NCF On The Trail: Baylor Bears

NEW ORLEANS -- Many said the absolutely loaded 2014 recruiting class in Louisiana would never be matched. Somebody forgot to tell that to the players in 2016 class. The Bayou State is again stacked, and many of those national recruits will be on display at Saturday’s Nike Opening regional at Joe Brown Park. More than 20 players ranked in the ESPN Junior 300 will be in attendance, including nine of the top 20 players in Louisiana.

Big 12 recruiting scorecard

March, 23, 2015
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Spring ball rolls on and a few new commitments rolled in, too. The latest from the Big 12 on the recruiting trail:

BAYLOR
Total commits: 7
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 4
The latest: The Bears hosted a big group of recruits for its "Friday Night Lights" scrimmage, including incoming freshmen and targets from several classes. One big man on campus was ESPN 300 lineman J.P. Urquidez, a 6-foot-6, 305-pound tackle from Copperas Cove, Texas. Urquidez also visited Miami recently and has those two schools high on his list along with Texas and Oklahoma. He's expected to make his decision this spring.

IOWA STATE
Total commits:
0
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Cyclones still have not landed a commitment for 2016. They do continue to pursue defensive end Noah Fant, though that's getting more challenging. The defensive end out of Omaha, Nebraska, recently took an unofficial visit to Nebraska and is expected to check out Purdue next. Getting him in for ISU's junior day was a good move, but Fant is drawing more and more interest these days.

KANSAS
Total commits: 1
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0
The latest:
Kansas could face an interesting battle for offensive lineman Chris Hughes of Harker Heights, Texas. He's been offered by KU, North Texas and now Texas Tech, and you wonder if his stock will rise this spring. The younger brother of Texas players Naashon Hughes and Camrhon Hughes is 6-foot-3 and 260 pounds, but doesn't hold an offer from the Longhorns yet. Can KU fight to steal him from the state of Texas?

KANSAS STATE
Total commits: 1
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Wildcats lost a big-time commit over the weekend when defensive end Xavier Kelly elected to reopen his recruitment. Kelly, whose stock has been on the rise this spring, had committed to KSU back in November but is reportedly focusing on Michigan, Oregon and TCU at the moment. He checked in at 6-foot-6 and 230 pounds with a 4.55-second 40-yard dash at The Opening regional camp in Arlington, Texas.

OKLAHOMA
Total commits: 3
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Sooners got one of the nation's best running back recruits on campus. ESPN 300 running back Devwah Whaley, the nation's No. 34 recruit, took an unofficial visit to Norman over the weekend. Texas A&M is presumed to be the frontrunner for Whaley at the moment, but OU is right there in the mix along with Texas, Georgia and several other programs.

OKLAHOMA STATE
Total commits: 3
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0
The latest: Who might Oklahoma State take at quarterback for 2016? The favorite sure seems to be Nick Starkel, a 6-foot-3, 175-pound passer from Argyle, Texas. Though his only FBS offers are from Oklahoma State and Old Dominion, Starkel had a good showing at his Elite 11 tryout in Dallas earlier this month and is expected to visit Stillwater again at the end of the month.

TCU
Total commits: 8
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Horned Frogs' first commit for 2017 is in the books: Roshauud Paul. The athlete from Bremond, Texas, pulled the trigger on a commitment last Tuesday and is being recruited as a receiver/corner. As a sophomore, he helped lead Bremond to a Class 2A state title as a quarterback with more than 3,200 total yards and 40 TDs.

TEXAS
Total commits: 4
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 3
The latest: Texas actually has five pledges for 2016, as quarterback Matthew Merrick will grayshirt and enroll next spring. That's his final decision after several schools (led by Florida) pushed hard following signing day to flip Merrick and get him enrolled in the fall. Merrick and ESPN 300 commit Shane Buechele both are expected to arrive in Austin in January. Merrick has a big arm and will be a nice development prospect.

TEXAS TECH
Total commits: 3
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0
The latest: Texas Tech's staff landed a good one in Donte Coleman. The tight end from West Mesquite High in Texas turned down a dozen other good offers to pick the Red Raiders on Saturday. Coleman, who hauled in four TDs as a junior, could be a matchup nightmare in Tech's scheme at 6-4 and 220 pounds.

WEST VIRGINIA
Total commits: 7
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0
The latest: West Virginia's newest pledge came from Zach Sandwisch of Toledo, Ohio, an outside linebacker who likes how he'll fit in the Mountaineers' defensive plans. Sandwich racked up 80 tackles in 10 games while helping lead Central Catholic to a state title as a junior. He took visits to West Virginia, Indiana, Toledo and Bowling Green before reaching his decision last week.

