Big 12: Big 12 recruiting needs 0901

Nebraska recruiting needs

January, 21, 2009
1/21/09
1:40
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini is careful to say that developing a program is "a process," cautioning Cornhusker fans not to get too overly excited about last season's 9-4 record and Gator Bowl triumph over Clemson.

But there's no doubt the Cornhuskers' quick finish after Pelini's first season has provided a boost of enthusiasm heading into the offseason.

The loss of starting offensive linemen Lydon Murtha, Mike Huff, Matt Slauson has made finding depth and some new starters along the front one of the Cornhuskers' two primary offensive needs.

Nebraska also needs to find two starting receivers after Nate Swift and Todd Peterson had their eligibility expire. Swift and Peterson combined for 125 receptions and 14 touchdowns last season.

The Cornhuskers lose starter Joe Ganz at quarterback, but appear to have replacements either inside the program or already a part of their recruiting class. Zac Lee, Patrick Witt, Kody Spano and maybe even incoming freshman Cody Green all could battle for playing time in the spring. It will be one of the most highly scrutinized quarterback battles in the nation during the off-season.

Even with All-Big 12 Ndamukong Suh coming back at defensive tackle, the Cornhuskers need to find more players to build depth in the trenches. The loss of Zach Potter and Clayton Sievers at defensive end makes it imperative that more players are found in case Barry Turner's recovery from a broken bone in his left leg is protracted.

The loss of starters Tyler Wortman and Cody Glenn at linebacker has caused depth to be a concern there. But the Cornhuskers also need to add numbers in the secondary to enable them to play the nickel and dime pass packages that Pelini prefers to play against the heavy passing attacks in the conference.

Another season of strong recruiting should enable Pelini to put more of his stamp on the program. And if his first season is any indication, the Cornhuskers certainly are headed in the right direction.

Missouri recruiting needs

January, 21, 2009
1/21/09
1:13
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Missouri's recruiting efforts have been as solid as any in the North Division over the last several seasons, largely because Gary Pinkel's staff had been untouched for the first eight years of his coaching tenure.

That familiarity helped his staff build relationships that enabled them to attract several unheralded recruits who blossomed as the Tigers claimed back-to-back North championships.

But the departure of offensive coordinator Dave Christensen for the Wyoming head coaching job will provide the first break in Pinkel's staff since he arrived in Columbia in 2001.

Christensen's old unit is also undergoing a major breakup as well. The Tigers will be missing the most heralded pass-and-catch trio in school history with the loss of quarterback Chase Daniel, wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and record-setting tight end Chase Coffman.

Untested sophomore Blaine Gabbert will likely take over the starting quarterback position. Returning receivers will feature a cast including Danario Alexander, Jared Perry, Jerrell Jackson and tight end Andrew Jones. But other players are needed to add depth at the positions, particularly at flanker where seniors Tommy Saunders and Earl Goldsmith both completed their eligibility this past season.

The offensive line loses starters Ryan Madison and tackle Colin Brown, but should be in good shape for the future with six freshmen or sophomores in the final two-deep roster. Rebuilding the defensive line is a concern after starting ends Tommy Chavis and Stryker Sulak and defensive tackle Ziggy Hood all finished their college careers.

But depth is present after freshman defensive end Jacquies Smith and redshirt freshmen defensive tackles Terrell Resonno and Dominique Hamilton and redshirt freshman Chris Earnhardt all received work last season.

An infusion of new talent also is needed at safety, where starters Justin Garrett and William Moore both were seniors last season and top backup, Hardy Ricks, will be a senior in 2009.

The Tigers could also need some help at kicker where Jeff Wolfert finished his record-breaking career as a senior last season and Tanner Mills is in place to be his replacement.

It will prove a challenge for the Tigers to continue their mastery of the North. But if Pinkel can find some replacements for his departing stars, Missouri could be a factor in what should be a balanced North Division.

Kansas State recruiting needs

January, 21, 2009
1/21/09
12:51
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Kansas State turns to legendary coach Bill Snyder to help resuscitate the program. Snyder will find an underrated pool of talent returning, but his immediate success will be largely determined by recruiting at one key position.

With the departure of Josh Freeman early for the NFL draft, it means that Wildcat coaches will turn either to returning quarterback Carson Coffman or look for a junior college replacement to orchestrate new coordinator Andy Ludwig's spread passing attack.

