NCF On The Trail: Oklahoma Sooners

Big 12 recruiting scorecard

February, 23, 2015
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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.
video Robert Griffin played a major role in transforming Baylor into a Big 12 champion. Yet he’s not the only Big 12 player who earned a spot on the Ultimate ESPN 300 after making a important impact on their program of choice.

Here’s a look at a few members of the Ultimate 300 who had a significant impact on their respective programs.

No. 57 Robert Griffin III, quarterback, Baylor

When it comes to impact -- on and off the field -- and actually changing the future of a program, Griffin is second to none. He became the unquestioned face of Baylor’s program while elevating it to new heights and opening doors that might have remained closed without his arrival.

A Heisman Trophy winner, All-American and BU record-breaker, Griffin did it all during his four seasons at Baylor. Griffin began to put his stamp on the program as a freshman All-American in 2008 before leading BU to back-to-back bowl appearances in 2010 and 2011. Griffin ended his career with 10,366 passing yards and 2,254 rushing yards while accounting for 111 touchdowns. He is a transcendent figure that still impacts Baylor today.

No. 72 Dez Bryant, receiver, Oklahoma State

The Dallas Cowboys star and Pro Bowl receiver played a major role in OSU’s rise to the top of the Big 12 standings. The Cowboys' 2011 Big 12 title might not have been possible without Bryant, who thrust OSU onto the national landscape with his breathtaking talent and exceptional playmaking.

Bryant helped leave no doubt that the Cowboys program was on the rise, and everyone -- including recruits -- took notice. His sophomore season was program changing campaign as OSU rose as high as No. 7 nationally in 2008 with Bryant leading the way. He earned All-American honors and became a Biletnikoff Award Finalist with 87 receptions for 1,480 yards and 19 touchdowns.

No. 240 Earl Thomas, safety, Texas

Thomas’ impact on his program doesn’t reach the heights of Bryant or Griffin, but his time on the 40 Acres is what every recent Longhorns signee should be striving for. Thomas was an All-American and a legit difference-maker for the Longhorns before becoming a star for the Seattle Seahawks.

Thomas started all 27 games during his two seasons as UT went 25-2 in 2008 and 2009. The Orange, Texas, native finished his career with 149 tackles, including eight tackles for loss, 33 pass breakups and 10 interceptions. Thomas' time at UT is a standard other signees should be judged on.

No. 256 Tony Jefferson, safety, Oklahoma

While his impact on the program wasn’t earth-shattering, Jefferson joined Kenny Stills and Brennan Clay as the “Cali Trio” at Oklahoma, helping to spark the Sooners' recruiting efforts in California. The Class of 2010 signee helped the Sooners create a bigger presence in the Golden State, with OU signing several other highly-rated Californians, including Michiah Quick and Hatari Byrd, in recent seasons.

On the field, Jefferson was a immediate-impact player who bolted Norman, Oklahoma, a year too soon. He started 34 of 40 games at OU finishing with 258 tackles -- including 180 solo stops and 18 tackles for loss -- eight interceptions and seven sacks from 2010-12.
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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Many believe ESPN Junior 300 defensive Nick Bosa will be an even better college football player than his brother. That’s saying a lot because his brother is Joey Bosa, star defensive lineman for national champion Ohio State and one of the top projected picks for the 2016 NFL draft.


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video
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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Louisville signed the 30th-best 2015 class and is already off to a great start in 2016. The Cardinals have a good group of receivers on board and look to be in great shape with ESPN Junior 300 quarterback Jawon Pass.


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Roundtable: Junior college impact

February, 12, 2015
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The past several days, we've focused on the incoming freshmen in the Big 12. In today's Big 12 roundtable, we're focusing on the junior college transfers:

Which junior-college transfer will make the biggest impact in 2015?

