Big 12: Desmond Jackson
OFFENSE (projected starter in bold)
QB: David Ash (Jr.), Tyrone Swoopes (So.)
RB: Malcolm Brown (Sr.), Johnathan Gray (Jr.), Joe Bergeron (Sr.), Jalen Overstreet (So.)
This group could end up being one of the Big 12’s best this fall, but there’s still work to be done this summer. Gray is still recovering from a torn Achilles but should be cleared in time for the season opener. When he’s back, he could be one of the conference’s most versatile rushers. Bergeron was held out of the end of spring practice to work on academics but is expected to rejoin the team this summer. Brown is in the best shape of his career and will be the workhorse as a senior. Overstreet thrived on outside runs in the spring game and could become a factor in the fall. Texas adds three freshmen to the mix this summer.
WR: Jaxon Shipley (Sr.), Daje Johnson (Jr.)
WR: Marcus Johnson (Jr.), Jacorey Warrick (RFr.), Jake Oliver (RFr.)
WR: Kendall Sanders (Jr.), Montrel Meander (RFr.), John Harris (Sr.)
TE: Geoff Swaim (Sr.), M.J. McFarland (Jr.), Blake Whiteley (So.)
The trio of Shipley, Marcus Johnson and Sanders received strong praise from Texas coaches this spring. Marcus Johnson and Sanders are both big-play threats and Shipley will be a four-year starter who’s one of the league’s best possession receivers. After disciplinary issues in his first two years, Daje Johnson is doing everything asked of him and will get the ball in a variety of ways. The depth behind them is young, with three second-year wideouts and five incoming freshmen fighting for playing time. Texas might not have a game-changing tight end, but Swaim had a great spring, McFarland reemerged as a pass-catching threat and Greg Daniels, who missed the spring, can set the edge as a blocker.
LT: Desmond Harrison (Sr.), Darius James (RFr.)
LG: Sedrick Flowers (Jr.), Alex Anderson (Fr.)
C: Dominic Espinosa (Sr.), Jake Raulerson (RFr.)
RG: Taylor Doyle (Jr.), Rami Hammad (RFr.)
RT: Kennedy Estelle (Jr.), Kent Perkins (So.)
After having one of the nation’s most experienced lines in 2013, Texas could roll with two seniors and three juniors this fall. There still could be lots of changes to this lineup, but Espinosa is a lock to start and the left side of the line is fairly established too. The 6-foot-8 Harrison disappointed last year but showed his potential this spring. Doyle was the surprise of the spring after playing in only two career games, but he still has to hold off Hammad, who has big potential. Curtis Riser could also be in the mix at guard, and Perkins -- who missed the end of spring ball with a knee injury -- is good enough to play anywhere on the line after working at guard this spring.
DE: Cedric Reed (Sr.), Caleb Bluiett (So.)
DT: Malcom Brown (Jr.), Alex Norman (So.)
DT: Desmond Jackson (Sr.), Hassan Ridgeway (So.)
DE: Shiro Davis (Jr.), Bryce Cottrell (So.)
Baylor has the Big 12’s best defensive line, but Texas’ starting four could challenge for that crown this fall. Reed and Brown are two of the Longhorns’ best players. Davis emerged to take over for Jackson Jeffcoat. The depth behind them is young and inexperienced, especially at defensive tackle, but Bluiett and Ridgeway should play prominent roles. Don’t be surprised if true freshmen Poona Ford and Derick Roberson enter the rotation right away, and Ford will need to fortify the depth up the middle.
OLB: Jordan Hicks (Sr.), Timothy Cole (So.), Demarco Cobbs (Sr.)
MLB: Steve Edmond (Sr.), Dalton Santos (Jr.)
OLB: Peter Jinkens (Jr.), Naashon Hughes (RFr.)
With nearly all of Texas’ veteran linebackers dealing with injuries this spring, there’s still plenty of uncertainty about this group. Edmond made a big impression on the new staff and his teammates and should hold down the middle with help from Santos. Hicks is expected to be healthy in June and is hungry to make up for two lost seasons. Cole made the most of his opportunities this spring and worked with the first team defense, while Cobbs was a spring game revelation after missing the entire 2013 season with knee issues. Jinkens and Hughes showed they can be dangerous as pass rushers off the edge. Kendall Thompson and Tevin Jackson will provide depth when they get healthy.