Depth is needed across an offensive line that loses its entire right side in center Jordan Bedore, guard Gerard Spexarth and tackle Penisini Liu. Additional players are needed as projected starting left tackle Nick Stringer and guard Brock Unruh both will be seniors next season.

Allowances also must be made for a receiving corps that returns all four top pass-catchers in wide receivers Brandon Banks, Deon Murphy and Aubrey Quarles and starting tight end Jeron Mastrud. All will be seniors in 2009, meaning that depth must be built.

New defensive coordinator Vic Koenning will likely build his defense with the Wildcats like those at Clemson, where his unit led the ACC in pass defense and turnovers last season. That would put a premium on depth in the secondary and an infusion of playmaker types, although the Wildcats lose no starters from their 2008 defensive secondary.

It will be interesting to see if Koenning thinks his current players are good enough to thrive in his defense or if they make a big jump into the junior college ranks like Snyder's teams have traditionally done.

New starters will be needed along the defensive front as defensive end Ian Campbell and nose tackle Brandon Balkcom both completed their senior seasons last year. But the defense does have a nice building block with the return of Brandon Harold, who led the team with 10.5 tackles for loss as a freshman in 2008.

The linebacking corps needs some players for the future as Reggie Walker finished his senior season last year and starters Olu Hall and Ulla Pomele both will be seniors next season.

The transformation won't be as daunting as the one that faced Snyder when he arrived in 1993 in his first stint as Kansas State's coach. But the Big 12 figures to be even more challenging than the old Big Eight was, meaning the Wildcats must start getting some players quickly.

Kansas recruiting needs

January, 21, 2009
1/21/09
12:35
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

No team has capitalized more on hidden recruiting gems than Kansas, which has utilized that development of sleepers to notch back-to-back bowl appearances for the first time in school history.

The Jayhawks are a fashionable challenger to contend for their first undisputed North championship, but coach Mark Mangino has some personnel holes to fill that can be addressed during recruiting.

Their biggest personnel need is at linebacker where starters James Holt, Joe Mortensen and Mike Rivera all completed their college careers last season. Dakota Lewis, Drew Dudley and Arist Wright are penciled in as the likely starters, but Kansas desperately needs depth at the position.

After losing starting guards Adrian Mayes and Chet Hartley and starting center Ryan Cantrell to graduation, the Jayhawks will have to rebuild the middle of their offensive line. They also need to develop depth at quarterback, where both Todd Reesing and Kerry Meier will be seniors next season and at running back, where top rushing threats Jake Sharp, Jocques Crawford and Angus Quigley all will be seniors in 2009.

The Jayhawks turned their secondary around with the insertion of sophomore Phillip Strozier at free safety and freshman Daymond Patterson at right cornerback. But more players are needed as starting left corner Justin Thornton and strong safety Darrell Stuckey both will be seniors next season.

The immediate personnel needs aren't that severe outside of linebacker and running back. But if the Jayhawks can develop depth at those positions, it could likely determine whether they have a legitimate chance to challenge for their first undisputed North title.

Iowa State recruiting needs

January, 21, 2009
1/21/09
8:46
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard turned to a familiar face when he hired former coach Paul Rhoads to replace Gene Chizik.

The Cyclones hope that Rhoads' previous knowledge of the Iowa State program, gleaned from a five-year career as an assistant there under Dan McCarney, will provide them a chance to return to a bowl game for the first time since 2005. It certainly won't hurt that Rhoads, who grew up in nearby Ankeny, Iowa, will be recruiting an area he knows well.

Whether that will translate into success remains to be seen. But it gives him a start in a massive rebuilding job from last season's 2-10 finish that included the first winless Big 12 conference record for a North Division team since 2003.

The Cyclones return nine offensive starters and seven defensive starters. But Rhoads knows that a talent upgrade is mandatory, particularly in the trenches. Freshman tackle Scott Haughton, freshman guard Kelechi Osemele and two other freshmen in the two-deep roster will be a starting point. But much more talent is needed.

Sophomore quarterback Austen Arnaud, sophomore running back Alexander Robinson and freshman wide receiver Darius Darks provide three key pieces to the start the building of a productive offense. But whether those players will mesh with former Rice coordinator Tom Herman's three-receiver offense philosophy remains to be seen. Herman likely will be more interested in recruiting players that will fit his grand scheme for an offense.

Rhoads promised at his introductory press conference that his defense "will hit you coming off the bus." But a talent infusion will be necessary considering the Cyclones ranked 110th or worse nationally in scoring defense, pass defense, total defense and pass efficiency defense last season.