Chatmon: The door is wide open for receiver DeDe Westbrook to make a major impact for Oklahoma. The Sooners need playmaking receivers, and Westbrook fits the mold. He could be a terrific running mate with Sterling Shepard in Lincoln Riley’s version of the "Air Raid" offense, with the ability to line up in the slot or outside. Westbrook is the No. 14 player the ESPN JC50 as a four-star recruit from Blinn (Texas) Junior College.

Olson: Oklahoma State pulled off one of the better surprise coups of the final week of recruiting by flipping Chris Carson from Georgia. When you look at OSU's running back situation, it's clear he's going to get a lot of work in 2015. He's a complete back and a workhorse capable of answering a big question mark about the Cowboys' offense.

Trotter: I'm a huge fan of both Westbrook and Carson, and I think they are probably the two early favorites to contend for Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year honors. But on the other side of the ball, incoming Texas defensive end Quincy Vasser could also have a huge impact. The Longhorns are searching for a replacement for Cedric Reed, and Vasser, an ESPN JC50 signee, has the skill set to step in and be a starter from Day 1. It won't hurt him, either, that Texas will have a new defensive line coach, meaning Vasser should open spring ball on equal footing with the returners.

Which junior college transfer is flying too far under the radar?

Chatmon: It worked the first time, right? Receiver Ka'Raun White was somehow overlooked during the recruiting process despite his brother Kevin White becoming a Biletnikoff finalist for the Mountaineers last fall. From his hair free flowing out of the back of his helmet to his ability to run away from defenders, Ka'Raun will spark memories of his older brother. West Virginia needs immediate help at the receiver position, so Dana Holgorsen’s program will be hoping it goes two-for-two with receiver recruits from the White family.

Olson: I've been keeping an eye on Ke'aun Kinner since 2012, when he was perhaps the most productive back in the DFW Metroplex out of Little Elm, Texas. He rushed for more than 2,900 yards and 28 touchdowns as a senior but never had the grades to go FBS. At Navarro College, he earned All-America honors in 2014 with more than 1,800 yards of offense and 22 TDs. He packs a lot of electricity into his 5-foot-9 frame, and I bet he'll be productive right away at Kansas.

Trotter: Carson could very well make a huge splash for Oklahoma State, but I'm also intrigued by the other running back they signed, Todd Mays. The East Mississippi Community College product can do it all, including play quarterback, running back, and receiver. He doesn't possess Tyreek Hill's world-class speed. But he can fill the role that Hill did this past season in the Oklahoma State offense as a running back/slot receiver combo player. He could also help the Cowboys on returns, and, who knows, maybe be a threat to pass off trick plays, too.

What team will see the biggest overall impact from its junior college class?

Chatmon: The Mountaineers didn’t need major junior college help, but they got it anyway with White, ESPN JC50 cornerback Rasul Douglas and two other junior college signees (Xavier Pegues, Larry Jefferson) who can help immediately. Douglas will add to secondary that already could be the Big 12’s best unit and Pegues, and Jefferson could kick start the pass rush in 2015.

Olson: I'm definitely a fan of the junior college haul that Oklahoma State put together. Carson is going to get most of the headlines, but defensive tackle Motekiai Maile has the potential to be a monster up the middle. Antwan Hadley is a big 6-foot-4 cornerback, and I'm excited to see what Mike Gundy's staff does with Mays. He's a true athlete -- quarterback/running back/receiver -- and potentially a pretty fun weapon.

Trotter: Overall, the answer to this might be Kansas or Iowa State. Underscoring several immediate needs, the two signed a combined 14 junior college transfers. The Cyclones are banking that ESPN JC50 defensive tackle Demond Tucker can instantly boost what was the nation's worst statistical defense last season. With the fewest returning starters in the league, the Jayhawks will also need multiple contributions out of its massive junior college class.

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."
Kyler Murray. Jarrett Stidham. John Kolar.

The Big 12 region was full of elite quarterbacking talent in the Class of 2015.

Yet, Oklahoma and Texas Tech found themselves on the outside looking in.