CB: Quandre Diggs (Sr.), Bryson Echols (So.)
CB: Duke Thomas (Jr.), Sheroid Evans (Sr.), Antwuan Davis (RFr.)
S: Mykkele Thompson (Sr.), Adrian Colbert (So.)
S: Josh Turner (Sr.), Chevoski Collins (RFr.)
Seems like these starting jobs are fairly locked in coming out of spring ball. Diggs and Thomas are clearly the best option at cornerback. Behind them, the trio of Evans, Davis and Echols has big potential. Evans is coming back from a torn ACL and missed the spring, giving the two younger DBs an opportunity to get a lot of second-team reps. There’s confidence in the play of Thompson and Turner so far, though they’ve had up-and-down careers thus far. Colbert and Collins are very young but will get their chances this fall. Texas brings in four freshmen this summer and several could make an early impact.
2. TCU: DE Devonte Fields, the Associated Press’ Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year as a freshman in 2012, had an empty season in 2013 thanks to a suspension, then a season-ending foot injury. If Fields can return to the player he was, TCU will be formidable up front. Chucky Hunter was a second-team All-Big 12 pick inside last season, and he’ll be flanked by an array of experienced tackles in Davion Pierson and Tevin Lawson, who were all part of the rotation last season. Ends Terrell Lathan, James McFarland and Mike Tuaua, who combined for 11 sacks in 2013, all return as well. Even with DT Jon Lewis giving up football, TCU's D-line figures to be as deep as any in the league.
3. Texas: Cedric Reed, one of the best sack men in the Big 12 last season, returns after giving the NFL a cursory thought. The Longhorns have to replace Big 12 co-Defensive Player of the Year Jackson Jeffcoat on the other side, but ESPN 300 recruit Derick Roberson, the No. 8 DE in the Class of 2014, could help right away. The Longhorns should also be stout inside, with run-stuffing tackles Malcom Brown and Desmond Jackson back to clog the middle.
4. Kansas State: Ryan Mueller, who was eighth nationally with 11.5 sacks last season, comes back after a breakout All-Big 12 season. Travis Britz is an all-conference-caliber tackle and gives K-State one of the better one-two punches on the D-line in the league. Joining them will be Terrell Clinkscales, who was the No. 4 junior college DT in the 2014 class. The Wildcats pried Clinkscales away from Nebraska, and at 315 pounds he could be the perfect complement to Britz, who relies more on quickness.
6. Baylor: The Bears feature two of the more intriguing defensive linemen in the league. DE Shawn Oakman, a former Penn State transfer with tremendous length at 6-foot-9, finished sixth in the league with 12.5 tackles for loss last season, but he tailed off in Big 12 play. Baylor will ask him to play a much bigger role along the line, and he has the potential to give the Bears a unique playmaker there. On the inside, Baylor will lean more on Andrew Billings, who was part of the DT rotation as a freshman. If both Billings and Oakman play up to their vast potential, Baylor could be a handful up front.
7. West Virginia: The Mountaineers lose two of three starters along the D-line, including second-team All-Big 12 end Will Clarke. West Virginia is hoping for big things from DE Kyle Rose, who played a lot as a sophomore. Dontrill Hyman will likely fill a starting role on the other side, though he could get pushed for time by Eric Kinsey and Noble Nwachukwu, who both will be in their third year in the program. The Mountaineers will lean on Christian Brown and Darrien Howard at nose guard. Howard was an ESPN 300 recruit last year and played as a freshman. There’s some talent and potential here.
8. Iowa State: Like Texas Tech, Iowa State loaded up on immediate defensive line help, signing three juco defensive ends in Dalyou Pierson, Terry Ayeni and Gabe Luna, who is enrolled already for spring ball. Those three together with All-Big 12 honorable-mention selection Cory Morrissey and sophomore Mitchell Meyers should give Iowa State a solid rotation at end. Rodney Coe, who started the last four games, will anchor the Cyclones inside.
9. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders lose their two best defensive linemen in Kerry Hyder and Dartwan Bush, and Tech got pushed around up front anyway last season. Coach Kliff Kingsbury recognized this deficiency and signed four juco defensive linemen, all of whom have a chance to play immediately. Of the returning linemen, Branden Jackson was by far the most productive, totaling nine tackles for loss and four sacks as a starter.
