NCF On The Trail: Skyler Howard

Today will be the busiest of the year for fax machines. That’s because it’s national signing day, and recruits across the country will be faxing in their letters of intent.

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:

Baylor

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.

Iowa State

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.

Kansas

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.

Kansas State

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.

Oklahoma

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.

Oklahoma State

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.

TCU

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.

Texas

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.

Texas Tech

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.

West Virginia

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.

Midyear signings: West Virginia

December, 19, 2013
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According to WVUSports.com, the following players signed with West Virginia:

Keishawn Richardson CB Putnam City, Okla./Northeastern Oklahoma A&M
HT: 5-11 WT: 175
Positional Rank: No. 8 juco CB
Stars: 3

Edward Muldrow OLB Snellville, Ga./Copiah-Lincoln CC
HT: 6-3 WT: 215
Positional Rank: No. 7 juco OLB
Stars: 3

Skyler Howard QB-DT White Settlement, Texas/Riverside CC
HT: 6-0 WT: 205
Positional Rank: No. 3 juco QB-DT
Stars: 3

Sylvester Townes OT Memphis, Tenn./Coahoma CC
HT: 6-6 WT: 285
Positional Rank: No. 21 juco OT
Stars: 3

Big 12 recruiting storylines: Dec. 12 

December, 12, 2013
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With the high school playoffs coming to an end and junior college bowl games behind us, it’s time for many athletes to put recruiting back in the forefront. Several athletes are either in the middle of finishing up their official visit schedules, or they’re in the right mindset to make the big announcement that will shape their lives for the next few years.

Here are some attractive storylines in the Big 12:

Four-star DT still tight with Texas?

This weekend marks the big banquet weekend for Texas, an important event when many commits come to Austin and several targets look to take official visit. With Mack Brown expected to announce his resignation very soon, this weekend could also serve as a time to keep an eye out for Texas commits who choose to reopen their recruiting because of Brown’s departure.

Big 12 class rankings analysis 

December, 11, 2013
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Two Big 12 teams made positive moves in the latest ESPN class rankings. West Virginia cracked the top 40, coming in at No. 39, and Oklahoma State continued its ascension, climbing from No. 24 to No. 22.

Texas still holds the No. 8 spot, while Baylor remains at No. 16. Oklahoma fell one spot from No. 23 to No. 24, and Texas Tech remained in the top 40 at No. 36.

Here is a more in-depth look at the Big 12 class rankings:

Trending up: West Virginia and Iowa State both saw spikes in their 2014 recruiting, but the Mountaineers are the hottest of the two, particularly after picking up ESPN 300 athlete Dravon Henry (Aliquippa, Pa./Aliquippa), the top-ranked recruit in the state of Pennsylvania. West Virginia also landed junior college quarterback Skyler Howard (White Settlement, Texas/Riverside Community College), who threw for more than 3,100 yards and 33 touchdowns this season. Let’s also give credit to Iowa State, who scored five commitments in the first 10 days of the month, the latest being junior college defenders Jordan Harris (Wesson, Miss./Copiah-Lincoln Community College), an inside linebacker, and Gabe Luna (Garden City, Kan./Butler Community College), a defensive end.


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Weekend recruiting wrap: Big 12 

December, 2, 2013
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As we inch closer to signing day, more and more schools are filling up their 2014 recruiting classes, and more and more elite athletes are preparing to make big announcements. While college football week saw one of its greatest weeks in a long time, many commits and targets were trying to balance their time watching college games with playing in their own high school playoff contests.

Here are some of this past week’s highlights:

Biggest commitment: Oklahoma State picked up its 23rd commitment when three-star defensive end Trey Carter (Dallas/Pinkston) gave his verbal pledge. Carter became the third defensive end and fifth defensive lineman to commit to the Cowboys. At 6-foot-5 and 255 pounds, Carter said he chose Oklahoma State for the athletic and academic opportunities. “Coach [Mike] Gundy said it didn’t matter if I get hurt; he still was going to promise me an education. No matter what, I’d still get my education,” said Carter, who wants to major in law enforcement and become a district attorney. “I didn’t hear that from the other schools.”

Biggest offer: Junior college quarterback Skyler Howard (White Settlement, Texas/Riverside Community College) has been impressive in Southern California Football Association play, throwing for more than 3,100 yards, 33 touchdowns and six interceptions. Howard had offers from New Mexico State and Northern Colorado, but the 6-0, 205-pound quarterback recently earned his first BCS offer from West Virginia. Recruited to West Virginia by offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson, Howard has Big 12 interest and could be a great addition to the Mountaineers. Wherever he plays, he will have three years of eligibility, as he was an academic qualifier out of high school.

Best performance by a commit/target: In arguably the biggest game of the year for his high school team, Texas Tech commit Ian Sadler (Argyle, Texas/Argyle) put on a show Friday night. Sadler accounted for 220 rushing and receiving yards and five touchdowns in a 45-38 win against Gilmer, Texas, a team Argyle has played four consecutive years and earned victories in three out of four games. Sadler, recruited to play inside receiver for the Red Raiders, rushed for 182 yards and four touchdowns and also caught two passes for 38 yards and a fifth score.

Afterward, Sadler took to Twitter to show some love to his teammates.

Most important visit: Texas isn’t a fan of its commits taking official visits to other schools. Four-star defensive tackle Trey Lealaimatafao (San Antonio/Warren) is still solid to the Longhorns, but he made the trip to Tempe, Ariz., to check out the Arizona State campus. Ranked as the nation’s No. 27 defensive tackle, Lealaimatafao has visited Arizona State and UCLA, and he’s expected to take his official visit to Texas the weekend of Dec. 13. The 6-1, 301-pound defender committed to Texas on March 30.

Biggest answer: While TCU didn’t get the win against Baylor on Saturday, the Horned Frogs silenced the critics who thought Gary Patterson’s group hung up their cleats early. Baylor needed all 60 minutes to beat TCU, 41-38, and it was enough to impress the Horned Frogs’ commits -- particularly, TCU’s top-ranked recruit, four-star quarterback Foster Sawyer (Fort Worth, Texas/All Saints Episcopal).

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