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Big 12 Recruiting Overview: 2019

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The bye week affords a good opportunity to take stock of where the conference is with talent acquisition. The short story is pretty much the same place where it has been: Texas and Oklahoma are clearly out front while other schools are doing the best they can to find hidden gems, scheme fits, and players who improve their baseline talent even if they require more time to develop. That’s the right approach, especially for programs rebuilding or outside of the conferences main recruiting footprint of Texas.

We know the conference isn’t putting as many players in the NFL as most of its P5 counterparts. For much of the decade Texas hasn’t pulled its weight in that regard but that is rapidly on the mend thanks to great recruiting and development.

Many other programs do well with their development and deployment, they just struggle to find the raw materials with NFL upside. The conference floor is decided by its coaching but its ceiling is determined by talent. Given the constraints of demographics and where many of the teams sit within recruiting hierarchy, I do like what they’re doing on the recruiting trail.

Rankings are from 247 Sports.

1. TEXAS – 92.79 average rating
Commits: 20 (1 five-star, 15 four-stars, 4 three-stars)

Footprint: After recruiting aggressively out-of-state in 2019, the staff focused more in-state while still supplementing with players from beyond the borders on a need by need basis. Texas has one player each from Arizona, Utah, and Florida.

Overview: Tom Herman is going to stack his third class in a row that rates well above 90. Once this class hits campus, the roster will have no remaining talent questions. Now it becomes about development and replenishing what you lose. Going forward they’ll be highly selective as they only have about three spots remaining in the class. An ideal finish would include Alfred Collins (DE Bastrop Cedar Creek), Kelee Ringo (CB Saguaro, Scottsdale, AZ), and perhaps another wide receiver or linebacker. The staff may get to a point where they’re just going best player available rather than by positional needs. A guy like Ringo, if they can get him, is an obvious numbers buster if he wanted in late.

Headliners: When you have a class average as high as Texas does you have plenty of names to choose from, but the biggest needs are Vernon Broughton (DE Cy Ridge), Bijan Robinson (RB Salpointe Catholic, Tucson, AZ), and Kitan Crawford (CB Tyler John Tyler). There are many more players to choose from but Broughtons and Robinsons don’t grow on trees and are different from the guys currently on campus. Crawford is an underrated but physically mature athlete who could be a lead corner or nickel.

2. OKLAHOMA – 91.13
Commits: 18 (1 five-star, 10 four-stars, 7 three-stars)

Footprint: Oklahoma puts together good class after good class by employing a pragmatic by any means necessary approach. The Sooners traditionally lean heavy on Texas talent, but they’re also comfortable in the Midwest, California, and Florida. They recruit Jucos to supplement needs, and of course are on their third big name graduate transfer quarterback in a row. If you can help the Sooner roster they’re going to pursue you. States currently represented in the class are Oklahoma, Texas, Maryland, Iowa, Louisiana, Arizona, Missouri, and even the District of Columbia.

Jase McClellan. (Justin Wells/IT)

Overview: The privilege of Oklahoma is having an offensive scheme designed to even the playing field for the Texas Techs of the world but deployed with top-notch talent. This allows for a fantastic ground game to complement the easier to find passing attack. OU has needed these advantages to compensate for less-than-stellar defense. The big need remaining in this class is outfitting new defensive coordinator Alex Grinch with the pieces he needs to return OU’s defense to prominence but so far that’s a bit lacking to my eyes. They desperately need difference makers on defense. They do have some nice pieces, particularly in the secondary.

Headliners: Aledo five-star running back Jase McCellan has been committed for over two years but there’s still a bit of intrigue remaining in his recruitment as he may still take visits. Jalin Conyers is another Texan (Gruver) who is a fantastic fit as their flex TE they feature year after year. He may be the most athletic version of that player they will have signed which is a scary thought. Another fantastic fit, Michael Henderson, will complement the offense as the H-back/fullback they employ creatively.

3. IOWA STATE – 85.24
Commits: 21 (1 four-star, 20 three-stars)

Footprint: States represented include Iowa, Texas, Illinois, Ohio, Minnesota, Arizona, Kansas, Missouri, and a surprisingly heavy dose from Florida.

Overview: I’m not going to claim to be fully versed with each player, but Campbell seems to be stereotyping a bit with bigs from the Midwest and skill from the warmer climates. The four commitments from Florida are comprised of two receivers, a corner, and an undersized linebacker. It seems he has a pretty good grasp of what conference he’s playing in. He also takes advantage of the heavy Texas presence in conference with four current commits.