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Everything is bigger in Texas, especially high school football. That lesson was taught to us once again at Sunday's The Opening regional at Lamar High School.


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Big 12 recruiting scorecard

February, 23, 2015
Feb 23
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Junior day season is still underway, and that means a lot more offers and new names on the radar. Here's the latest on the 2016 recruiting trail in the Big 12:

BAYLOR
Total commits: 5
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 3
The latest: Baylor running back commit Kameron Martin received an offer from Texas last week, but so far that move hasn't been enough to flip him. The ESPN Junior 300 back is a cousin of former Texas great Jamaal Charles and has called UT his "dream school," but Baylor was the first to offer and he's been a loyal pledge to the Bears since July 2014.

IOWA STATE
Total commits: 0
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Cyclones were the first to offer 6-foot-5 tight end T.J. Hockenson of Chariton, Iowa. He landed his offer during a junior day visit and put up serious numbers as a junior: 73 catches, 1,116 yards and 18 touchdowns. Hockenson is expected to take a junior day trip to Kansas State as well.

KANSAS
Total commits: 2
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Jayhawks locked up their second commitment of 2016 from Antoine Frazier, a 6-foot-5, 250-pound offensive tackle from Huffman, Texas, who pledged one day after receiving an offer. Frazier was a high school teammate of KU early enrollee receiver Chase Harrell at Huffman.

KANSAS STATE
Total commits: 2
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0
The latest: One of the many recruits hoping for an offer at Kansas State's junior day Feb. 28 will be Ian Rudzik, a linebacker/running back from Ulysses, Kansas, who visited KU earlier this month. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound junior is drawing interest from Arizona State and Minnesota, but a KSU offer might end his recruitment quickly.

OKLAHOMA
Total commits: 3
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 1
The latest: Though Oklahoma only picked up one commitment from its junior day last weekend, the Sooners did make progress with a number of key targets in the state of Texas. ESPN Junior 300 defensive end Marvin Terry, defensive tackle Chris Daniels and lineman Kellen Diesch all emerged with positive reviews and will be intriguing targets moving forward.

OKLAHOMA STATE
Total commits: 2
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0
The latest: Oklahoma State went to the juco ranks for its second pledge of 2016. Fort Scott (Kansas) Community College cornerback Malik Kearse picked the Cowboys on Thursday. He originally hails from Miami, but an elbow injury in his senior year of high school meant no offers. Kearse logged two interceptions and 10 pass breakups in his first year at Fort Scott.

TCU
Total commits: 8
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 3
The latest: TCU hosted another big junior day on Saturday and received a commitment from offensive lineman Austin Myers of Manvel, Texas. The Horned Frogs also made offers to ATH Tyrell Alexander, TE Donte Coleman and 2017 ATH Roshauud Paul and were able to get ESPN Junior 300 running back Trayveon Williams and corner Jared Mayden on campus.

TEXAS
Total commits: 3
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 2
The latest: Texas made a ton of offers this week, and most of them went to quarterbacks. LSU commit Feleipe' Franks, Oregon commit Seth Green, Texas Tech commit Tristen Wallace and Baylor commit Zach Smith all picked up Texas offers, as did uncommitted passers Xavier Gaines, Woody Barrett and Bowman Sells. Considering the Horns' depth issues at QB, taking two in this class might make sense.

TEXAS TECH
Total commits: 3
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Red Raiders landed their third commitment of the 2016 class from running back Da'Leon Ward of powerhouse Dallas Skyline. The all-purpose back picked Tech over TCU and rushed for 1,779 yards and 20 touchdowns as a junior, but he is still expected to take more visits despite his pledge.

WEST VIRGINIA
Total commits: 4
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0
The latest: West Virginia is reportedly expected to get an unofficial visit from defensive end Shavar Manuel this spring. The nation's No. 2 overall 2016 recruit has Florida State in the lead following his FSU junior day trip, but WVU is on Manuel's list of upcoming trips along with Clemson, Florida, LSU and Virginia Tech.
Quarterbacks are committing earlier and earlier in the recruiting process. With 15 of the 27 signal-callers in the ESPN Junior 300 already having given verbal pledges, there is increased pressure to get a top quarterback in the fold early. Five programs are ahead of the curve headed into the spring evaluation period.


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Here are three players in the Ultimate ESPN 300 who will be remembered for their exploits in the Big 12.

