Big 12 Spotlight: Early Signing Period report card
South Central Region analyst Sam Spiegelman is handing out grades to Big 12 recruiting classes following the Early Signing Period for the class of 2021. Considering the challenges all coaches had to deal with while recruiting during a pandemic, there is plenty of praise to go around for teams throughout the conference.
MORE NSD: The Farrell Awards | What to look for during the rest of the Early Signing Period | Farrell's thoughts on NSD | Winners and losers from National Signing Day | Analyzing the team rankings | How every team announced commits on Twitter | The 10 biggest flips | More team rankings topics after Friday | Five teams poised for late signing period | Biggest surprises of NSD | Sting factor
Analysis: Dave Aranda inked 17-of-17 commitments during the Early Signing Period, including adding a quality three-star athlete in Houston St. Thomas wide receiver Cameron Bonner in the week leading into signing day.
The Bears found talented linemen up front in Ryan Lengyel, Tate Williams and Connor Heffernan and hit Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas for some quality defenders. Aranda’s Bears should be more formidable in 2021 with a talent upgrade in this class.
Analysis: Matt Campbell has the college football world buzzing and from a recruiting standpoint, helped Iowa State sign 18 of 20 commitments. One big miss was not reeling in a quarterback early on, so the emphasis should be on finding a passer come February.
The Cyclones signed their highest-rated recruit in Ohio athlete Malik Verdon, who’ll play on the defensive side of the ball in Ames. Iowa State also found nice reinforcements along the offensive line in In-state tackles Dodge Sauser, Tyler Maro and Jim Bonifas.
Analysis: Les Miles signed 20 of his 22 commitments in December with the exception of three-star Alabama defensive back Kameron Grays and Texas defensive end Garfield Lawrence, who committed right after Thanksgiving.
Kansas inked its highest-rated recruit in in-state tailback Devin Neal and dipped into California, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Texas, Indiana and Arkansas for talent upgrades. For what it’s worth, Miles still has national reach with recruits. Now it’s on Kansas to develop this talent and take the next step on-the-field.
Analysis: Kansas State signed only 14 during the early window and still, Chris Klieman’s class ranks in the top 50 nationally. The headliner of the Wildcats’ 2021 haul is undoubtedly Iowa four-star passer Jake Rubley.
Kansas State also found quality additions on the defensive side of the ball, noticeably former Boston College defensive back commitment Marvin Martin, Colorado defensive end Brayden Wood, Missouri athlete Devrin Weathers, Arizona linebacker Krew Jackson and in-state signees Dorian Stephens and Damian Ilalio. JUCO signee Davonte Pritchard is another major asset for Kansas State’s secondary.
Analysis: Only Ohio State and Alabama have more five-stars in their recruiting classes in 2021 than the Sooners do with quarterback Caleb Williams and wideout Mario Williams already on board, good for the No. 13 class in the country.
Additionally, Lincoln Riley continued to put his stamp on the Lone Star State with key signatures from Rivals100 talents Billy Bowman Jr., Clayton Smith and Latrell McCutchin, with Rivals250 offensive lineman Savion Byrd picking Oklahoma over SMU on National Signing Day.
Analysis: Mike Gundy and his staff were able to hold onto a pair of quality in-state defenders in Muskogee (Okla.) defensive back Ty Williams and talented Thomas (Okla.) defensive lineman Aden Kelley. The Cowboys also inked a pair of productive wide receivers to bolster their offense from Dallas-area powerhouse Allen High School while landing key upgrades at linebacker (Collin Oliver, Nick Martin) and JUCO offensive lineman Caleb Etienne.
Oklahoma State still needs to find a quarterback to round out its class, which at 20 signatures is sitting inside the top 40.
Analysis: Gary Patterson is becoming well-known for his signing day surprises, and during the Early Signing Period, the Horned Frogs generated a plenty of buzz with their last-minute additions. TCU inked four-star JUCO wide receiver Quincy Brown, a Louisiana native that was highly linked to both LSU and Mississippi State.
TCU also added another quality four-star speedster at running back in Ahmonte Watkins, another Louisiana native that’ll add depth behind 2020 five-star signee Zach Evans. The Horned Frogs dipped into Germany to get their quarterback and brought in one of the state’s most productive edge-rushers in Landyn Watson out of Hutto (Texas) High.
Analysis: There have been few dull moments in Austin over the course of the last season with the rumor mill working overtime about the future of Tom Herman at Texas. Nonetheless, Texas did not miss a beat when it came to the recruiting trail, signing 18 of 19 commitments, which was good for the No. 18 haul.
The headliner of the class is undoubtedly Rivals100 defensive end Ja’Tavion Sanders, who finds himself squarely in the five-star conversation. The Longhorns also signed quality in-state prospects in four-star safety JD Coffey and running back Jonathan Brooks, while also adding late fireworks by flipping DeSoto’s Byron Murphy away from Baylor, landing Terrence Brooks over LSU and Baylor and inking defensive lineman Barryn Sorrell over Arizona State and Vanderbilt on signing day.
The biggest question is whether Texas will find a way to add Rivals250 cornerback Ishmael Ibraheem into its class as a high-upside defensive back after running into some trouble off-the-field.
Analysis: Longtime Red Raiders quarterback commitment Behren Morton provided some late drama in the week leading up to the Early Signing Period after Texas Tech made a change at offensive coordinator. Nonetheless, Morton signed his paperwork and was one of two four-stars to ink with Tech along with Rockdale (Texas) all-purpose back Cam’Ron Valdez.
The Red Raiders signed 10 of 11 pledges, including key pieces in offensive tackle Jack Tucker, defensive end E’maurion Banks and wide receiver Jerand Bradley. Still, expect Texas Tech to be wildly busy over the final few weeks of this cycle.
Analysis: Neal Brown has West Virginia clicking on all cylinders on the recruiting trail. During the Early Signing Period, the Mountaineers signed a quartet of four-stars in running backs Justin Johnson and Jaylen Anderson as well as wide receiver Kaden Prather and in-state offensive lineman Wyatt Milum.
All 16 of West Virginia’s commitments signed in December as the team was able to load up on defensive linemen, tight ends and running backs. Expect the Mountaineers to address their offensive line, receiving corps and secondary in February.