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Tuesday, January 28, 2014
Most important targets: Big 12

By Damon Sayles

In eight days, many of the nation’s top athletes will seal their college futures with a signature. Between now and Feb. 5, college programs will look to do one of two things, either use a final official visit to sway an uncommitted target or do all it can to flip an already-committed player.

In the last week of recruiting, here is a look at some of the most important remaining targets who could find a home in the Big 12.

DB John Bonney (Houston/Lamar)
6-foot, 182 pounds
Four stars

How can Baylor improve on an already stellar year of recruiting? It can steal away one from the Texas Longhorns. Bonney committed to Texas in September, but since Mack Brown left the program, Bonney has made official visits to Auburn and Baylor. Bonney was in Waco over the weekend, and the Bears are hoping to do enough to flip the four-star safety. If Baylor can get Bonney, he’ll join four-star T'Kevian Rockwell (Wylie, Texas/Wylie) and three-star Chance Waz (Pflugerville, Texas/Hendrickson) as the 2014 safety pledges.

Iowa State
RB Jeff Jones (Minneapolis/Washburn)
6-0, 196 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: 137

It’s not a guarantee, but there’s still a possibility that the Cyclones can lure Jones from hometown school Minnesota. Jones committed to the Golden Gophers back in February and he took an official visit the weekend of Dec. 6. However, Jones made an official visit to Iowa State the following weekend and enjoyed the experience. It’ll be tough for the Cyclones to flip the four-star running back, but the coaching staff is confident that it can be done in the final week of recruiting. If Jones chooses Iowa State, he will be the class’ highest-ranked player and the third running back of the class.

RB Corey Avery (Dallas/Carter)
5-10, 187 pounds
Four stars

The Jayhawks already have one stud running back in its 2014 class in Traevohn Wrench (Gardner, Kan./Gardner Edgerton). With their run-oriented offense, imagine the possibilities if Avery and Wrench are serving as a 1-2 punch in the backfield. Avery has Texas and Nebraska high on his list, and he’s fresh off an official visit to Nebraska. Avery’s last visit, however, is in Lawrence this weekend, and the Jayhawks will go all-in to make sure he leaves with Kansas solely on his mind. Avery is a versatile threat who can play running back and wide receiver.

Kansas State
CB Kiante Walton (Columbus, Ga./Carver)
5-10, 192 pounds
Not rated

Kansas State is pretty content with its 2014 class, but when it passed on Marshall commit Quintavious Knight (Milledgeville, Ga./Georgia Military College), it left an opportunity to get a quality third cornerback for the class. Already an Appalachian State commit, Walton would fit in well in the system and could be an asset in Bill Snyder’s program. Kansas State is hoping to get Walton to come on an official visit this weekend, but he already has a visit scheduled to BYU.

ATH Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra)
5-10, 182 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: 9

Oklahoma might be considered a dark horse by some, but if you ask Jackson, the Sooners are very much in the hunt as he prepares to announce his college plans on national signing day. Oklahoma is one of six schools still alive for Jackson, the top-ranked player in California and the No. 3 cornerback in the nation. Jackson is expected to host an in-home visit with Sooners coach Bob Stoops on Wednesday. Can the Sooners win the battle over SEC schools Florida, LSU and Tennessee and in-state Pac-12 schools USC and UCLA?

Oklahoma State
ILB Kenny Young (River Ridge, La./John Curtis)
6-1, 210 pounds
Four stars

There’s a reason why Young is such a highly touted prospect. As an inside linebacker, he plays with fire and a level of relentlessness that’s almost infectious. Coach Mike Gundy and his staff are big fans of what Young brings to the table, and they are hoping the four-star prospect chooses to sign with Oklahoma State. The competition is stiff, however, as the Cowboys will have to fight off LSU, Arkansas, UCLA and Texas A&M. Oklahoma State hosted Young over the weekend on an official visit, and the Cowboys feel they’re in a good spot to get him.

OG Braden Smith (Olathe, Kan./Olathe South)
6-6, 285 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: 127

What’s known about Smith: He has a green thumb. He’s an established gardener. What’s not known about Smith: His college plans or exactly which way he’s leaning. Smith, the top-ranked player in Kansas and the ninth-ranked offensive guard, took an official visit to Texas A&M over the weekend, and he’ll take his final visit to TCU this weekend. Smith has built a strong relationship with the TCU coaches, and his older sister Megan is a thrower on the TCU women’s track and field team. His presence wherever he ends up will be appreciated, as he’s a strong and physically imposing athlete.

DT Poona Ford (Hilton Head, S.C./Hilton Head)
6-0, 285 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: 266

Ford committed to Louisville. Charlie Strong leaves Louisville to become the coach at Texas. Ford decommits from Louisville. One may think the next step would be for Ford to follow Strong to Texas, but the Longhorns have Purdue and Missouri to compete with if they want to sign Ford. The defensive tackle visited Purdue this past weekend, and he has an official visit scheduled for Missouri this weekend. Texas lost three defensive tackle commitments after the Strong hire, and Ford would be a welcomed addition to a Longhorns class excited about the new expectations of the program.

Texas Tech
OT Shaquille Davis (Walnut, Calif./Mount San Antonio College)
6-foot-4, 320 pounds
ESPN Junior College 50 rank: n/a

One look at Davis makes him an attractive specimen. His length makes him one to watch as an offensive tackle, although he could look equally impressive as an interior lineman. Davis is a player who has offers such as Colorado State and Fresno State, but playing in the Big 12 is something that intrigues him. Texas Tech is hoping to land Davis, but it will have to fight off those schools, as well as an Oregon squad with growing interest in him. Davis is expected to announce his college decision on national signing day.

West Virginia
RB Donte Thomas-Williams (Durham, N.C./Hillside)
6-foot-0, 217 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: 138

It seems as though a different school is in the running for Thomas-Williams each week, but that school is always being compared to West Virginia. The Mountaineers appear to be the frontrunner for the four-star running prospect, but nothing would make Dana Holgorsen and his staff happier than for Thomas-Williams to end the process with a commitment. The nation’s No. 13 running back and the No. 9 player in the state of North Carolina, Thomas-Williams would make for a nice change-of-pace back and could give Big 12 defenders fits with his combination of speed, power and elusiveness.