Austin
Tavon Austin, receiver, West Virginia

The No. 197 player in the Ultimate ESPN 300 played in the Big 12 for only one season but stuffed a career's worth of memories into those 13 games with the conference logo on his uniform. Austin rushed for 643 yards, averaging 8.9 yards per carry, while adding 114 receptions for 1,269 yards as a senior in 2012.

His performance in a 50-49 loss to Oklahoma in 2012 won’t be forgotten anytime soon as he left any Sooners defender who tried to tackle him one-on-one in the open field grasping for air more often than not. He finished with 572 all-purpose yards, including 344 rushing yards on 21 carries (16.4 yards per carry) and two touchdowns. That single-game performance will not be forgotten anytime soon.

Griffin
Robert Griffin III, quarterback, Baylor

It’s hard not to like what Griffin was able to accomplish during his time at Baylor. He stands as a sterling example of what one talented person can accomplish with confidence, laser-like focus and unyielding desire. The No. 57 player in the Ultimate 300 put Baylor on the map and wasn’t shy about letting people know this was a new era at Baylor. Griffin joined Art Briles to help create excitement and belief around a program that had called the Big 12 basement home since the conference’s inception.

During his Heisman Trophy-winning season in 2011, Griffin had plenty of Heisman moments, including exceptional performances against TCU, Oklahoma, Texas and Missouri as he helped the Bears to a 10-win season. A big-play machine with exceptional speed, Griffin was a joy to watch.

Thomas
Earl Thomas, safety, Texas

The No. 240 player in the Ultimate 300 was simply awesome to watch play football. Thomas played only two seasons in Austin but he was a marvel during his time in the Big 12. He was a blur in the secondary who caused havoc with his explosiveness to the ball. Thomas was a true rarity as a must-watch college football player who lined up on the defensive side of the ball.

As he made play after play, it was amazing how the native of Orange, Texas, was dominating a game as a 5-foot-10, 197-pound safety. Thomas earned All-American honors and finished his career with 149 tackles, 33 pass breakups, 10 interceptions and five forced fumbles in 27 games. Texas lost just twice with Thomas in the lineup.
Here's a look at five intriguing recruitments of Big 12 standouts who landed a spot on the Ultimate ESPN 300:


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Here's a look at five Big 12 standouts who went from overlooked on signing day to members of the Ultimate ESPN 300.


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Coaches' poll: Favorite Big 12 recruits

February, 12, 2015
Feb 12
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College recruiters rarely care about star ratings. They're looking for all sorts of other things: scheme fit, projection, growth potential, maturity, even track times. So once signing day passed, we asked.

We polled more than a dozen anonymous Big 12 coaches and recruiting coordinators for their favorite prospects in the 2015 class -- both the kids they signed and the ones they wanted.

[+] EnlargePatrick Vahe, Josh Wariboko
Gerry Hamilton/ESPNOne Big 12 recruiter predicts offensive guard Patrick Vahe (at left), a Longhorns' 2015 signee, will be "a good one" at the collegiate level.
Most of the recruits they named were under-the-radar finds. By now, you already know all about the elite signees such as Malik Jefferson, Jarrett Stidham and Breiden Fehoko. We were looking for the recruits who might not be big names now but are poised to make a big impact in the conference for years to come.

Here are 25 players that Big 12 recruiters liked in the class of 2015:

Baylor OG Riley Daniel: "Riley is a huge human. Schools got on him late. If you make a mistake in recruiting, make it big."

Baylor WR Blake Lynch: "Like him a lot. We had a hard time projecting where we saw him last spring position-wise, but I liked him a lot. At first we were thinking safety and we fell in love with him, but we were too late."

Baylor LB Jordan Williams: "Tremendous upside. I think he's athletic enough to play inside or outside with great tenacity. When I went to see him I said, 'How did we not know about this guy earlier?' Everybody had him at 5-11 and 190. He's 6-1 and 217."

Iowa State WR Hakeem Butler: "He’s got huge hands, good 40, good vert in a big body. He played AAU basketball, now football will become his focus. His ceiling is really high. Four or five years from now people could be looking back like ... how did Iowa State get that guy?"

Iowa State DE Seth Nerness: "Seth Nerness is a great kid. He plays with a great attitude and work ethic."

Kansas DE Dorance Armstrong: "That kid has a body on him and he can run. No idea how other people didn't get him. He had like 20 offers and comes from a big program. Watch him and he's every bit of what you'd want to recruit. That was a steal."

Kansas TE Jace Sternberger: "Jace is a coach’s son. Small-school, multiple-sport athlete. He shows his athleticism on the basketball court. He could blow up once he’s committed to one sport."