Freshman All-American kick returner Leonard Johnson shows promise at cornerback. But the Cyclones need replacements for playmaking cornerback Chris Singletary and strong safety Brandon Hunley.

Rhoads will have his work cut out, but it's not impossible to succeed in carving a recruiting niche with his familiarity. Iowa native McCarney directed the Cyclones to an unprecedented five bowl games in six seasons and the cusp of a couple of North titles when he was there.

Pollard hopes that Rhoads can match the success of Iowa State's winningest coach -- and more.

Colorado recruiting needs

January, 21, 2009
1/21/09
8:22
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Colorado coach Dan Hawkins is brimming with his confidence about his team for next season.

Despite the Buffaloes' 2008 struggles that resulted in a 5-7 season and four losses in their final five games, Hawkins didn't hesitate to predict his team would win "10 games with no excuses" in the upcoming season at the team's post-season banquet.

To get there, Hawkins will have to make a late recruiting charge much like last season, when he beat Texas for running back Darrell Scott as the most heralded recruit of his tenure.

An increase in finding depth and talent will be important after the Buffaloes suffered 10 season-ending injuries, lost three players to academic ineligibility and fielded the conference's youngest team in 2008. The team's final two-deep roster featured 27 freshmen or sophomores.

Hawkins' most pressing concern will be retooling a defensive front that loses starting defensive end Maurice Lucas, defensive tackle George Hypolite and nose tackle Brandon Nicolas. Behind them are three freshmen and a sophomore in the two-deep roster that is talented but lacks experience.

Starting outside linebacker Brad Jones and free safety Ryan Walters are Colorado's only personnel losses among the starting back seven. But additional depth at the position is needed as projected starting linebackers Jeff Smart and Shaun Mohler, who both will seniors in 2009.

The Buffaloes desperately need depth in their offensive line. Many of their offensive problems last season stemmed from early season-ending injuries that required surgery for tackle Ryan Miller and guards Mike Iltis and Maxwell Tuioti-Mariner. Their losses helped explain why the Buffaloes ranked 86th nationally in rushing, 100th in scoring in 102nd in sacks allowed.

After burning the redshirt of freshman quarterback Tyler Hansen late in the season, the Buffaloes should have healthy competition for the starting job with Cody Hawkins. An offensive is mandatory after Colorado produced just one 200-yard rushing game and was the only Big 12 team without a 300-yard passing game last season.

Considering the other personnel losses across the North Division, the Buffaloes could bounce back into title contention like their coach has predicted if they can find some more players and stay healthy.

But that could be a big if.

Texas Tech recruiting needs

January, 20, 2009
1/20/09
4:42
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

After unprecedented success last season, Mike Leach will be facing the biggest rebuilding job of his coaching tenure at Texas Tech.

The Red Raiders notched a share of their first South Division title and posted an 11-2 record that tied for the school's single-season record for victories. But Leach will be facing the challenge of replacing many of the key components from that team.

The Red Raiders lose seven starters from the offense, including record-breaking quarterback Graham Harrell and two-time Biletnikoff Award winner Michael Crabtree.

The Red Raiders also lose the left side of their starting offensive line -- All-Big 12 tackle Rylan Reed and three-year starting guard Louis Vasquez -- along with underrated center Stephen Hamby and starting running back Shannon Woods. Senior starting guard Brandon Carter and starting tackle Marlon Winn both will be seniors next season, emphasizing the need for immediate help inside from this recruiting class.

Junior Taylor Potts is penciled in as Harrell's replacement at quarterback. Baron Batch should be Tech's next running threat and the Red Raiders have a slew of receivers who should be able to replace Crabtree's production -- at least in quantity.

But the Red Raiders' biggest aim will be an improvement of the defense's production. The unit appeared to wear down late in the season in disappointing performances against Oklahoma and Mississippi,  games in which the Red Raiders were torched for an average of 56 points and 570 total yards per game.

And the departure of defensive end Brandon Williams, who led the Big 12 in sacks last season before declaring for the NFL draft, along with starting defensive end Jake Ratliff will definitely weaken the Red Raiders' pass rush.

Immediate help also will be needed at safety. The Red Raiders lose all four safeties from their two-deep roster, including starters Darcel McBath and Daniel Charbonnet. Both McBath and Charbonnet ranked among the top 20 nationally in interceptions, providing some playmaking for a secondary that ranked 94th nationally in pass defense.

