- Jake Trotter, ESPN Staff Writer
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According to ESPN’s recruiting rankings, only Alabama and Florida have landed more four- and five-star players in the last four years than Texas.
In fact, other than Oklahoma, the Longhorns have signed roughly four times more four- and five-star players than every other program in the Big 12.
Success in the league, however, hasn’t hinged on who has been able to pile up the most four- and five-star players. Instead, it has been about the teams who have been able to hit on the players who actually weren’t four- and five-star recruits.
No two teams better underscored this premise this past season than Baylor and Oklahoma State.
True, both schools have enjoyed an uptick in recruiting lately.
In the last four years, the Cowboys rank third in the Big 12 in signing four- and five-star prospects with 16, including eight last year. Oklahoma State also has eight four-star recruits committed in this class.
Baylor ranks fourth in the league with 15 four- and five-star players in the past four classes, and the Bears have put together their best class yet in 2014.
But that hasn’t been the primary reason for either team’s recent surge.
Together, Baylor and Oklahoma State comprised 21 of the 59 (36 percent) players who earned first- or second-team All-Big 12 honors. As a result, the Bears and Cowboys both pulled off double-digit winning seasons.
But of those 21 players, only three – Baylor offensive tackle Spencer Drango and safety Ahmad Dixon and Oklahoma State linebacker Shaun Lewis – were former four- or five-star players signed by the Bears or Cowboys out of high school (Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk and Oklahoma State defensive tackle Calvin Barnett were four-star prospects out of high school, but both players transferred in -- Seastrunk from Oregon and Barnett from junior college via Arkansas).
Meanwhile, of the 60 four- and five-star players Texas has signed in the last four years, only defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat was a first-team All-Big 12 selection this season.
And while Jeffcoat was also the co-Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, the Longhorns lost to Oklahoma State at home 38-13. Then fell at Baylor 30-10.
This week, fans across the Big 12 will be abuzz with how many four- and five-star recruits their schools end up signing.
But as this season showed, success on the field isn’t just about getting the four- and five-star players. It’s about getting the future stars that aren’t.
1dMax Olson and Jake Trotter