Kansas State DT Trey Dishon: "Trey is a big athlete. Everyone slept on him."

Kansas State DB Johnny Durham: "Jonathan plays with a very high football IQ. He’s always in the right spot and deceptively fast. I would compare him to Ty Zimmerman."

Oklahoma RB Rodney Anderson: "Anderson is a freak. He’s the real deal. Size, speed, power. He’s a no-brainer."

Oklahoma WR John Humphrey Jr.: "A guy that I really liked in camps. He was a fast kid, came out of nowhere and can really run. I see him playing corner, to be honest, because of his feet and speed. With his change of direction and how fast he is, there's something about that kid."

Oklahoma CB P.J. Mbanasor: "Potentially really good player. I watched him and researched him and he was fluid and really played transition well. Big corners who can run are hard to come by."

Oklahoma State RB Chris Carson: "I think they may have gotten the best back in this signing class. He’s a Newcomer of the Year-type possibility."

Oklahoma State CB Antwan Hadley: "He has a safety body playing corner. Tall and long with a nose for the ball. He played against good people, too."

Oklahoma State S Kenneth McGruder: "McGruder is a stud. Big, physical, a leader. He’s a big-time safety. That’s the enforcer you want."

TCU S Arico Evans: "One kid that I think is really going to be good. He was an athletic quarterback who has that 'it' factor. He was his whole (high school) team, he knows how to play and has real upside. He's going to thrive in Gary Patterson's defense and can even grow into a linebacker."

TCU CB Julius Lewis: "Julius is a good athlete. Multiple-sport athlete, which limited his exposure in spring ball. He played both ways, which questioned what position he would play."

TCU C Jozie Milton: "Reminds you of Joey Hunt, a hardcore guy. He had all kinds of offers, but a lot of people in Texas probably didn’t see him coming. Physical, smart and you like that he can call signals."

Texas TE Devonaire Clarington: "He’s very talented. He’s just a nightmare for DBs with that size and speed. He’s probably going to end up being an NFL guy."

Texas OG Patrick Vahe: "He probably gets lost in the shuffle and gets forgotten because he committed so early. He’s going to be a good one. Tough player."

Texas Tech WR Tony Brown: "He's smooth, a good route runner. He's a good get for them. Kliff [Kingsbury] got some good receivers."

Texas Tech RB Corey Dauphine: "I like him a lot. He was a good player and a 200-meter guy. Big, physical and fast. I have a feeling he’ll cause people a lot of problems before he’s done."

Texas Tech LB D'Vonta Hinton: "Under the radar because of his height, but just a freaking football player with instincts."

West Virginia LB David Long: "He's not the biggest guy, but he plays bigger than his size. Reminds you a lot of Karl Joseph coming out of high school, a guy who can cover a big space. He's a good fit for the Big 12."

West Virginia DE Adam Shuler: "He didn’t get all of the attention and all of that but I think he has the chance to be a special player."
video
Quarterback Kyler Murray grabbed all of the headlines at Allen (Texas) High School over the past few seasons, but it’s actually junior offensive tackle Greg Little who is a higher-ranked prospect.


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Re-grading the Big 12 classes of 2011

February, 10, 2015
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The only fair way to judge a recruiting class is waiting four years, right? Last week, we broke down how the Big 12's top signees of 2011 panned out. Today, we're re-ranking those classes and handing out new letter grades.

1. Kansas State Wildcats
2011 grade: C+
2015 grade: B+
Top signees: WR Tyler Lockett, OT Cody Whitehair, DE Meshak Williams, S Dante Barnett, WR Curry Sexton
Breakdown: Lockett became an all-time K-State great, and Bill Snyder's staff developed a lot of standout players from this class. Lockett and Whitehair were two-stars who'll finish as four-year starters. Don't forget that Williams was the Big 12's Defensive Lineman of the Year in 2012. KSU did count transfers Arthur Brown and Bryce Brown toward this class, too, and Arthur did earn conference Newcomer of the Year honors.

2. TCU Horned Frogs
2011 grade: N/A
2015 grade: B+
Top signees: CB Jason Verrett, QB Trevone Boykin, S Chris Hackett, DT Davion Pierson, DT Chucky Hunter
Breakdown: Not bad for a Mountain West class, eh? The class that inked a month after TCU's Rose Bowl victory produced a Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year in Boykin and a Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in Verrett. While they became stars, four-star WRs LaDarius Brown and Brandon Carter were kicked off the team and 11 more members of this 24-man class ended up leaving TCU.