10. Kansas: Despite also losing two starters, the Jayhawks have experience up front. Defensive captain Keon Stowers is back after manning the middle in 2013. Ben Goodman returns as well in Kansas’ “buck” role, and he is coming off a very solid sophomore season. Goodman’s backup, Michael Reynolds, and rotation players Tedarian Johnson and Ty McKinney give the Jayhawks depth.
Iowa State tight end E.J. Bibbs: The junior was the Cyclones' leading receiver with seven catches for 63 yards in ISU’s 21-17 loss to TCU. Bibbs provides a solid athletic target, particularly on third downs. He had three receptions for 28 yards (two first downs) on third down against the Horned Frogs.
Kansas linebacker Darius Willis: The senior was productive in spot duty for the Jayhawks in their 42-6 loss to Oklahoma State. He had a season-high six tackles, including four solo stops, and looked like one of the few KU players who was engaged and excited to compete against the Cowboys.
Kansas State cornerback Randall Evans: Playing alongside Ryan Mueller, who had three sacks, and Ty Zimmerman, who returned an interception for a touchdown, it was easy to overlook Evans’ performance. He had 10 tackles, one pass breakup and one interception in KSU’s 49-26 win over Texas Tech.
Oklahoma linebacker Dominique Alexander: Corey Nelson’s replacement has been growing into his role during his first four games as a starter. Even though he still shows his inexperience at times, he flashes the upside that had OU’s coaches raving about his ability earlier this season. He finished with 11 tackles, including eight solo stops, one sack and one forced fumble in OU’s 41-12 loss to Baylor.
Oklahoma State receiver David Glidden: The sophomore was terrific after standout receiver Josh Stewart left with an injury. Glidden finished with six receptions for 73 yards in OSU’s 42-6 win over Kansas. He entered the game with eight career receptions but filled in admirably against the Jayhawks. Three of his six receptions came on third down.
Texas defensive tackle Desmond Jackson: The junior stepped right in for the injured Chris Whaley with little drop off in the Longhorns’ 47-40 overtime win over West Virginia. He had eight tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss, with two sacks and one forced fumble. It’s rare to lose a player like Whaley without taking a step backward, but Jackson seamlessly filled in to help UT remain undefeated in the Big 12.
Texas Tech running back Kenny Williams: The junior is a solid threat as a running back in the Red Raiders’ offense. Kansas State took control of the game and limited Williams’ opportunities, but he finished with 15 carries for 66 yards, averaging 4.4 yards per play. He hasn’t had a 100-yard rushing game this season, but he is a quality running and receiving threat in coach Kliff Kingsbury’s attack.
TCU linebacker Paul Dawson: The junior quietly has been playing as well as any linebacker in the Big 12 during the past month. He’s recorded double-digit tackles in four of his past five games, including the past three. Dawson had 14 tackles, including eight solo stops and two tackles for loss, in TCU’s 21-17 win over Iowa State.
West Virginia receiver Mario Alford: The junior had arguably the most explosive game by a Mountaineers’ receiver this season. He finished with 205 all-purpose yards, including 97 receiving yards, 88 kick-return yards and 20 rushing yards. His 72-yard touchdown catch and run in the fourth quarter looked like last season's WVU offense.
RB John Hubert and QB Daniel Sams, Kansas State: Nobody wants to play Kansas State right now, and this duo has a lot to do with that. On the road at Texas Tech, Hubert rushed for a season-high 157 yards highlighted by a 63-yard touchdown while Sams contributed 81 yards and two touchdowns in a 49-26 victory. When these two get rolling on the same day, K-State is a tough out no matter the opponent.
RB Shock Linwood, Baylor: No Lache Seastrunk, no Glasco Martin, no problem for the versatile Baylor offense. When the Bears' top two backs went down with injuries, Linwood stepped in and rushed for 182 yards on 23 carries in the big 41-12 victory over Oklahoma. Despite being No. 3 on the depth chart, Linwood is sixth in the Big 12 in rushing at 625 yards.
