Big 12: Florida State Seminoles

Quarterbacks are committing earlier and earlier in the recruiting process. With 15 of the 27 signal-callers in the ESPN Junior 300 already having given verbal pledges, there is increased pressure to get a top quarterback in the fold early. Five programs are ahead of the curve headed into the spring evaluation period.

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Quarterback Kyler Murray grabbed all of the headlines at Allen (Texas) High School over the past few seasons, but it’s actually junior offensive tackle Greg Little who is a higher-ranked prospect.


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Charlie Strong had nearly everything he needed for his first full recruiting class at Texas. But he was missing a quarterback. Not anymore.

Two days before he was expected to decide, Kai Locksley called Strong to deliver the good news. The ESPN 300 athlete flipped from Florida State to Texas on Monday.

"He was ecstatic," Locksley said. "He was like, 'You're joking around. Why'd you make me wait this long? Been trying to get you to say that for two weeks. Why you playing around?' He was happy to have that main piece in his recruiting class."

The 6-foot-4, 190-pound athlete from Baltimore's Gilman School delivered his pledge Monday afternoon, ending a six-month commitment to the Seminoles. He'd been planning this move ever since an official visit to Austin for the Jan. 23 weekend. After hosting final in-home visits with both coaching staffs, he knew he was ready.

"My feelings stayed the same, and I was ready to let everybody know so I can always help recruit some of the other guys they're trying to get in this class," Locksley said.

[+] EnlargeKai Locksley
Tom Hauck for Student SportsKai Locksley, a four-star quarterback out of Baltimore and a member of the ESPN 300, flipped to Texas from Florida State on Monday.
Specifically? Locksley is looking forward to reaching out to two fellow Under Armour All-Americans, five-star Daylon Mack and ESPN 300 running back Soso Jamabo, before signing day.

"Gotta get Big Mack and Mr. Jamabo, Mr. ITT Tech," Locksley said.

Locksley, the son of Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley, admitted he's compelled by Texas' quarterback situation and the opportunity to compete for playing time immediately. The Longhorns have just two scholarship quarterbacks on campus in Tyrone Swoopes and Jerrod Heard, and after striking out with Kyler Murray and losing Zach Gentry to Michigan, Locksley became a must-get for Strong and his staff.

Locksley committed to Florida State in July as one of the Seminoles' three QB pledges, but Strong promised he wouldn't stop recruiting him. He never promised Locksley a starting job; just a chance to come in and prove he's a leader.

"That's one of their main priorities, finding a guy who can come in and compete for the starting job," Locksley said. "They're recruiting me to potentially be that starting guy. I think I have the ability to do so and really turn the program around and be that key piece to a great class.

"They need a guy who can come in and bring some juice and bring some competitive nature to the field and be a leader. Those are all things I love to do and love to display on the field."

He said Strong and co-offensive coordinators Shawn Watson and Joe Wickline laid out their vision of a more up-tempo Texas offense in 2015 -- similar schemes and concepts, just faster and more efficient. That plan fits Locksley, who threw for 1,050 yards and rushed for 915 with 22 total touchdowns as a senior at Gilman.

Locksley is the 26th member of Texas' No. 9-ranked class, a group that now features pledges from 12 ESPN 300 prospects. The Horns also have a commitment from Irving, Texas, quarterback Matthew Merrick, who's currently slated to grayshirt and enroll in 2016.

Locksley wants to make one thing clear about what comes next: He's not looking to redshirt this fall. "Absolutely not," he added. "That's not my intention." That perception during his recruitment -- that he'd prefer to sit and learn wherever he went -- was a part of this process he found baffling.

He can't wait to compete. He knows the starting job at Texas is up for grabs.

"Their coaches envision that if I come in, work hard, keep my head down, listen and get acclimated to the offense and the system, they definitely think I have all the potential in the world to be that guy," he said.
National signing day, and the build up to it, is as close as Texas and Texas A&M get to actual football competition these days, to see who will in fact “run this state.”

Well, right now it’s neither school. The Lone Star State is run by Baylor and TCU, the Big 12 co-champs that narrowly missed the initial College Football Playoff field.