3. Texas Longhorns
2011 grade: A
2015 grade: B
Top signees: DB Quandre Diggs, RB Malcolm Brown, DE Cedric Reed, WR Jaxon Shipley, LB Steve Edmond
Breakdown: ESPN's No. 5-ranked class did not meet those lofty expectations, but 17 of the Longhorns' 22 signees have started at least one game and it's possible a dozen will end up starting multiple seasons. There weren't many bad busts among this group, nor were there many All-Big 12 players. Losing QB David Ash and OT Josh Cochran to career-ending injuries was a difficult blow.

4. Texas Tech Red Raiders
2011 grade: B-
2015 grade: B
Top signees: TE Jace Amaro, OT Le'Raven Clark, WR Jakeem Grant, LB Pete Robertson, RB DeAndre Washington
Breakdown: There's a lot to like about this group. Amaro became a second-round NFL draft pick and 10 other signees from this class ended up being quality starters in 2014. All but two were three-star finds. The only reason why this class isn't a solid B+ is its 12-24 record in Big 12 games.

5. Baylor Bears
2011 grade: C+
2015 grade: B
Top signees: OT Spencer Drango, DT Beau Blackshear, CB K.J. Morton, P Spencer Roth, OG Desmine Hilliard
Breakdown: Drango became an All-American in 2014 and is back for more. Blackshear will be a three-year starter, and Morton was a juco find who became a critical piece to the 2013 defense. Don't sleep on WR Jay Lee, either. The only concern with this group is Baylor signed a smaller class of 19 and at least seven haven't panned out. Plus, Shawn Oakman signed with Penn State as a three-star recruit in 2011. If we counted him in, the letter grade certainly improves.

6. Oklahoma State Cowboys
2011 grade: B
2015 grade: B-
Top signees: DE James Castleman, LB Ryan Simmons, WR Josh Stewart, RB Desmond Roland, QB J.W. Walsh
Breakdown: The prized gem of this No. 23-ranked class, RB Hershel Sims, did not last long in Stillwater. But the rest of the class Mike Gundy and his staff assembled included some major contributors, led on defense by Castleman, Simmons and DE Jimmy Bean. Stewart went pro a year too early. Walsh and OT Devin Davis have been plagued by injuries but can make comebacks in 2015.

7. Kansas Jayhawks
2011 grade: B-
2015 grade: C-
Top signees: LB Ben Heeney, CB JaCorey Shepherd, WR/RB Tony Pierson, DE Michael Reynolds, LB Jake Love
Breakdown: Four-star signees QB Brock Berglund and RB Darrian Miller both transferred (Berglund is on his fourth school now), but Heeney was an absolute gem as a two-star. KU signed 28, found about eight decent starters and a lot more who haven't made much of an impact. We'll see if Michael Cummings, who's started 12 games over two seasons, is the answer at quarterback.

8. West Virginia Mountaineers
2011 grade: C+
2015 grade: C-
Top signees: LB Nick Kwiatkoski, CB Terrell Chestnut, LB Isaiah Bruce, DT Shaq Rowell, RB Andrew Buie
Breakdown: Remember, this class was secured while West Virginia was still in the Big East. Their recruiting has certainly improved since joining the Big 12. Kwiatkoski and Bruce have combined for 44 starts, and Chestnut emerged this season. WVU still hasn't gotten a whole lot from its skill position takes in 2011, and QB Paul Millard's stint as a starter was brief.

9. Oklahoma Sooners
2011 grade: B+
2015 grade: D+
Top signees: DT Jordan Phillips, LB Frank Shannon, OG Nila Kasitati, DT Jordan Wade, LB P.L. Lindley
Breakdown: This class, ranked No. 11 by ESPN, was a total mess. Half of the 18 signees ended up transferring, two elected to give up football and prized WR Trey Metoyer was kicked off the team. With Phillips going pro early, only five members of the class are still on campus. And that includes Shannon, who was suspended for the 2014 season. At least transfers Brandon Williams (Texas A&M) and Kendal Thompson (Utah) are doing OK elsewhere.

10. Iowa State Cyclones
2011 grade: C-
2015 grade: D+
Top signees: QB Sam B. Richardson, WR Quenton Bundrage, CB Sam E. Richardson, LB Jevohn Miller, OG Jamison Lalk
Breakdown: This is not the easiest group to evaluate. The highest-rated signees, RB DeVondrick Nealy and WR Tad Ecby, were dismissed from the program last week. Bundrage might be the best of the bunch when he recovers from his torn ACL. ISU found a handful of starters from this 2011 class, but most of them still have a lot to prove.
The trend was hard to miss if you walked the sidelines of a Baylor or TCU game before kickoff this season. What was soon to come looked pretty obvious on those Saturdays.

