The Texas Longhorns and the Oklahoma Sooners lead the way for the Big 12 with two strong classes as the two teams hope to upset the Kansas State Wildcats, who once again linger in the bottom half of the rankings, continuing to work JUCO recruiting heavily, where they have surely unearthed some diamonds in the rough.
Meanwhile, every school that recruits heavily in the state of Texas -- which is really every team in the conference -- has had to deal with the rise of Texas A&M as a regional power. The Aggies boast a pull they haven't had for some time after moving to the SEC and experiencing success there.
New Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury had to race to finish his class strong, working the JUCO route after taking a page out of the Bill Snyder playbook, but also showing that he could land talented athletes to feature in his Airraid offense, snagging a re-commitment from electric Houston (Texas) Bellaire playmaker Devin Lauderdale and snagging Munday do-it-all athlete Dee Paul, who chose the Red Raiders over offers from Baylor, Oklahoma State, Tennessee, and others.
Top three classes
The battle for the top class is going down to the wire, with the Sooners and Longhorns jockeying for position, only separated by .21 points overall in the 247Sports composite rankings, with Oklahoma having moved ahead with the addition of massive JUCO guard Dionte Savage on Monday and the weekend loss by Texas of star defensive tackle commit A'Shawn Robinson, who flipped to Alabama on Saturday.
The Sooners nabbed a handful of late commitments, securing 11 of their 21 current pledges between December 12th and Monday, a significant run of success, but one that has left the class extremely heavy on three-star prospects. During the last two months, Oklahoma has been successful in addressing the two biggest needs of the class -- along the offensive and defensive lines.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma State sits in third place with its 22-man class, anchored by the three strong wide receiver commits -- Under Armour All-American Ra'Shaad Samples, underrated threat Fred Ross, and big possession target Marcell Ateman. Don't sleep on Killeen (Texas) safety Deric Robertson, a player who sort of flew under the radar early, but has a 4.34 in the 40. Like, the legit kind.
Top three players to know
This isn't exactly a difficult list to compile -- according to the 247Sports composite ranking the Big 12 only has three consensus five-star prospects. Go Big 12!
The other two in the state -- wide receiver Ricky Seals-Jones and the aforementioned Robinson -- are headed to the SEC, which hardly comes as a shock given the recent choke hold the conference has on national championships. Those jerks just don't like to share much.
The top player to know has to be Baylor pledge Robbie Rhodes, the insanely fast Fort Worth (Texas) Southwest Under Armour All-American wide receiver who is a consensus five-star prospect and one of the fastest prospects in the state of Texas. Which makes him one of the fastest players in the country.
Watch out for him in the Art Briles offense, which needs to replace its quarterback next season, but has been among the best in the country over the last several years.
Watch out for Oklahoma commit Keith Ford, too. The Cypress (Texas) Cypress Ranch composite five-star prospect is the top running back in the state of Texas and should provide a strong 1-2 punch with entrenched starter Damien Williams next season to inject a serious boost to the Sooner running game. Ford will be ready to roll as soon as he steps on campus.
The final player isn't as likely to start once he arrives on campus -- that's Texas commit Darius James, the offensive lineman from Killeen (Texas) Harker Heights. The 6-5, 340-pound Under Armour All-American held his own in Orlando, but he's carrying about 20 extra pounds after breaking his foot in his high school opener last fall, so he'd probably be well served by redshirting.
National Signing Day drama to watch
Apologies for the let down here, but there's not going to be a ton of Signing Day drama out there.
The fireworks are mostly done in the state of Texas after the change of heart for A'Shawn Robinson, the pledge of Dontre Wilson to Ohio State, and the pending Tuesday announcement of Andrew Billings
Another big Texas prospect, Daeshon Hall, is going to announce his final decision on Signing Day; he's pledged to Washington and looking the most seriously at Texas A&M, so a Big 12 school is unlikely to land his signature. The same with fellow defensive end Torrodney Prevot.
Of the national prospects, none of the Big 12 schools are really in the mix to land a commitment, so it should be a quiet day in the Big 12 unless some unexpected flips go down.
Notes from SB Nation blogs
Former Washington State commit Montrel Meander flipped to the Longhorns on Monday. The coaching staff got some assists from Vince Young and Earl Campbell, while those same coaches hope that Meander can eventually replace Marquise Goodwin:
A long strider, Meander is at his best when he can work his way up to top speed and chew up major yardage with each stride -- in short areas, he's not nearly as effective as once he gets a head of steam.
The Longhorns were looking for someone to replace the straight-line speed of Marquise Goodwin. Truly replacing Goodwin means finding a prospect who can run the ball as well, and Meander fits the bill there after picking up 572 yards and eight touchdowns this fall.
Crimson and Cream Machine analyst Jordan Esco breaks down what the Sooners are getting in the 6-5, 345-pound Savage:
Based on what Oklahoma has asked of their interior linemen in the past, he'll have some work to do on his footwork and blocking out in space but seems like a player more than willing to work on his weaknesses. He's a big (duh), strong guy who really excels when he can match-up with the man in front of him and use his size to drive him off the ball.
Robert Whitsell of Cowboys Ride Free may be beating a familiar drum, but this stuff just can't be said enough, judging by the reality of how people act:
We also have national signing day...and lots of folks on Twitter (not just OSU folks) tweeting highly touted recruits. Really? If you think that your tweet to a potential recruit will make the difference in what school he chooses, then you really think far too highly of yourself, or you think far too little of the recruit's decision making process. Please stop.
Viva the Matadors describes the decision-making process Texas Tech went through before deciding to offer and take a commitment from Sherman (Texas) linebacker Kahlee Woods on Monday:
Apparently Sherman LB Kahlee Woods left Texas Tech without an offer and the writer, Vito, seems to think that an offer for Woods is contingent on whether or not New Orleans LB Edward Williams commits. If Williams commits, then Woods won't get an offer. If Williams does not commit, then Woods gets the offer.
Stop on by VtM to check out that info on Woods and the three junior college commits Tech picked up over the weekend.
Our Daily Bears editor Mark C. Moore put the Maurice Porter recruitment into context (and apparently doesn't care for Boomer Sooner):
Teammate to another Baylor commit in OG Darius Moore, Porter is one that the Baylor staff targeted long ago and hoped to get before he decided to commit to the Red Raiders. Now that Hammad is gone and Savage has decided that he wants one of the worst songs in history drilled into his head five thousand times a game for the next two years, Baylor's recent run at Porter became even more important.
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