NCF On The Trail: Chris Platt
With national signing day in the books, RecruitingNation is looking at the top position classes. For the full series, click here.
Nationally (and SEC)
While the Baylor Bears had an exceptional wide receiver class, the nod here goes to LSU. Not only did the Tigers sign the nation's No. 1 receiver in Malachi Dupre (River Ridge, La./John Curtis Christian), but also the No. 3 ranked receiver in Trey Quinn (Lake Charles, La./Barbe) and ESPN 300 No. 271 D.J. Chark (Alexandria, La./Alexandria Senior) and No. 283 Tony Upchurch (Pearland, Texas/Dawson). In Dupre, LSU snagged the No. 17 prospect overall on signing day. He has a tall, lengthy frame with a near ideal size-and-speed combination and elite high-point ball skills. Quinn will enter LSU as an advanced route-runner with separation skills and the ability to pluck the ball outside of the framework of his body. Chark brings initial quickness and the vertical speed to take the top off a defense, and Upchurch is a big body who continues to add bulk and could eventually transition to a flex type of position.
The Tigers had the nation’s best wide receiver class; here’s which schools had the best in each of the remaining power conferences:
As hectic of a day as it was, national signing day was a success for all Big 12 programs. Coaches were up early manning their fax machines and showing excitement with every national letter of intent submitted via fax.
Nearly 250 football players signed letters of intent to play Big 12 football on Wednesday. Here are five of the biggest storylines -- and a bonus storyline that could have an ending Thursday -- from the conference.
Oklahoma takes over top spot in Big 12
In the past 48 hours, everything seemed to go Oklahoma’s way.
All four players were a part of Oklahoma’s signing class of 26 on Wednesday -- helping the Sooners take over the top spot in the Big 12 class rankings. Oklahoma’s class is No. 13 nationally, three spots better than previous top dog Texas.
Oklahoma in previous years has been very good at finishing strong in recruiting. It managed to sign Frison, who committed to Utah last February before decommitting last month, as well as Brown, who had been committed to Tennessee since May before making an 11th-hour change.
Strong, Longhorns get their DTs
New Texas coach Charlie Strong wanted two players he recruited to play at Louisville, and by Wednesday afternoon, he had them.
ESPN 300 defensive tackle Poona Ford (Hilton Head, S.C./Hilton Head) and three-star defensive tackle Chris Nelson (Lakeland, Fla./Victory Christian Academy) signed with the Longhorns and were two of 23 to submit national letters of intent. They also helped erase the sting of the Longhorns losing three four-star defensive tackle commitments in LSU signee Trey Lealaimatafao (San Antonio/Warren), Oklahoma signee Courtney Garnett (New Orleans/St. Augustine) and Texas A&M signee Zaycoven Henderson (Longview, Texas/Longview) last month.
Collectively, Ford and Nelson recorded 235 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 35 quarterback pressures and four forced fumbles. The duo also had 37.5 tackles for loss.
Receivers ‘No. 1’ to Baylor coach
Baylor coach Art Briles made a bold statement about his new wide receivers -- one that might be challenged by some but co-signed by others.
“The thing that we feel really good about,” Briles said, “is that we've signed the No. 1 receiving class in America -- I don't think that's up for debate.”
Briles has an argument with four ESPN 300 receivers in K.D. Cannon (Mount Pleasant, Texas/Mount Pleasant), Davion Hall (Texarkana, Texas/Liberty-Eylau), Ishmael Zamora (Houston/Alief Elsik) and Chris Platt (Willis, Texas/Willis). The quartet helped to give Baylor a top-25 national recruiting class.
Rhoads fired up about lone in-state signee
To say Paul Rhoads is excited about his top-ranked signee, ESPN 300 wide receiver Allen Lazard (Urbandale, Iowa/Urbandale) is an understatement.
While Rhoads is pumped about the entire class, there’s something special about Lazard, as he is this year’s only in-state signee. Lazard, No. 148 in the ESPN 300, had opportunities to sign with other programs, but he chose to honor his original commitment and also follow the footsteps of his father Kevin Lazard, who played in the secondary for the Cyclones in the early 1990s.
“This is a young man who has gotten phenomenal national attention and was recruited by the traditional historical programs in college football and kept on turning them away to stay true to his word to be an Iowa State Cyclone,” Rhoads said in a statement of Lazard, the No. 2 prospect out of the state of Iowa behind Alabama offensive lineman signee Ross Pierschbacher (Cedar Falls, Iowa/Cedar Falls).