The Red Raiders and Sooners combined to sign zero quarterbacks in the Class of 2015 making their efforts to land a signal caller in the Class of 2016 rise to the top of the priority queue.

[+] EnlargeKliff Kingsbury
AP Photo/Orlin WagnerTexas Tech did not sign a QB in the Class of 2016, but coach Kliff Kingsbury isn't worried. "We'll wait till 2016 and try to find a bigtime guy then."
Neither program was pressing the panic button on signing day with both coaching staffs confident the quarterbacks on campus can get the job done this fall. OU has Trevor Knight, Baker Mayfield and Cody Thomas while Tech boasts Patrick Mahomes and Davis Webb giving the two programs five different quarterbacks who have started and won Big 12 games early in their collegiate careers.

OU and Tech made the right move by letting signing day come and go without inking a quarterback, there's no reason to sign a quarterback just to sign a quarterback. Quality is critical.

"That's a position I take a lot of pride in recruiting and I wanted to make sure we got it right," said Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury on signing day. "We'll wait till 2016 and try to find a bigtime guy then."

This looked like it wouldn't be an issue for Tech for the bulk of the recruiting cycle with Stidham, the No. 37 player in the ESPN 300, sitting on the Red Raider commit list for the majority of the process. But when Stidham decided to call McLane Stadium his future home and head to Baylor instead, Kingsbury saw no reason to panic.

"You'd like to take one every year, but when it gets that close to signing day, you don't want to screw that deal up," he said. " We decided to ante up for '16 and recruit a great one in that class."

Tech has hit the ground running in the Class of 2016 with a commitment from DeSoto (Texas) quarterback Tristen Wallace coupled with an offer to Arlington (Texas) Lamar quarterback Shane Buechele, a member of the ESPN JR 300. With Webb and Mahomes manning the quarterback spot, the opportunity to come into the Red Raider program with the "quarterback of the future" moniker appears wide open by the time February 2016 rolls around and should combine with Tech's pass happy attack to intrigue any prep quarterback.

OU took a similar stance after flirting with Murray, who eventually signed with Texas A&M, during the final months leading up to signing day. Mayfield is a welcome addition to the quarterback competition -- after transferring from Tech and sitting out the 2014 season -- and 2014 ESPN 300 member Justice Hansen joins Mayfield, Knight and Thomas to give new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley plenty of options behind center.

"There comes a fine line," OU assistant head coach and inside receivers coach Cale Gundy said. "We're just not going to bring a guy in just to bring a guy in."

Instead, the Sooners will use the obvious black hole in this recruiting class as a lighthouse to try to lure the elite passers in the Class of 2016 to Norman, Oklahoma.

"It will be extremely appealing to the top quarterbacks in the country next year that the University of Oklahoma is going to throw the ball quite a bit and did not sign a quarterback," Gundy said. "That will grab a lot of people's attention."

One week after the Class of 2015 was signed, sealed and delivered, the Sooners already have offered three ESPN JR 300 quarterbacks with Potomac (Maryland) Bullis quarterback Dwayne Haskins and Shreveport (Louisiana) Calvary Baptist Academy quarterback Shea Patterson joining Buechele on OU's offer list. Riley's passing game rewrote the record book at East Carolina, with OU's new offensive coordinator directing the units that sit No. 1 through 5 in the Pirates single-season passing record list, so convincing a quarterback to pick the Sooners could be much easier during the upcoming recruiting cycle than it was while OU's passing game suffered a downward slide during the past two seasons.

"With what Coach Riley has done, I think he's going to have the opportunity to bring in a top-notch quarterback," Gundy said.
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.
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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There is no denying the impact of Jerry Montgomery on the University of Oklahoma.

The Sooners recently promoted co-defensive coordinator has hit the ground running ever since he was hired to coach the defensive line in February 2013. Montgomery has helped OU have more success in their nationwide battles for top prospects while also developing the young talent on campus, like Jordan Phillips and Charles Tapper, into productive players.