Headliners: Campbell’s already selling Brock Purdy’s success with four-star quarterback Hunter Dekkers (Hawarden, IA) and well regarded Aidan Bouman (Buffalo, MN). Dekkers is a burly, dual-threat lefty who throws with nice touch. Campbell’s going to have a strong bullpen because Bouman is a lefty too. He’s a bigger pocket passer who throws with plenty of zip. Maybe some Brock Huard there? Iowa State is straight up kidnapping Daniel Jackson from Texas power Cibolo Steele. He can play for any school in the conference. He gets into his route with urgency and shows good stop-start. Campbell may have an issue on his hands as Ohio State just offered running back commit Miyan Williams from Cincinnati.

4. KANSAS – 84.24
Commits: 26 (1 four-star, 25 three-stars)

Footprint: Miles is recruiting like a head coach whose last two stops were in Louisiana and Oklahoma. He’s hitting Da Boot hard, as well as the deeper south while also targeting the Midwest.

Overview: Kansas needs a huge re-stocking of talent and that’s what Miles is doing with 26 players already committed. It’s a long rebuild but he’s finding guys who either have the requisite twitch or size, and in a couple of cases, both. The baseline athleticism of the Kansas roster is about to get a big jolt but a number of these players will take longer than normal to develop. Similar to Matt Rhule at Baylor you have to play the long game but so far I like what I see, especially on defense. I do wonder if Les Miles is getting a little antsy and taking too many players. It would likely be more wise to remain patient and spread these scholarships out over a few classes.

Headliners: Dallas Bishop Dunne’s Brennon Scott is the most well known name to Texas fans. He has a high floor and will likely be a Mike for the Jayhawks. I like two other linebackers in Taiwan Berryhill (NOLA) and Krishawn Brown (Tulsa). My favorite player in the class is JaCobee Bryant from Alabama. He’s slight of build but light on his feet and not afraid to throw his body around. Another corner, Tanner Hooker (Shreveport, LA) also stood out. There are quite a few more interesting athletes including defensive end Chris Jones (Pompano Beach, FL). O-lineman Jackson Stoefen (Eldridge, IA) could grow into a good one. Currently there’s no quarterback in the large class. Kansas should be an attractive destination for grad transfers looking for playing time.

5. TEXAS TECH – 85.47
Commits: 16 (1 four-star, 15 three-stars)

Footprint: Every commitment in the class, save Philip Blidi from New Mexico, is from Texas.

Overview: I’m not entirely sure what the class needs are but I like what’s currently committed. It’s a nice mix of bigs and skill, of size and speed. In the Big 12 you need plenty of DB’s and they have four of those, with three being safeties.

Headliners: Texas fans know Blidi and running back Tahj Brooks (Manor). Brooks is a chain-moving, between the tackles back. He combines good quickness with a solid build. Give him an okay line and he’ll be productive. Ja’Lynn Polk (Lufkin) is an enthusiastic and competitive kid who has a knack for getting open. Both Myles Price (The Colony) and Quin Bright (Cedar Hill) are explosive athletes who will likely end up at slot. JJ Sparkman (Pine Tree) is big play outside receiver who is more athletic than he tests. But my favorite is LB Moore from Amarillo Tascosa. I like his motor, movement, and closing speed and view him as a steal.

Tahj Brooks (Joe Cook/IT)

Commits: 14 (1 four-star, 13 three-stars)

Footprint: They’re going to take the best players they can get from Oklahoma that OU doesn’t want and then fight for Texas talent with TCU and other secondary predatory animals. They aren’t apex predators but they don’t go hungry either. If there’s one position Gundy should be able to look nationally for it’s quarterback and he’s done that by going to California.

Overview: This class average is right on schedule for Gundy. This is traditionally where he hangs. What he’s great at, and I do mean great, is finding the right fits for his scheme and landing a difference maker or two to really make it go. The triumvirate of Spencer Sanders, Chuba Hubbard, and Tylan Wallace underline that point but what really hammers it home is we’ve come to expect it.

Headliners: Shane Illingworth is that quarterback from California (Norco) and he strays from the Sanders dual-threat and finds himself in the Mason Rudolph mold. He’s pretty highly rated as a 91.85. As luck would have it I’ve seen him throw. Initially I had no clue who he was but I knew I had to find out. He’s giant at 6-foot-6, 230 pounds and just looks like the prototype. He should have plenty of time to develop with superstar in the making Spencer Sanders ahead of him. Illingworth is coming in with a good offensive line. Eli Russ from Ardmore and Trent Pullen from Waco are fine interior prospects. Pullen may be a center. Cade Bennett from Notre Dame Prep in Scottsdale is one I’ve been familiar with because he was high school teammates with Jake Smith. He has tackle upside. Pullen’s teammate, Korie Black, is a true corner but this class needs much more defensive help, especially along the D-line.