West Virginia adds depth in class
Adding depth was the objective for West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, as he signed 22 players on Wednesday. Holgorsen was fortunate to add depth from coast to coast.
Of the 22 commits, only one -- three-star offensive tackle Amanii Brown (Morgantown, W.Va./Morgantown) -- is an in-state signee. The Mountaineers hit points all over the Lower 48, from California to Texas to Florida, to get players who can be contributors early and help the program return to star status.
West Virginia’s class is led by five ESPN 300 players. Running back Donte Thomas-Williams (Durham, N.C./Hillside), the class’ top-ranked player, was the last to commit early Wednesday afternoon. He joins defensive back Dravon Henry (Aliquippa, Pa./Aliquippa), linebacker Davonte James (Springfield, Ohio/Springfield) and receivers Lamar Parker (Miami/Booker T. Washington) and Jake McCrary (Miami/Coral Reef) in the class.
Bonus: Could the Sooners add one more?
LSU signed 22 players on Wednesday. The Tigers were hoping to sign 23.
Deondre Clark (Oklahoma City/Douglass) has been verbally committed to LSU since July, but the ESPN 300 defensive end also has high interest in Oklahoma. There were conflicting reports on Wednesday regarding whether Clark actually signed and submitted his letter of intent to LSU.
ESPN’s David Ching said an LSU spokesperson confirmed the letter of intent was at LSU and cleared compliance. Outside reports, however, say Clark did not submit the letter of intent, and a tweet from Clark's Twitter account said that “nothing is final.” His mother Dorshell also told The Oklahoman that her son “has not signed with LSU.”
Oklahoma City schools were closed on Wednesday because of bad weather, so Clark didn’t fax anything by way of Douglass High School. He is expected to announce his final decision on Thursday.
If it's true that Clark has not signed with LSU, look for Oklahoma to be a key player in his final decision. Ranked No. 273 in the ESPN 300, Clark has built a great relationship with the Sooners' coaching staff, particularly defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery.
It’s always an exciting day for college football fans. And there’s plenty to be excited about in the Big 12.
Below is a breakdown of the most exciting element from each of the 10 Big 12 recruiting classes:
What to get excited about: The wide receivers
The players: K.D. Cannon (Mount Pleasant, Texas/Mount Pleasant), Davion Hall (Texarkana, Texas/Liberty-Eylau), Ishmael Zamora (Houston/Alief Elsik), Chris Platt (Willis, Texas/Willis)
The skinny: The Bears have one of the best WR classes in the country, with four players ranked in the ESPN 300. With Antwan Goodley also back in Waco, QB Bryce Petty should have a big, signing day smile on his face.
What to get excited about: A blue-chip wideout
The player: Allen Lazard (Urbandale, Iowa/Urbandale)
The skinny: Elite skill talent has come at premium in Ames the last few years. But that’s exactly what Iowa State is getting in Lazard, an ESPN 300 prospect who had offers from Notre Dame, Nebraska and Stanford. If Lazard comes ready to play, new offensive coordinator Mark Mangino will have a dynamic complement to pair with No. 1 wideout Quenton Bundrage.
What to get excited about: The replacements for RB James Sims
The players: Traevohn Wrench (Gardner, Kan./Gardner Edgerton), Corey Avery (Dallas/Carter)
The skinny: The Jayhawks graduated their only All-Big 12 performer this past season in Sims. But they prevailed in a pair of hard-fought recruiting battles to land four-star running backs Wrench and Avery. Wrench was the first commit in the class, and gave coach Charlie Weis a player to build the rest of the class around. Then this week, Weis beat out Nebraska, Ohio State and LSU, among others, to reel in Avery. The one-two combination of Wrench and Avery is reason to be optimistic about the future of the KU offense, even without Sims.
What to get excited about: Junior-college impact
The players: Terrell Clinkscales (Dodge City, Kansas), Andre Davis (Santa Rosa, Calif./Santa Rosa), D’Vonta Derricott (Garden City, Kan./Garden City), Danzel McDaniel (Dodge City, Kan.)
The skinny: The Wildcats have a returning core capable of contending for the Big 12 title. In this recruiting class, they’ll be adding four players in the ESPN Junior College 50 to aid that cause. K-State swiped Clinkscales from Nebraska, and he could team with Travis Britz to form a stout one-two punch at DT. Davis could be the perfect complement opposite wideout Tyler Lockett. Derricott (OLB) and McDaniel (CB) should help the defense.