“He’s a guy who has really contributed a lot during the last several years,” coach Bob Stoops said while announcing Montgomery’s promotion. “He’s an excellent leader, great recruiter, a guy I feel is a rising star in this profession.”

Montgomery’s fingerprints have been all over the Sooners past two recruiting classes as his relentlessness has made him an asset on the recruiting trail. And his social media presence is growing by the day, with his tendency to take Sooners fans along for the ride as he chases the nation’s elite prospects.


The pay off?

Montgomery has played a role in securing the signatures of multiple ESPN 300 signees in the Class of 2015 including a pair of defensive tackles in Jenks (Oklahoma) defensive tackle Marquise Overton and St. Catherines (Canada) Canada Prep Football Academy defensive tackle Neville Gallimore.

It’s been a stark contrast with Montgomery in the mix as the Sooners defensive line recruiting has branched out with OU going head to head for recruits in SEC country and along the East Coast like Mechanicsville (Virginia) Atlee linebacker Ricky DeBerry and Yazoo City (Mississippi) defensive end Gabriel Campbell.

In two seasons in Norman, Oklahoma, Montgomery has signed players from Louisiana, Canada, Mississippi, Virginia and Alabama.

In OU's previous four classes, junior college receiver LaColton Bester from Mississippi, a late addition to the 2012 class, joined six Florida natives including running back Roy Finch, linebacker Eric Striker and safety Ahmad Thomas as the Sooners only successful forays into SEC territory.

Here’s a class-by-class look at OU's last four recruiting classes to give a glimpse of how the Sooners defensive line recruiting has expanded since Montgomery’s arrival (high school signees only).

Class of 2015 (Montgomery's second year)
  • Mechanicsville (Virginia) Atlee linebacker Ricky DeBerry, ESPN 300 member
  • Yazoo City (Mississippi) defensive end Gabriel Campbell
  • Burleson (Texas) defensive end Kenneth Mann
  • Jenks (Oklahoma) defensive tackle Marquise Overton, ESPN 300 member
  • St. Catherines (Canada) Canada Prep Football Academy defensive tackle Neville Gallimore, ESPN 300 member
Class of 2014 (Montgomery's first year)
  • Birmingham (Alabama) Homewood defensive end Dwayne Orso Jr.
  • New Orleans (Louisiana) St. Augustine defensive tackle Courtney Garnett
Class of 2013 (Pre-Montgomery)
  • Moore (Oklahoma) Southmoore defensive end D.J. Ward, ESPN 300 member
  • Katy (Texas) defensive end Matt Dimon, ESPN 300 member
  • Houston Alief Taylor defensive end Ogbonnia Okoronkwo
  • Garland (Texas) defensive tackle Charles Walker
  • Port Arthur (Texas) defensive tackle Matt Romar
Class of 2012 (Pre-Montgomery)
  • Baltimore (Maryland) defensive end Charles Tapper
  • Edmond (Oklahoma Santa Fe) defensive end Michael Onuoha
  • Round Rock (Texas) Stony Point defensive tackle Jordan Wade

What we learned: Big 12 signing day

February, 5, 2015
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National signing day has come and gone and is never devoid of drama. Seven Big 12 programs ended up with top-40 signing classes and most picked up a new signee (or three) on the final day of recruiting for the Class of 2015. Here’s a roundup of what we learned from signing day:

1. Charlie Strong’s first full Texas class gets top-10 finish

The word “foundational” will get thrown around a lot when talking about the Longhorns’ No. 9-ranked signing class, and with good reason. A nice big chunk of the 28 who inked with UT on Wednesday will be given a shot at playing time right away, including most of Texas’ 14 ESPN 300 signees.

Strong earned three nice victories on signing day: winning a coin flip (literally) for running back Chris Warren III, flipping speedy receiver/returner Ryan Newsome from UCLA and persuading three-star safety P.J. Locke to bail on Oregon. Texas went 0-for-3 on the coveted trio of Daylon Mack, Soso Jamabo and DaMarkus Lodge but still put together one of the more impressive defensive classes in the country.