It will be interesting to see if Leach can capitalize on the success of his memorable 2008 season. But matching that season will be an immediate challenge for this recruiting class because of all the talent leaving the program.

Texas A&M recruiting needs

January, 20, 2009
1/20/09
3:58
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

After struggling through a disappointing 4-8 season that was Texas A&M's worst since 2003, coach Mike Sherman has redoubled efforts in his first full recruiting season with the Aggies.

Sherman has seen some strong results with increased athleticism from several top early commitments, most notably breakaway running back Christine Michael from Beaumont, Texas -- the program's first five-star recruit at the position in the past decade.

Michael's arrival is important as the Aggies lose Jorvorskie Lane and Mike Goodson opted to declare for the NFL draft as a junior. The Aggies have little experience at the position as sophomores-to-be Cyrus Gray and Bradley Stephens and Keondra Smith will likely be battling Michael for immediate playing time. Any improvement would be noticeable after the Aggies ranked 114th nationally in rushing last season.

The Aggies' passing game looks in good shape with the return of quarterback Jerrod Johnson, freshman receiver Jeff Fuller and redshirt freshman receiver Ryan Tannehill. There's a need for an upgrade in the offensive line considering last season's struggles and the fact that starting tackle Michael Shumard, starting guard Lee Grimes and starting center Kevin Matthews all will be seniors in 2009.

The defensive line will take a hit as starting defensive ends Michael Bennett and Cyril Obizor and top substitute Amos Gbunblee all were seniors last season. But the development of freshman tackles Eddie Brown and Tony Jerod-Eddie will make the need less immediate inside.

An upgrade is also needed in the secondary after the Aggies lost starting cornerback Arkeith Brown and rover Devin Gregg and the top two substitutes at the position as seniors. And it behooves the Aggies to develop some young players quickly with starting cornerback Jordan Pugh and starting free safety Jordan Peterson both entering their senior seasons in 2009.

The Aggies ranked no better than 108th in any of the four major defensive statistical categories as they finished with losses to all of their South Division rivals for the first time in school history. So an immediate upgrade of defensive talent is mandatory after those struggles.

Texas recruiting needs

January, 20, 2009
1/20/09
2:44
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Mack Brown has earned the reputation as one of the game's master recruiters as he has developed a program that has run off 10 straight victories over the past eight consecutive seasons.

The Longhorns have a few holes to fill from this season's 12-1 team that claimed the Fiesta Bowl but was disappointed in its hopes to have a shot at the BCS title by a last-second loss at Texas Tech.

The most pressing need will be along the defensive front as starters Brian Orakpo, Roy Miller, Henry Melton and part-time starter Aaron Lewis all will leave from a unit that led the nation with 47 sacks last season. Don't be surprised if linebacker Sergio Kindle moves to defensive end to help fill the talent gap for next season.

More talent for the future could be used at linebacker where both projected starters Jared Norton and Roddrick Muckelroy will be seniors next season. The secondary appears set with eight players in the playing rotation who were either sophomores or freshmen last season, including both starting safeties in Earl Thomas and Blake Gideon.

With Colt McCoy set for his senior season, finding depth at quarterback is an immediate goal. Heralded prospect Garrett Gilbert will likely redshirt in order to prepare for the battle to replace McCoy in 2010.

The Longhorns lose only Cedric Dockery as a starter along the offense line and appear stacked with talented players lined up for playing time. Center Chris Hall, guard Charlie Tanner and tackle Adam Ulatoski all will be seniors next season, giving impetus to finding more depth across the line.

Redshirt freshman Tre Newton appears poised for a battle for playing time at running back, where the lack of a breakaway threat remains a concern. Vondrell McGee has struggled in the featured role and Fozzy Whittaker has been injury-prone.

The need isn't quite as pressing at wide receiver. The development of youngsters like Malcolm Williams, James Kirkendoll, Brandon Collins and Dan Buckner have the Longhorns apparently set for the loss of Quan Cosby and the eventual departure of Jordan Shipley after the 2009 season.

Oklahoma recruiting needs

January, 20, 2009
1/20/09
1:09
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Oklahoma has carved out a dynasty in the Big 12 with six championships during the last nine seasons and an unprecedented three-peat of league titles from 2006-08. The backbone of that success has been tenacious recruiting over the years by Bob Stoops and his staff.