Throughout their dream seasons as co-Big 12 champions, guess who Art Briles and Gary Patterson packed their respective houses with? High school juniors and sophomores.

This week starts the clock on the class of 2016, yet Baylor and TCU are as ahead of the game as ever on that front. Their top-10 finishes are already beginning to pay off with this next batch of recruits.

Together, Baylor and TCU have landed 14 pledges for the 2016 class. Only 12 of the state of Texas' top 30 recruits have made commitments, but eight belong to the leaders of the Big 12.

While Texas and the rest of their recruiting rivals were scrambling to finish off the class that signed Wednesday, both Baylor and TCU have already hosted their first junior day of the year. It never hurts to have those kids stopping by to see your new trophies as soon as possible.

For TCU, it was only natural to get a jump-start on the next class. The Horned Frogs had 21 of their 23 signees for 2014 on board by the end of December.

The majority of that group committed off a 4-8 season. That group was pitched potential and promise. The 2016 class got to witness the results, and that has Patterson and his staff optimistic about how good this next batch of newcomers can be.

"I think kids that came to our ballgames, our type of offense and defense is very exciting," Patterson said during a national signing day appearance on Fox Sports. "I think the sky's the limit. I don't think we've even scratched the surface of what TCU can be."

The Frogs' group of eight pledges for 2016 already has its quarterback in San Angelo Central's Brennen Wooten, plus ESPN Junior 300 athletes Christian Wallace and D'Eriq King and receiver Courtney Lark. They also have a cornerback, three-star Ke'Shawn Somerville, who flipped from Baylor.

The Bears' 2016 class already has of the nation's best in offensive tackle Patrick Hudson, the No. 11 rated recruit in the ESPN Junior 300. The 6-foot-5, 330-pound lineman from Silsbee, Texas, flipped his commitment from Texas A&M to BU back in July.

Baylor took its quarterback for this class, Zach Smith, last summer as well. He's joined by ESPN Junior 300 back Kameron Martin, who's become the most vocal recruiter of the bunch on Twitter. BU also accepted a pledge last summer from Navasota's Tren'Davian Dickson, who went on to shatter the national single-season record with 39 touchdown catches (including four to win his state title game).

Briles and his assistants secured 13 of their 19 latest signees by the end of 2014. They didn't have to worry about many of them, either. That provided the luxury of time to get moving on 2016 and beyond.

"The last couple of weeks of recruiting, I mean, we recruited 2016 kids and looked at 2017 sophomores," Briles said during his signing day news conference. "Because these guys had been with us, stayed strong, they committed and stayed intelligent."

The commitments for this next class aren't the only key. By hosting those early junior days, Baylor and TCU get to be among the first to target and offer those in-state recruits who might not be on everyone else's radar just yet.

Neither program inked a top-30 recruiting class in ESPN's 2015 rankings Insider. Together, they signed almost four times as many three-stars as four-stars. This 2016 class can be a different story. The highly-touted kids who wouldn't take a call from Briles or Patterson a few years ago are taking trips to Waco and Fort Worth.

What matters, of course, is how you finish. TCU and Baylor will have to fend off foes for the next 12 months to ensure these pledges stick. The momentum of preseason top-10 hype should endure for these next six, making it easy to envision why both could be on the way to their highest-rated classes in a long time.
Big 12 programs have already turned their focus toward the Class of 2016, with several already holding junior days.

Here is a look at five Class of 2016 prospects to keep an eye on in the Big 12 region.


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Texas finished strong to sit atop the Big 12 recruiting rankings with the nation's No. 9 class. Six other conference schools joined UT among the Top 40 classes in the nation, including Texas Tech who finished with four ESPN 300 signees, more than back-to-back Big 12 champion Baylor.

Here's a closer look at the final team rankings and the headline signees for each class.