That’s why the 2015 recruiting class and the season are so vital to both the Longhorns and Aggies, with each power striving to re-establish itself -- not just regionally, but nationally.

Texas and Texas A&M lead off our look at programs and coaches that need the 2015 class to pay off, and the sooner the better.

(Note: The RecruitingNation ranking and number of commitments are updated as of Sunday evening.)

1. Texas
Ranking: 9
Commitments: 26

The Longhorns have secured a number of solid, team-building pieces in this class, and a few high-end targets -- DT Daylon Mack and RB Soso Jamabo, among them -- remain distinct possibilities to sign with Texas this week.

Still, Wednesday

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After winning several high profile recruiting battles under Gary Pinkel, Missouri fans have learned some of the tricks to help an elite prospect like Terry Beckner Jr. feel at home on an official visit.


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videoLet's take a minute to appreciate just how well this all worked out.
The playoff was supposed to diminish the regular season, but instead we got passionate debate, huge games and high drama on a weekly basis.

The playoff was supposed to undermine conference titles, but instead we saw the one Power 5 league without a championship game miss out on a shot at a national title.

The doubters suggested the playoff would only serve to give undeserving teams a chance to win it all, but instead Ohio State -- a team that may well have finished fifth or sixth in the final polls under the old system -- not only won it all, but proved it was no fluke.

From start to finish, we just witnessed the best season in college football history.

But just because the end result was everything we'd hoped for doesn't mean the path we took to get there was the ideal one. The playoff changed the game in so many significant and positive ways, but the process in Year 1 was still very much trial and error, and so it's incumbent upon us to evaluate those trials, pick apart the errors and figure how we can make 2015 even better.

With that in mind, here are a few lessons we learned from this year's playoff debates.

Good teams can come from bad leagues

It's now been two years since the SEC won a national championship, and the two teams that took home the hardware in its place came from the two Power 5 leagues that earned the most criticism nationally - the ACC and Big Ten.

To read David Hale's full story, click here.

Top 10 instant-impact recruits in 2015 

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With signing day a few weeks away, early enrollees already on campus and the national championship game in the books, which teams are reloading with talent that can hit the field and make an immediate impact?

Here are 10 committed prospect who have the chance to contribute early and often in the 2015 season:


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LOS ANGELES -- As offensive line coach of the Florida State Seminoles, Rick Trickett is known as a teacher of both technique and toughness, and not necessarily in that order. As the father of West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett, whose career ended a few days short of the Mountaineers’ AutoZone Liberty Bowl appearance on Monday because of a series of concussions, Rick Trickett’s hard-guy shell got pierced.

“I would have really liked to have seen him finish out his college career and play in this bowl game,” Rick Trickett said of Clint on Monday at media day for the Rose Bowl Game Presented By Northwestern Mutual. “But the numbers, and everything with all the tests up in Pittsburgh, weren’t high enough. The doctor told me, ‘If it was Big Ben (Roethliesberger), I wouldn’t put him out there.’ As a dad, that puts you in a comfort zone. At least we know what we’ve got here.”

So there is no Liberty Bowl, and Clint Trickett finished the season with 3,285 yards, 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 11 games this season for the 7-5 Mountaineers. He also will not be able to accept his invitation to play in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl all-star game.

“I kind of would have liked to see him have that experience, maybe go (be a) free agent,” Rick Trickett said. “That’s not what it is. Everybody said he retired. No -- he was told he couldn’t play in the game. There’s nothing left to do. It’s time to go coach. He got a taste of it and loves it. That’s what he has always wanted to do. He’ll do good at it.”

Hey, what dad is going to argue with his son coming into his business?
Were we all deceived?

The answer is yes, according author and writer Michael Weinreb. In a Rolling Stone piece published Monday, he argues that the College Football Playoff selection committee pulled the wool over the collective eyes of America with its vaulting of Ohio State past TCU in the final rankings released Sunday.

He backs Baylor and makes excellent points. But each of the three sides in this discussion are supported by a good argument. Weinreb describes the way in which the committee kept us interested for six weeks, then shuffled the deck at the end, as a “long con.”

That’s where I disagree.


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National links: Excluding the little guy 

December, 8, 2014
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TCU and Baylor got the shaft when the College Football Playoff’s selection committee got down to business.