It’s going to take another class like this before Texas’ cupboards are stockpiled again, but Strong confirmed with this class he won’t be afraid to take out-of-state talent (nine signees in 2015) if need be. His approach at Texas will continue to evolve, but the initial results look promising.

2. TCU misses on Mack, but could still pull surprise

Gary Patterson and his staff invested a lot of time and sweat into the recruitment of Mack, ESPN’s No. 6 overall recruit, and did an impressive job along the way. There was a phase of his process this winter during which the Frogs truly did hold a lead.

Patterson likely knew going into Wednesday that Mack was signing with Texas A&M, but it had to be a little disheartening to hear Mack declare he’d actually been silently committed to the Aggies since his Jan. 16 official visit. Kids like to maintain the charade and attention. Coaches don’t like wasting time.

The Frogs ended the day with ESPN’s No. 37 ranked class but might have one more chance to sweeten their haul. ESPN 300 Louisiana receiver Terrell Chatman delayed his signing until Thursday and, despite being a Miami commit, is mulling a flip to TCU or Arizona State.

3. Volatile day, valuable wins for West Virginia

Dana Holgorsen bragged on Wednesday that for the first time in a long time at West Virginia, he had the luxury of being selective with this 2015 class. He and his staff went hard after some big names, and a few pursuits paid off.

The most glaring need? Wide receiver. West Virginia inked an elite one in longtime ESPN 300 commit Jovon Durante and secured two more intriguing options on Wednesday: three-star Gary Jennings and juco transfer Ka’Raun White, younger brother of the great Kevin White.

But the Mountaineers missed on some key wideout targets: Shaquery Wilson flipped back to Georgia, Kahlil Lewis backed out and signed with Cincinnati and ESPN 300 standout Antonio Callaway chose Florida along with four-star back Jordan Cronkrite. WVU had as much to gain as any Big 12 program on Wednesday but had to settle for solid and a 36th-ranked class.

4. Sooners wrap up killer D with flip

Texas’ defensive class gets serious hype, but take a closer look at what the Sooners signed. Bob Stoops is right to call this his best secondary class yet: P.J. Mbanasor, Will Sunderland Jr., William Johnson, Kahlil Haughton and Antoine Stephens is a crazy collection of DB talent. That group added one more safety in four-star Prentice McKinney Jr., who’d previously committed to Notre Dame and North Carolina.

Oklahoma’s fears at linebacker were relieved -- Ricky DeBerry and Arthur McGinnis are both exciting takes -- and there are some nice pieces up front led by Canada’s finest, defensive tackle Neville Gallimore.

The infusion of depth and competition this class offers should help reshape an Oklahoma D that underperformed in 2014. Give props to newly elevated co-DC Jerry Montgomery, too. He’s a rising star in the recruiting world.

5. Red Raiders get double steal

Who doesn’t love a good package deal? Over the weekend, Texas Tech coaches sneaked Texas commit Jamile Johnson Jr. and TCU pledge J.F. Thomas in for an official visit. Soon after, Johnson made the third decommitment of his recruiting process and backed out on the Longhorns. His next move seemed obvious.

Thomas leaped with him. Both signed with TTU, in large part because their high school coach, Dallas South Oak Cliff’s Emmett Jones, has joined the Tech staff as director of player development. Thomas, a four-star wideout, is a great get after the Red Raiders missed on Carlos Strickland.

But it’s not that simple, of course. It seems TCU folks are skeptical Thomas will qualify, as evidenced by Patterson telling reporters that not only was he not surprised by the flip, he didn’t even ask the longtime pledge to take an official visit to TCU.

Got to love a good intraconference recruiting battle, right? This year’s signing day might not have been fireworks-filled, but it didn’t disappoint.
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

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