No. 9 Texas
ESPN 300 signees: 14
ESPN JC50 signees: 0
Headliner: Mesquite (Texas) Poteet linebacker Malik Jefferson is the face of the class as his decision to become a part of UT’s class helped spark a strong finish to Charlie Strong’s first full recruiting cycle on the 40 acres. The No. 31 player in the ESPN 300 is already on campus and could emerge as a contributor as a true freshman.
The story: The Longhorns ended strong by flipping ESPN 300 receiver Ryan Newsome and former Oregon commit P.J. Locke on signing day then landing ESPN 300 running back Chris Warren to round out a solid class. In addition, UT filled a major potential hole in the class by securing former Florida State commit Kai Locksley at quarterback.
What they said: “It’s so great to see the way we ended with this class.” — UT coach Charlie Strong

No. 17 Oklahoma
ESPN 300 signees: 8
ESPN JC50 signees: 2
Headliner: Pflugerville (Texas) Hendrickson cornerback P.J. Mbanasor is a elite prospect at a need position for the Sooners. The No. 74 player in the ESPN 300 brings size (6-foot-1, 183 pounds) and athleticism to OU’s secondary.
The story: OU signed six defensive backs in total with an eye on improving a pass defense that was among the worst in the nation in 2014. Five of the six defensive backs are four-star prospects.
What they said: “I believe it's probably the best secondary class I've been a part of signing.” — OU coach Bob Stoops

No. 32 Baylor
ESPN 300 signees: 3
ESPN JC50 signees: 1
Headliner: Stephenville (Texas) quarterback Jarrett Stidham appeared headed to Texas Tech before deciding he’d rather trigger Baylor’s offensive attack. The No. 37 player in the ESPN 300, Stidham is already on campus and preparing to battle to become the starter for Art Briles team.
The story: The Bears loaded up on skill position players with ESPN 300 members Stidham, receiver Devontre Stricklin and running back Ja'Mycal Hasty. The Bears also looked to address their secondary with five defensive back signees including four-star prospects J.W. Ketchum and Blake Lynch.
What they said: “We've reached the point now with our program, fortunately, where recruiting is all about filling the needs that we have, instead of just trying to get the best available.” — Baylor coach Art Briles

No. 34 Oklahoma State
ESPN 300 signees: 3
ESPN JC50 signees: 2
Headliner: Norman (Oklahoma) North quarterback John Kolar could end up being the perfect prospect to run the Cowboys offense during his time in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The No. 72 player in the ESPN 300 isn’t an instant impact player with Mason Rudolph's emergence as a true freshman but Kolar could end up being one of the Big 12’s top signees in the Class of 2015.
The story: The Cowboys had several positions to address, particularly offensive line and running back, and dipped into the junior college ranks to do answer those questions. Junior college running backs Chris Carson and Todd Mays join three junior college offensive linemen and UAB transfer offensive tackle Victor Salako to give the Pokes some immediate options.
What they said: “I’ve never been worried about that. I used to put a lot of stock in that, but we’ve had so many high-rated players with a good physical and mental makeup come in here, but just not be into it. Then, we get some guys who aren’t rated too high, but football is much more important to them.” — OSU coach Mike Gundy on this class being rated lower than previous classes.

No. 35 Texas Tech
ESPN 300 signees: 4
ESPN JC50 signees: 0
Headliner: Honolulu (Hawaii) Farrington defensive tackle Breiden Fehoko could end up being the top Big 12 signee in this class. The No. 51 player in the ESPN 300 was unwavering in his commitment to becoming a Red Raider. Now the work starts for Fehoko, who could emerge as a mainstay in the middle of Tech’s defense as early as this fall.
The story: Kliff Kingsbury’s program put in work on signing day, finishing as well as any team in the Big 12. Tech flipped former TCU commit J.F. Thomas, a four-star receiver, and ESPN 300 safety Jamile Johnson on Wednesday. Tech signed seven four-star prospects, a remarkable feat for a program that went 4-8 in 2014.
What they said: “A lot of these kids were committed before the season started. For them to stick with us through a rough year, it meant a lot to us as a staff.” —Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury.

No. 36 West Virginia
ESPN 300 signees: 2
ESPN JC50 signees: 1
Headliner: Kevin White and Mario Alford aren’t walking through that door. But Miramar (Florida) receiver Jovon Durante is. The No. 126 player in the ESPN 300 could be just what the doctor ordered for WVU, bringing exceptional explosiveness at a need position. Nearly every school wanted Durante but the Mountaineers got him.
The story: The Mountaineers have done a terrific job of going into Florida along with other spots east of the Mississippi and selling themselves as the Big 12’s east coast option. Signees from Florida, Maryland, Virginia, Ohio and New Jersey decided to play college football in the Big 12. And don’t forget about Kevin White’s little brother, junior college signee Ka'Raun White.
What they said: “We made the decision to kind of remove ourselves from Texas just a little bit. Once we were competing against all of the schools in Texas it made it a little bit harder to get that caliber of player that we needed in order to be able to compete in the Big 12.” — WVU coach Dana Holgorsen.