But was their exclusion from the big four as simple as there being no Big 12 championship game? It’s not that simple.

Yes, the conference’s lack of “One True Champion” hurt the cases for TCU and Baylor -- the only Power 5 teams with one or no losses which did not make the playoff – and Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby admitted on ESPN airwaves Sunday that the believed it hurt his conference’s teams.

“It’s clear that we were penalized for not having a postseason championship game. It would have been nice to have been told that ahead of time,” Bowlsby said.

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National links: Who's No. 4? 

November, 24, 2014
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We’re inside of two weeks until Dec. 7, when the College Football Playoff selection committee announces its four picks to appear in the sport’s first national semifinals.

There will be teams left out who can make perfectly compelling cases to be playoff participants. There will be voices raised and criticisms leveled regarding which program truly deserved the final spot in the playoff. This much is a certainty.

But which teams have the best chances of cracking the field? It still seems to be a matter of conjecture beyond the top three teams: Alabama, Oregon and Florida State.

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Even though USC still has the top-ranked recruiting class in the Pac-12, things are a lot closer after Keisean Lucier-South picked UCLA over the weekend. Plus, Kansas is looking for positives on the recruiting trail and the Jayhawks have got a big one in quarterback Ryan Willis.

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This week, USA Today, in the latest of its fan index lists, catalogued the top 10 traditions in college football.

Among them, dotting the "i" at Ohio State, lighting the Tower at Texas and rolling Toomer's Corner at Auburn. All fine events, but no list of such customs in the sport is complete without the latest craze: the wait for Tuesday night.

I say that somewhat jokingly, so refrain from the angry tweets. No, I don't really think it's more fun to dream about the details of a five-minute interview with Jeff Long than to decorate an intersection with toilet paper.

But it's close.

So welcome to the fourth of seven Tuesday College Football Playoff poll unveils, where it finally gets real in the selection-committee room.

Why is this Tuesday different? Because after last Saturday, none of the remaining unbeaten or one-loss Power 5 contenders will meet in the regular season or in conference-title games.

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Coaches add to Baylor-TCU rivalry 

November, 14, 2014
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Here’s a subplot of the current playoff debate in the Big 12 between TCU and Baylor that has not been widely discussed: Gary Patterson and Art Briles do not care for one another.

When I visited with Patterson in his office in September, he talked at length about there being no beef with Briles, or really anyone in the Big 12 -- the league in which his TCU program has now resided for three seasons.

But other coaches tell me that, as friendly as Patterson tries to be in conference meetings, he still can rub his peers -- Briles, in particular -- the wrong way.

The friction provides another layer to the drama of the initial College Football Playoff stretch run, with TCU three spots ahead in the committee’s rankings despite the Bears’ head-to-head win on Oct. 11.

The Big 12 has said it would consider Baylor its champion, should both teams win out.


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CFP committee evaluates the victories 

November, 11, 2014
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Entering the reveal of this week’s College Football Playoff Rankings, I was most interested to see how far Arizona State, Baylor and Ohio State would rise after big wins Saturday. So, naturally, the committee had to sidetrack this article by dropping undefeated Florida State behind once-beaten Oregon and forcing me to address that issue first.

For starters, it’s refreshing to see that the committee isn’t so married to the loss column that it would never put a one ahead of a zero. Whether it would do so at the end of the season is another matter, but at least for now, it would only mean that Florida State would wear white instead of garnet in a semifinal against Oregon. And since that would give the Ducks more uniform options, who’s really going to complain too much about this?

The bigger takeaway, though, is that the committee is really evaluating the wins. Even though FSU hasn’t lost a game, it has only two wins over the committee’s current top 25 -- No. 18 Notre Dame and No. 19 Clemson, both narrow escapes and both in Tallahassee. Oregon, on the other hand, has beaten No. 11 UCLA, No. 12 Michigan State and No. 23 Utah, all by double digits with two of those games on the road. The Ducks have the better wins, and they’ve looked better than the Seminoles over the last month.

I have Florida State at No. 2 and Oregon at No. 3 on my ballot but have no complaints about the committee flipping that order.

Other takeaways:

• TCU apparently passes the eye test against Alabama this week.

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