The return of quarterback Sam Bradford, tackle Trent Williams, tight end Jermaine Gresham and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy for another season after they considered an early departure for the NFL will give the Sooners a chance to compete for another title in 2009. But the Sooners still have some major holes to fill with additional personnel that can be addressed through this year's recruiting.

Williams is the only starter returning along the offensive line. The need is especially apparent at guard and center, where the Sooners are young and untested at both positions.

The Sooners also need help at wide receiver where Ryan Broyles is the only returning player in Oklahoma's four-man rotation with the loss of Juaquin Iglesias, Manuel Johnson and Quentin Chaney among their leading receivers. And tight ends Gresham and Brody Eldridge both will be seniors in 2009, meaning there's an immediate need for help there, too.

Stoops' defense is largely young with three sophomores and a freshman along the defensive front. The linebackers appear stacked with redshirt freshmen Travis Lewis and Austin Box poised to become defensive staples in upcoming seasons.

Oklahoma's major defensive positional need is is at safety where Nic Harris and Lendy Holmes both were seniors last season. The Sooners have some younger players behind them, but could an upgrade of talent for a secondary that was leaky at times last season.

Oklahoma State recruiting needs

January, 20, 2009
1/20/09
12:18
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The Cowboys are becoming more of a player in the Texas recruiting wars that are shaping Big 12 programs.

And coach Mike Gundy will need another big recruiting effort, capitalizing on a 9-4 season capped by a berth in the Holiday Bowl -- even as expectations are soaring for a potential challenge for the Cowboys' first Big 12 South title in school history.

The most pressing concern is in the secondary where only cornerback Perrish Cox returns. And with only one other underclassman in the two-deep roster the needs are pressing in this class for immediate talent.

The departure of senior defensive tackles Tonga Tea and Jeray Chatham makes finding two new starters a pressing concern inside. And the Cowboys could use additional depth at linebacker where all three starters will be seniors in 2009.

The Cowboys' offense should be explosive again next season after losing only three starters -- center David Washington, guard Steve Denning and tight end Brandon Pettigrew.

Oklahoma State's balanced offense should be stacked with young key players. Quarterback Zac Robinson will be a senior next year, but an orderly transition is in place with Alex Cate and Brandon Weeden in relief. Leading Big 12 rusher Kendall Hunter will be a junior in 2009 and should be energized after struggling with injuries late in the season.

Dez Bryant is poised to claim the classification as the Big 12's top receiver after Michael Crabtree's declaration for the NFL draft. But as was seen after Bryant's injury in the Holiday Bowl, additional receiving talent needs to be developed around him or the Cowboys' offense becomes stagnant.

Such an across-the-board upgrade of talent will be important if the Cowboys can continue their continued growth into a potential challenger for the school's first BCS bowl.

Baylor recruiting needs

January, 20, 2009
1/20/09
11:51
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Having a scintillating player like Robert Griffin should clearly benefit Baylor's recruiting for the next several seasons -- even though the Bears likely won't getting too many quarterback prospects.

Coach Art Briles won't mind that much. As he works to lure a recruiting class that will help send his team bowling for the first time since 1994, Briles likely will lean on the same philosophy he employed to turn around Houston in his first college head-coaching job. It will likely include a heavy concentration of players from smaller Texas high schools rather than those from the Dallas and Houston areas.

Briles has clicked on that strategy over the years and appears set to do that with his second recruiting class with the Bears.

The Bears need an upgrade in the trenches after losing starting tackles Jason Smith and Don Gay and they will start seniors at both guard positions and at center in 2009. Smith and Gay combined for 73 career starts. The depth at the position is aggravated because only redshirt freshman Joe Korbel was in the late-season depth chart.

Most of the skill position talent is young -- Griffin and leading receiver Kendall Wright are coming off their freshman seasons and leading rusher Jay Finley was a sophomore. But an upgrade of talent still could be used at all positions.

Most of the defensive talent is back as the Bears lose only two starters. But the Bears could use some additional young personnel at linebacker where both potential All-American Joe Pawelek and Antonio Jones will be seniors next season. And replacements will need to be cultivated for seniors-to-be like nose guard Trey Bryant, defensive end Jason Lamb and safeties Jordan Lake and Jeremy Williams.

Briles knows his way around Texas high school recruiting after a legendary career as a four-time state championship coach at Stephenville High School after earlier stops at Hamlin and Georgetown. Don't be surprised to see him lean on some of that familiarity as he beats the bushes to help fill in the roster around Griffin.

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