7. KANSAS STATE – 84.53
Commits: 18 (18 three-stars)

Footprint: Five players hail from Texas and the rest is about what you’d expect from K-State: Midwest.

Overview: The witch’s brew of Bill Snyder’s approach was evaluation, coaching fundamentals, and fielding teams of full grown men year after year. This can be duplicated but evaluation requires a certain touch and you either have it or you don’t. Time will tell on Chris Klieman.

Headliners: Nate Matlack jumped off the screen so I checked his offers and sure enough he holds one from TCU. Gary Patterson does a great job of identifying high upside defensive players. Once he fills out — Matlack, not Gary — he has the potential to be special. He bends well, moves well in space, and can run. I’m sure they’ll have a plan to highlight the 6-foot-4, 210 pound defensive end. He could be a B-backer at Texas, no joke. JoJo Wilson from North Shore will be a steal if they move him to safety. Needs might predicate he remains at corner but I think he has the positive tools for safety while lacking ideal speed for the outside. Jeremiah Harris from Shadow Creek will be a good blitzing linebacker. He was a good win over Oklahoma State.

8. TCU – 87.48
Commits: 12 (2 four-stars, 10 three-stars)

Footprint: Texas and surrounding states. Usually the Horned Frogs do well to identify talent in Louisiana but they just lost their only recruit from the state. This year Gary Patterson has found two players in Virginia Beach.

Overview: Patterson is great at finding diamonds in the rough who are athletic and also tough. He’ll sacrifice a little size for a lot of speed and toughness. For a 12-man class it fills a lot of needs already and packs a punch.

Headliners: James Sylvester (Newton) is a great fit for Patterson’s four-man front. He’ll be more comfortable at end in that look than a three-man. Keontae Jenkins (Virginia Beach) could be another Jeff Gladney or Jason Verrett if they’re fortunate. Wide receiver Caleb Medford from Henderson is a good one as is running back Dominic Richardson from Oklahoma City.

9. WEST VIRGINIA – 85.46
Commits: 13 (13 three-stars)

Footprint: I think Dana Holgorsen had the right idea of targeting DMV, Florida, and transfer mercenaries. Like duplicating Bill Snyder’s approach, it may require the operator’s touch. Neal Brown is recruiting nationally with much less emphasis, or at least efficacy in the DMV corridor. States, and countries, represented include: America, England, New Jersey, Florida, Michigan, Maryland, Missouri, Iowa, Mississippi, Kentucky, Georgia, and West Virginia. Good lord. I don’t know how you recruit like that. I’m sure it isn’t the long-term plan.

Overview: West Virginia isn’t the easiest place to recruit to. The conference’s base being so far from the school does it no favors. The DMV corridor is highly picked over. If you want to recruit Florida you better have coaches who know the terrain. Adding to Neal Brown’s task is the exodus of some of Holgorsen’s players. They are being proactive with Jucos and it’s not a bad class, they just have factors that work against taking advantage of the first-year new-car-smell class.

Headliners: Garrett Green from Tallahassee is a bit on the smaller size but has enough athleticism and arm strength to hurt you. He’ll like the open spaces of the Big 12. Wide receiver Devell Washington is their Troy Omeire. Chris Mayo is rated as a guard but with proper development could be a tackle.

10. BAYLOR – 84.75
Commits: 13 (13 three-stars)

Footprint: Texas and surrounding states.

Overview: Rhule is on a long contract and a long build. He’s going about that build the right way by finding players with baseline athleticism to compete with the big boys but who are just on a longer developmental curve. Basically he wants the SPARQ warriors who are just lacking the tutelage and time that he can provide. The big issue for schools like Baylor will always be finding bigs, there just aren’t enough quality ones to go around.

Headliners: Taye McWilliams (Lamar Consolidated) can be a volume back with burst and good feet. Baylor currently has five defensive backs committed, headlined by Jahdae Barron from Austin. Defensive lineman Alven Johnson from Louisiana is a good one. With time he’ll make a mockery of his 85.32 rating. Big boys are hard to find and they’re going to invest a lot in making sure he hits it big. Encouragingly he holds an offer from Virginia.

There are just under three months remaining until NSD1. I’ll be curious to see how these rankings unfold.