What to get excited about: Backfield firepower
The player: Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif./Freedom)
The skinny: The Sooners closed as strong as any program in the country, and that included plucking the No. 53 overall recruit away from the West Coast powers. Mixon, together with last year’s No. 3 RB Keith Ford and budding dual-threat QB Trevor Knight, could be a devastating rushing force in the Big 12 for years to come.
What to get excited about: The linebackers
The players: Gyasi Akem (Broken Arrow, Okla./Broken Arrow), Josh Mabin (Spring, Texas/Klein Oak), Kirk Tucker (Tucker, Ga./Tucker), Devante Averette (Melvindale, Mich./Ellsworth Community College), Justin Phillips (Pearland, Texas/Pearland)
The skinny: The Cowboys graduated a pair of all-conference linebackers in Caleb Lavey and Shaun Lewis, who played big parts in Oklahoma State’s defensive turnaround. But impressive help is on the way. Akem is a ESPN 300 prospect, and Tucker, the other outside linebacker in the class, ended up at Oklahoma State after failing to gain admission to Stanford. Averette should provide instant impact on the inside, and Mabin is a four-star recruit.
What to get excited about: The offensive skill talent
The players: Foster Sawyer (Fort Worth, Texas/All Saints Episcopal), Grayson Muehlstein (Decatur, Texas/Decatur), Shaun Nixon (Austin, Texas/Lake Travis), Corey McBride (Geismar, La.,/Dutchtown), Emanuel Porter (Dallas/Lincoln)
The skinny: The top five players in TCU’s class are offensive skill players, providing help where the Horned Frogs really need it. Sawyer and Muehlstein could battle for the starting QB job right away. The opportunity for playing time is there for receivers McBridge and Porter, too. TCU also pulled off a coup Tuesday by flipping Nixon, a four-star RB, from Texas A&M.
What to get excited about: Possible QB of the future
The player: Jerrod Heard (Denton, Texas/Guyer)
The skinny: Charlie Strong’s quickest path to putting Texas back on top is finding a solution at QB that eluded Mack Brown the last four years. Heard, an ESPN 300 quarterback who won two state titles in high school, could very well emerge as the answer.
What to get excited about: A shutdown corner
The player: Nigel Bethel II (Miami, Fla./Booker T. Washington)
The skinny: The Red Raiders lose three starters from their secondary, but they have a player who can come in and help right away in Bethel. The ESPN 300 prospect is one of the better pure coverage corners in the country. To win in the Big 12, you have to defend the pass. And Bethel can defend the pass.
What to get excited about: The quarterbacks
The players: Skyler Howard (White Settlement, Texas/Riverside Community College), William Crest (Baltimore/Dunbar)
The skinny: Coach Dana Holgorsen struggled to replace Geno Smith last year, using three quarterbacks to limited success. But Holgorsen is bringing in a pair of talented players at the position who could be immediate factors. Howard was the No. 3 dual-threat juco QB in the country and is already enrolled for spring ball. Crest is the No. 11 high school dual-threat QB nationally.
Senior national recruiting writer Jeremy Crabtree and Big 12 recruiting reporter Damon Sayles took time from their extremely busy schedules this week to address a few questions:
Oklahoma is closing strong here. With a few blue-chip players still in play, could the Sooners end up with the top class in the Big 12
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A group of commits are beyond elated about the future of the program. Baylor has 27 commits in its 2014 class -- four of whom have already signed as mid-year, junior-college transfers -- and three are in its 2015 class. The Bears have four ESPN 300 players, one ESPN Junior College 50 player and one ESPN Junior 300 player.
Ask the commits, and the classes get high marks. And, to many, rightfully so. “A-plus,” said ESPN 300 athlete Davion Hall (Texarkana, Texas/Liberty-Eylau). “We have people that play different positions and not just same ones.”
“Scale of 1-10, I’ll give it a 10,” added ESPN 300 wide receiver K.D. Cannon (Mount Pleasant, Texas/Mount Pleasant). “Baylor has done a good job in getting players who want to win and play every game like it’s his last. We don’t have a lot of five-star people, but we all are willing to show the world that stars don’t mean anything.”