No. 37 TCU
ESPN 300 signees: 0
ESPN JC50 signees: 0
Headliner: Monroe (Louisiana) Neville receiver Kavontae Turpin joins Metairie (Louisiana) East Jefferson cornerback DeShawn Raymond as the lone four-stars on the Horned Frogs’ signee list. Turpin could be a solid fit in TCU’s offense as an ideal slot receiver and Raymond has a eye on continuing the Horned Frogs’ trend of stellar cornerbacks.
The story: TCU struck out in some areas but the overall class is stocked with talented athletes for whom Gary Patterson will find the ideal fit into his program. The Horned Frogs added five receivers to the program with Turpin heading the list and being joined by Jaelan Austin, Tre'Vontae Hights, Tony James and Jarrison Stewart.

No. 59 Kansas State
ESPN 300 signees: 0
ESPN JC50 signees: 0
Headliner: DeSoto (Texas) defensive tackle Bryce English picked the Wildcats on signing day and appears to be a terrific fit in Bill Snyder’s program. The three-star prospect boasted several quality offers including Texas and UCLA. He may not play right away but he could turn out to be a terrific anchor.
The story: Once again the Wildcats class gets largely overlooked on signing day but several players including quarterback Alex Dalton and running back Alex Barnes could become key cogs in KSU’s offense in the near future.
What they said: “As we all know by now, it will be two or three years before we can accurately assess the quality of this or any recruiting class. Hopefully we have assessed the skills and intrinsic values of this year’s class accurately, but time will tell.” — KSU coach Bill Snyder

No. 61 Kansas
ESPN 300 signees: 0
ESPN JC50 signees: 0
Headliner: Houston North Shore defensive end Dorance Armstrong is a three-star prospect who picked KU over Cal, Michigan State and others. He’s quick and plays with plenty of energy so Armstrong could make an immediate impact.
The story: The Jayhawks did a solid job in Texas during David Beaty’s initial class with 17 of 24 signees from the state of Texas. The Jayhawks staff is full of coaches with solid recruiting ties in Texas and leaned on those relationships to land guys like Armstrong and Sherman (Texas) guard Aaron Garza.
What they said: “He had to be good and he had to be a Kansas guy. He had to be a guy that fit what we were looking for. If he didn't, we had to be courageous enough to turn the page.” — KU coach David Beaty.

No. 66 Iowa State
ESPN 300 signees: 0
ESPN JC50 signees: 1
Headliner: Hazlehurst (Mississippi) Copiah-Lincoln Community College defensive tackle Demond Tucker could be the most important signee in the Big 12. The Cyclones desperately need help in the defensive interior and the No. 28 player in the ESPN JC 50 could provide a stellar building block for Paul Rhoads.
The story: Tucker was one of five defensive linemen who inked with ISU, addressing a position that handcuffed the Cyclones for the bulk of the 2014 season. A combination of junior college defensive linemen and prep defensive line standouts could help Rhoads program set itself up for 2015 and beyond.
What they said: “Defensive linemen are the hardest position to recruit in all of the country. That’s true for every school. We needed to enhance that group and we did that with this class.” — Rhoads

Completed Class: Baylor Bears

February, 4, 2015
Feb 4
12:50
PM ET
Baylor has announced its 2015 class:

ESPN 300
Jarrett Stidham QB-DT -- Stephenville High School TX
Devontre Stricklin WR -- Midway High School TX
Ja'Mycal Hasty RB -- Longview High School TX

Four-stars
Blake Lynch ATH -- Gilmer High School TX
J.W. Ketchum ATH -- Lamar High School TX

ESPN JC50
Maurice Porter OT -- Navarro College TX

Three-stars
Tony Nicholson ATH -- South Grand Prairie High School TX
Jameson Houston ATH -- Saint Michaels Academy TX
Jordan Tolbert CB -- Ridge Point High School TX
Drew Galitz K -- Rowlett High School TX
Clay Johnston OLB -- Wylie High School TX
Riley Daniel OG -- Ringling Public High School OK
Jordan Williams OLB -- Paris High School TX
Sam Tecklenburg DT -- Plano Senior High School TX
Henry Black CB -- Woodlawn High School LA
Dominic Desouza OT -- City College of San Francisco CA
Devonte Jones OG -- Bellaire High School TX
Eric Ogor OLB -- Foster High School TX
Lenoy Jones Jr. ILB -- Midway High School TX

Ungraded
Tyrone Hunt DE -- Arp High School TX

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