The Big 12 conference has been struggling as a whole to find top-flight recruits out of high school as the SEC increasingly mines the state of Texas for star prospects, but the Texas Tech Red Raiders made a splash on Friday evening with a big commitment that could change the future of the program.
More on that and other Big 12 recruiting notes from the week that was.
Texas Tech Red Raiders
In the history of the Rivals rankings (which go back to 2002), the Red Raiders have only landed one five-star recruit -- junior college quarterback Robert Johnson back in 2004. Now, according to Rivals, that still hasn't changed, but the industry consensus is that Stephenville (Texas) quarterback Jarrett Stidham is a five-star prospect (Rivals ranks him at 6.0, the highest four-star rating).
Because of the connections between Baylor Bears head coach Art Briles and his former stomping grounds in Stephenville, the Bears were thought to be an early leader for Stidham, who is a native of Kentucky and also seemed interested in the Alabama Crimson Tide early in the process. Recently, however, the Red Raiders had trended heavily in his Crystal Ball predictions and on Friday evening, Stidham ended his recruitment in favor of head coach Kliff Kingsbury and his program.
The reason? According to an interview with WreckEm247, a recent visit sealed the deal:
"I thought I knew before this weekend, but after taking a visit there on Sunday really made everything clear for me," Stidham said. "I'd say within the first hour of me being on campus on Sunday I just knew. I was thinking to myself ‘this is it, this is what I want' and it was just clear. I knew right away that I wanted to be there."
Ranked as the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback nationally, the No. 6 player in the state of Texas, and the No. 32 player nationally, Stidham is the most important commit of Kingsbury's short time at Texas Tech and the most important commit in the last 13 years for the Red Raiders.
Along with 2014 signee Pat Mahomes, Texas Tech now has more stability at the quarterback position moving forward after suffering three transfers following last season. And the reported miscommunication between Kingsbury and former signal-callers Baker Mayfield and Michael Brewer clearly wasn't enough to scare Stidham away.
What will Stidham bring to Texas Tech? The most athletic quarterback to play the position in recent history, as well as a high-upside passer who may have the best arm strength of any quarterback to play the position in recent history in Lubbock.
The Red Raiders continued the momentum on the recruiting trail developed by Stidham's commitment by picking up a pledge from Lio Lafaele, an offensive lineman from Riverside CC in California who originally signed with Utah as a member of the 2012 class. The former three-star prospect is not yet rated by the services and does not report any other offers other than Texas Tech at this time.
At 6'4 and 300 pounds, Lafaele is probably a guard once he arrives in Lubbock, but has a chance to earn a high three-star or low four-star rating before that time based on his sophomore film, which shows excellent feet and reactive body quickness, as well as an exceptionally strong punch and the persistence to finish plays with knockdowns and then look to acquire other defenders.
By hitting the junior college ranks much earlier than most schools are willing to do at this point in the recruiting cycle, the Red Raiders may have found an athletic guard who can contribute early in Lafaele.
The first recruiting class for Kingsbury at Texas Tech didn't produce a lot of highly-rated players, but with Port Arthur (Texas) Memorial running back Cory Dauphine, a mid three-star prospect, already committed, the Red Raiders are off to an impressive start with the 2015 group.
One school that may be flying a bit under the national radar with some strong early success with the 2015 class is West Virginia, which now has 10 commits to rank No. 1 in the Big 12 and No. 4 nationally in the Composite team rankings after the Friday addition of Miami (Fla.) Killian defensive back Sheldrick Redwine.
Considered a mid three-star prospect by the services, the 6'1, 183-pound Redwine is a top-60 cornerback nationally and a top-100 player in Florida who also held offers from Cincinnati, Temple, and Central Florida, among several others.
Redwine is currently one of five Floridians now committed to the Mountaineers in the class, an important area for Dana Holgorsen's program to recruit, as previous recruiting efforts there produced both Geno Smith and Stedman Bailey. In fact, the two highest-rated recruits in the class at the moment both hail from Florida -- Hollywood (Fla.) Miramar safety Kendrell McFadden and Miami (Fla.) Northwestern wide receiver Jovon Durante are both four-star prospects who rank in the top 30 in the state.
The Mountaineers have not been able to parlay the move to the Big 12 into any type of recruiting success in the state of Texas, so continuing to battle for second-tier prayers in Florida and along the rest of the Atlantic coast up into Pennsylvania will remain key to bringing talent to Morgantown.
Oklahoma State Cowboys
The ability of head coach Mike Gundy to develop quarterbacks has aided with his efforts at the position in recruiting, allowing the Cowboys to go into South Carolina to pick up Mason Rudolph in the 2014 class, but Gundy didn't have to travel nearly as far to pick up John Kolar last Wednesday, as the consensus three-star pro-style quarterback from Norman (Okla.) North pledged to Oklahoma State.
The Pokes were the first offer for the 6'3, 195-pounder who replaced 2014 Alabama signee David Cornwell last fall as a result of an injury and took advantage, throwing only two interceptions and averaging more than 10 yards per attempt.
Much like former Oklahoma State quarterback Clint Chelf, there's some sneaky athleticism to Kolar's game, as he was effective on the zone read for Norman North, gaining almost 300 yards on the ground as a junior. It's in the pocket where Kolar shines the most, as he can hit all areas of the field with good footwork, solid mechanics, and arm strength that can fit the ball into small windows over the middle. Perhaps most impressive is his touch, which allows him to put the ball where only his receivers can catch it on fade routes in the end zone.
Landing Kolar isn't a splash take for Gundy and his staff, but it's no small thing to land the top quarterback in a state that has produced some good signal callers over the years.
Iowa State Cyclones
The Cyclones typically don't land as many recruits early in the process as other schools, a reality that has continued with a 2015 class that added its first commitment on Saturday with a pledge from Naperville (Ill.) linebacker Bobby McMillen.
Ranked as the No. 23 player in the state of Illinois and the No. 71 outside linebacker nationally, the 6'2, 215-pounder also held offers from Central Michigan and Northern Michigan.
McMillen has a reasonably well-developed frame that should be able to carry 230 pounds in time. In high school, he's capable of operating through traffic against the run game, but also has enough range to make plays outside the hash marks on wide receiver screens, aided by strong instincts that result in few false steps.
If McMillen can continue to play a heady brand of football, his relatively average athleticism should be enough to allow him to make plays, as head coach Paul Rhoads has specialized in turning similar linebackers into tackling machines.