Recruiting rewind: 2012 All-Big 12 defense

December, 18, 2012
12/18/12
9:00
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The season has come and gone, and brought with it an All-Big 12 team. But where do these guys come from? How easy is it for a no-name recruit to earn all-conference first-team honors?

We looked at the All-Big 12 offense on Monday. Let's move to the other side of the ball now.

You'll need ESPN Insider Insider to see each player's recruiting page from back in the day, but I excerpted a bit of what the scouts had to say about each player coming out of high school.

DE: Devonte Fields, TCU
  • Fields was the nation's No. 11 defensive end in the 2012 recruiting class and No. 73 on the ESPN 150, a list of the top 150 recruits in the nation. He was the No. 9 player in Texas and scouts gave the Arlington, Texas native a grade of 81. Scouts take: Fields can play the game and be a productive defender. He is a kid who possesses good size and looks to have a sturdy build and should be able to continue to develop his frame some as he physically matures. He is a pretty good player and seems to be able to get around the ball and make plays. He flashes a good burst off the ball, but it is not always present and you would like to see him improve that. This is a kid with good flexibility and he can get and play low. He is able to come out of his stance and uncoil and get under a blocker's pads and derive good power from his lower body.
DT: Calvin Barnett, Oklahoma State
  • Barnett came to Oklahoma State via junior college. ESPN does not scout junior college prospects. However, he was committed to Oklahoma State for an extended period coming out of high school in Tulsa, Okla. He was the nation's No. 21 defensive tackle and signed with Arkansas. He was also recruited by Alabama, Florida and LSU. Scouts take: Barnett can be a disruptive presence in the trenches. He has good size and combines that with good quickness. He can get moving and crash the backfield. He has a nice, quick swim move that he is able to utilize when blockers lunge at him. His ability to get off the ball pretty consistently before the man in front of him makes him tough to block, but he is also physical. Flashes the ability to generate power from his lower body and can take on a block and hold his ground. Flashes the ability to use his hands to separate. He can be tough to move off the ball and does a good job of getting into the gap and working down the line laterally.
DE: Alex Okafor, Texas
  • Okafor was No. 149 on the 2009 ESPNU 150, and was the nation's No. 12 defensive end. Was also recruited by Oklahoma, Nebraska and LSU. Scouts take: Okafor is a tall wiry defender with a high motor. He needs to get into a college weight program and add some bulk, but for a tall lean kid he displays the ability to play with good leverage. He has a solid get-off and can come out of his stance, keep his knees bent, and on contact generate power from his lower body.
DE: Meshak Williams, Kansas State
  • Williams was unranked coming out of high school in 2009 in Sylvester, Ga. His recruiting page even has his name spelled as "Meshack." His only note from scouts: "Class AAA First-Team All-State selection..." Williams ended up going to junior college but returned to Kansas State and was a second-team All-Big 12 selection in his first season, 2011.
LB: A.J. Klein, Iowa State
  • Scouts graded Klein at 74 and ranked him as the nation's No. 116 outside linebacker. The Kimberly, Wisc., native was also recruited by Northern Illinois, Western Michigan and Wisconsin. He earned the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honor in 2011. Scouts take: Klein is not going to shine at a combine with his size and speed measurables as an outside linebacker prospect but you can't teach his motor, toughness and instincts pursuing the football between the white lines. He has just adequate height and bulk and his non-rangy frame does not have a ton of physical upside. Could tip the scales at a solid 225-pounds in college without losing his current athleticism. Makes sound reads and flashes good initial quicks pursuing the football. Shows above average fluidity sifting through the wash, but is more effective pursuing and attacking vertically. Lacks great sideline-to-sideline speed but flashes above average burst in the short-area and closes strong when tracking down the football.
LB: Jake Knott, Iowa State
  • Knott was the nation's No. 114 linebacker, and graded out at 74 by ESPN. He was also recruited by Army, Iowa and Northern Illinois. Scouts take: Knott is a great football player who will make any roster better at the next level. This is a kid who is not going to blow you away at a combine with blazing speed and agility, but he gets it done on both sides of the ball and is a tough, instinctive, productive football player. Is tall, well-built and should continue to pack on good bulk.
LB: Arthur Brown, Kansas State
  • Brown transferred to Kansas State from Miami, but he was the nation's No. 1 outside linebacker and No. 6 on the ESPN 150 back in 2008. He was also recruited by Florida, LSU, and USC, among others. Scouts take: Arthur Brown possesses the best short-range explosion of any linebacker in the 2008 class. His last few steps before contact are a blur, but not for ball carriers. Most of them are laying flat on their backs wondering where the freight train went that just hit them. He is thickly-built with the solid frame you want in a middle linebacker who is going to be dishing out a lot of punishment. Utilizes his long arms to make strong, impressive drag down tackles from the backside. An instinctive and fast-twitched linebacker who consistently plays downhill, and slips under blockers with his quick feet. Flashes great change-of-direction skill between the tackles. He can quickly plant, pivot and explode laterally in any direction when sifting through the wash
S: Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma
  • Jefferson was the nation's No. 4 athlete and No. 21 on the 2010 ESPNU 150. He was a four-star recruit and graded out at an 84. He was also recruited by Arizona, UCLA, USC and Florida. Scouts take: There may not be a more fast-twitched athlete in this class -- period. Jefferson has rare burst and acceleration between the white lines and has the ability to be playmaker on both sides of the ball in college. He lacks ideal height at linebacker but is very compact, tightly-built and his striking explosiveness allows him to play much bigger. Pursues to the football like he was shot out of a cannon.
CB: Jason Verrett, TCU
  • Verrett was a junior college recruit and not rated by ESPN. He was also recruited by UTEP and San Jose State.
CB: Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma
  • Colvin was the nation's No. 40 safety and given a grade of 78 by scouts. He was also recruited by Missouri and Oklahoma State. He obviously moved positions after he arrived at Oklahoma. Scouts take: Colvin is a very good cover two safety. He has good height and the frame to put on some more bulk. Possesses decent speed and quickness. Very solid in run support and keeps proper leverage on the football when coming up from the hash; prevents the cutback. When attacking face up on inside run sometimes get caught flat-footed. Slips past blockers to get a hit on the ball carrier. Usually makes the play but needs to take the extra steps to be a more physical tackler; sometimes dive tackles.
S: Ty Zimmerman, Kansas State
  • Zimmerman was not ranked or scouted coming out of high school in Junction City, Kansas, but the junior started immediately at K-State in 2010 and earned freshman All-American honors. He drew interest from Northern Illinois and Northern Iowa, too.

An interesting mix of superstars and hidden gems in this group. Bill Snyder truly is a wizard. Even more evidence here. He finds talent in obvious, less than obvious, and impossible to find places. Amazing. Also, is TCU's best recruit going to just win everything every year? Fields is going to be the latest in a long line of high-profile recruits who sign up to play for Gary Patterson in Fort Worth. This is what he does with that kind of talent.

The note about both Klein and Knott not jumping out at "combines" is equal parts hilarious, true and prescient.

What stuck out to you about this group?

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