look at some of the Big 12’s most talked about signees a year ago and their impact, or lack thereof, on the Big 12 as true freshmen.

Baylor receiver KD Cannon: Cannon lived up to the hype. The No. 30 player in the 2014 ESPN 300 was the Big 12’s top-ranked recruit and one of the nation’s top freshmen. He looked every bit the five-star recruit he was laveled as, finishing with 50 receptions for 1,030 yards and eight touchdowns. He will enter his sophomore season as one of the Big 12’s most feared playmakers thanks to his blazing speed and sticky hands.

Iowa State receiver Allen Lazard: Another ESPN 300 receiver who lived up to the hype, Lazard was asked to help fill the void when the Cyclones lost Quenton Bundrage in their season opener. The No. 148 player in the 2014 class responded with 45 receptions for 593 yards and three touchdowns.

Kansas center Jacob Bragg: It wasn’t over the top to think that Bragg could slide right into Kansas' offensive line as one of two ESPN 300 signees for the Jayhawks. Yet three-star signee Junior Visalia was KU’s impact true freshman offensive lineman, starting the Jayhawks' final three games after Ngalu Fusimalohi was injured. Bragg redshirted but did impress during his redshirt season and could be poised to force his way into the starting lineup as a redshirt freshman.

Kansas State defensive tackle Terrell Clinkscales: The lone Big 12 team without an ESPN 300 signee, the Wildcats did land four players on the ESPN JC 50, including Clinkscales. The junior college transfer was Bill Snyder’s only four-star signee but didn’t make much of an impact for the Wildcats. He finished with two tackles in eight games in 2014.

Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine: As crazy as it sounds, Perine wasn’t even the highest-ranked running back on the Sooners' signee list. Joe Mixon had that honor and looked ready to make an impact before an off-the-field incident took him out of the equation. Perine, who was creating a similar summer buzz, stepped right in to become the Big 12’s top freshman, set the FBS record for single-game rushing yards (427 against Kansas) and earned first-team All-Big 12 honors. The No. 220 player in the 2014 ESPN 300 finished with 1,713 rushing yards, 6.5 yards per carry and 21 touchdowns as a true freshman.

Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph: His unique freshman season has been well-documented, as the Cowboys’ top-ranked signee went from redshirting to beating Oklahoma in Bedlam in a matter of weeks. Rudolph enters the spring as the Cowboys starting quarterback.

TCU running back Shaun Nixon: A preseason knee injury kept the No. 221 player in the 2014 ESPN 300 from having an impact as a true freshman.

Texas quarterback Jerrod Heard: It sure seemed like Heard was supposed to cure all ills at the quarterback position in Austin at this time a year ago. Now many people have already written him off after a redshirt season during his first fall on campus. The No. 149 player in the 2014 ESPN 300 still has the potential to be the answer behind center for UT, but the time is now for Heard to seize the opportunity to be a difference maker for the Longhorns.

Texas Tech cornerback Nigel Bethel II: The Red Raiders lone ESPN 300 signee, Bethel made an impact as a true freshman after missing the first three games due to suspension. The Florida native started seven games during his debut season, finishing with 41 tackles and six pass breakups in nine games. Bethel should be even better as a sophomore.

West Virginia safety Dravon Henry: The ESPN 300 safety was a starter from day one for the Mountaineers. Henry had 45 tackles and two interceptions in 13 games for WVU as a true freshman and should be a key contributor in the secondary in 2015 and beyond. The No. 140 player in the 2014 ESPN 300 has the versatility to expand his role in the defense as a sophomore.

Big 12 morning links

January, 28, 2015
Jan 28
8:00
AM CT
Prepared a successful salmon dish last night. Tweet me if you want the recipe.
  • 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.
The fever pitch in the state of Texas on the recruiting trail hasn’t been felt since the 2003-04 recruitment of Adrian Peterson, or even prior. Starting on Friday, it will be the Texas Longhorns and Texas A&M Aggies duking it out for supremacy in the Lone Star State. A cycle that started with Texas A&M being the "cool school" in the state and seemingly winning every big battle has gotten a lot more interesting after last Wednesday’s unofficial visit to Texas by Texas A&M quarterback commitment Kyler Murray and receiver DaMarkus Lodge.

With what could be a recruiting windfall for either the Aggies or Longhorns, and momentum for the 2016 class and beyond, here are the eight most important recruits remaining in the balance in the Lone Star State.

Kris Boyd, CB, Gilmer High
ESPN 300 ranking: No. 241


Boyd is set to announce Friday, along with good buddy and fellow ESPN 300 cornerback Holton Hill. Boyd has dwindled his list to Texas and Texas A&M, where he officially visited the past two weekends. If either the Longhorns or Aggies are to start an overwhelming wave of momentum Friday, it could lead to a near historic finish for the winning school. Boyd played for head coach Jeff Traylor at Gilmer, whose son is a walk-on quarterback at Texas A&M. Boyd is also the cousin of former Gilmer and Texas standout Curtis Brown.

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Holton Hill, CB, Houston Lamar High
ESPN 300 ranking: No. 152


As mentioned above, Hill will announce on Friday. Though a Texas A&M official visit over the weekend seemingly put the Aggies in the race, Texas and LSU were the overwhelming favorites headed into the visit, with the closest-to-home Longhorns considered to be the front-runner. Like Boyd, if either Texas or Texas A&M gets both of the ESPN 300 cornerbacks, it could start a tidal wave come National Signing Day. Hill visited LSU on Dec. 5 before Texas and Texas A&M the past two weekends, respectively.

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Chris Warren III, RB, Rockwall High
ESPN 300 ranking: No. 102


What looked like a Texas vs. Washington battle has possibly changed with Texas A&M offering recently. In fact, add this to the list of battles between the two rivals if Warren visits College Station before heading to Washington on Jan. 30. Warren is the load-carrying big back who could be a running-game changer for any program. This is likely one of at least four National Signing Day decisions that will have all state of Texas fans closely following, with the Longhorns considered the favorite heading into the final two official visits. Warren made an official visit to Texas Tech over the weekend.

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