When Baylor held its first junior day of 2013, it was fortunate to land verbals from three standouts in Hall, running back Terence Williams (Ennis, Texas/Ennis) and wide receiver Chris Platt (Willis, Texas/Willis). Since then, Baylor’s class has grown to become a top-20 class nationally. The Bears are ranked No. 16 in the latest RecruitingNation class rankings, second only to No. 13 Texas in the Big 12 conference rankings.
ESPN 300 wide receiver Ishmael Zamora (Houston/Alief Elsik) graded the class a “95,” a quality mark considering he’s very critical of giving it or any other group a perfect score. Zamora is a fan of this class, and he’s excited about his future teammates. Statistically, Baylor has 14 defensive commits, 11 offensive commits and two who could see time on both sides of the ball.
“We got basically all position [players] who were top talent and can flat-out ball,” Zamora said.
The missing link of the class, according to Zamora? A lack of a quarterback commit. Every wide receiver commit wants his own quarterback in the class, but the Bears won’t be hurting for a signal-caller in the immediate future. Bryce Petty said he will return to Baylor for his senior season. Seth Russell just finished his redshirt freshman campaign, Andrew Frerking will be a junior, and Cole Edmiston and Chris Johnson -- an ESPN 300 player from the 2013 class -- will be sophomores.
And then there’s the 2015 class. Baylor received commits from ESPN Junior 300 athlete Chad President (Temple, Texas/Temple) and three-star athlete Blake Lynch (Troup, Texas/Troup) -- two players who can line up at both quarterback and wide receiver.
For both President and Lynch, who still have a year of high school ball remaining, the goals of following in the footsteps of this Baylor squad are sky high -- and attainable.
“Another Big 12 championship,” President said, referring to upcoming college goals. “Hopefully, we can play in the national championship game. We have an A-plus, five-star recruiting class.”
Lynch added: “I think we have one of the best 2014 recruiting classes in the nation. Our versatility and diversity is what makes our 2014 class special.”
“Three-star safety Chance Waz (Pflugerville, Texas/Hendrickson), the latest high school player to commit to the Bears, switched his pledge to Baylor from Nebraska. He wanted the opportunity to play close to home, and he's excited about the talent he’ll be surrounded by. Waz said the 2014 Baylor class could be compared to Ole Miss' 2013 class, a group that saw several freshmen thrust into starting positions and become major contributors in the super-competitive SEC.
I think we have one of the best 2014 recruiting classes in the nation. Our versatility and diversity is what makes our 2014 class special.
-- Baylor commit Blake Lynch
“A lot of Ole Miss players saw PT [playing time]. I follow at least five [of them] on Twitter,” Waz said. “I think a lot of us can get playing time; we just have to see what we do in camp.”
When asked about the comparison and the shot at immediate playing time, Hall said, “It all depends on us and work ethic, but I don’t think that will be a problem.”
Expect all of the commits to be paying full attention to Baylor as it faces Central Florida on Jan. 1 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. And they'll continue monitoring who commits between now and Feb. 6, the first day to sign a national letter of intent. And they're watching the 2015 class as well.
Cannon said there are tons of talented players he’d love to call a teammate. And there’s one in particular, however, who has caught his eye.
“I hope we get that No. 1 corner,” Cannon said, referring to ESPN Junior 300 Kendall Sheffield (Missouri City, Texas/Fort Bend Marshall), the nation’s No. 13 overall player and the top-ranked player in Texas for the 2015 class. Sheffield has a Baylor offer but also has offers from Alabama, Texas A&M, LSU, Texas, Ohio State, Oklahoma and a host of other recruiting heavyweights.
Time will tell, but it looks like Baylor has set a new bar. And it doesn’t plan on looking back.
It also happened to provide an early holiday present for Baylor.
Oklahoma delivered a knockout blow to Oklahoma State's Big 12 championship hopes by taking a 33-24, come-from-behind win Saturday in Stillwater, Okla. With that, the Sooners also gift-wrapped the conference title to the winner of the Baylor-Texas game -- and the Bears took full advantage.
In its final game at Floyd Casey Stadium, Baylor dropped Texas, 30-10, to not only win the Big 12 title but also earn its first-ever, 11-win season and claim a berth in the Fiesta Bowl.
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There is still plenty of work for every Big 12 program to do before the completion of the 2014 recruiting cycle. But one can begin to at least paint an outline for how each class is going to look come February.
Here is a look at which Big 12 teams have the best 2014 recruiting class at each position.
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