ATH Trevone Boykin, TCU: What position are we supposed to list him at now? Boykin has started six game at quarterback, has a 100-yard receiving performance as a wideout and a 101-yard rushing performance. Against Iowa State, he returned to the backfield and rushed for three touchdowns on five carries while adding four catches for 24 yards. He's doing anything and everything asked of him now that Casey Pachall is back.
DT Desmond Jackson, Texas: This is a little bit of an under-the-radar choice, considering all the scoring that went down in Texas' 47-40 overtime win at West Virginia, but Jackson stepped up when top defensive tackle Chris Whaley was lost to a knee injury. The former starter put up eight tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and a fumble recovery. Whaley is as important a senior leader as UT has on defense, but this line didn't miss a beat thanks to Jackson's immediate impact.
S Lyndell Johnson, Oklahoma State: Following in the trend of honoring key injury fill-ins, we're giving one to Johnson. The Cowboys needed a capable replacement for Shamiel Gary and found one in the junior safety, who earned the start and contributed eight tackles, including three tackles for loss, in a 42-6 win over Kansas.
You guys loved it. It's still a little soon to make generalizations about the 2010 class just yet, but you wanted more, so let's take a look back at 2007.
Here's half of the Big 12. We'll look at the rest later this week. (Note: Players who signed and did not academically qualify are not eligible.)
Best surprise: "CB" Elliott Coffey. Coffey signed with Baylor as the nation's No. 84 cornerback and a middle of the road recruit for Guy Morriss. By the end of his career, he'd gained almost 60 pounds and was a versatile linebacker at 235 pounds and the leader of the Bears' defense as an All-Big 12 talent.
Biggest bust: WR Romie Blaylock. He was the highest-ranked recruit who made it to campus for the Bears but managed to have negative receiving yardage in his true freshman season. He eventually moved to cornerback but made just one start and eventually transferred to Midwestern State.
IOWA STATE CYCLONES
Best surprise: OL Kelechi Osemele. This wasn't a very strong class from Iowa State, but Osemele, the nation's No. 149 tackle from Houston, blossomed into a three-year starter and an NFL draft pick who started for the Baltimore Ravens and won a Super Bowl ring earlier this month.
Biggest bust: QB Philip Bates. Bates lost a quarterback competition to Austen Arnaud and transferred during his sophomore season, eventually landing at Ohio where he played quarterback and receiver. The Omaha native was Iowa State's highest-ranked recruit and the nation's No. 76 quarterback.
Best surprise: OLB Justin Springer. Springer was rated higher than just two of KU's high school signees in the 23-member class, but he emerged as a starter and a team captain as a senior in 2010, helping KU upset the ACC champion Georgia Tech and winning the Big 12's Player of the Week honor. The California native was unranked as a recruit.
Biggest bust: RB Carmon Boyd-Anderson. The Jayhawks' signed the Jacksonville, Texas native as the nation's No. 71 running back and the second-highest rated recruit in the class. He played sparingly as a freshman before transferring before the 2008 class when it was clear he had fallen down the depth chart.
KANSAS STATE WILDCATS
Best surprise: DE Ralph Guidry. He was the nation's No. 150 defensive end in an average class for K-State and came to K-State at just 235. He was all the way up to 290 pounds by the end of his career and was a two-year starter at defensive tackle who notched more sacks than all but one Wildcat in 2011, when K-State won 10 games and reached the Cotton Bowl.
Biggest bust: S Lamark Brown. Brown was the class' highest-ranked recruit as the nation's No. 19 safety, but he played exclusively offense in Manhattan and never caught on. He switched positions twice but never had more than 215 yards receiving and transferred to Minnesota State Mankato in the summer of 2010.
Best surprise: "RB" Travis Lewis. The top of Oklahoma's class in 2007 was loaded, but the nation's No. 86 running back made a huge impact after a redshirt season. He led the team with 144 tackles and won Big 12 Freshman of the Year. He topped 100 tackles two more times in his career and became the first player in Oklahoma history to lead the team in tackles in four seasons.
Biggest bust: S Desmond Jackson. Jackson was the class' second-highest rated recruit, behind only the late Austin Box. He was the nation's No. 16 safety but never started a game and made just 13 tackles before transferring to Tarleton State.
1. Figure out the offensive identity. Bryan Harsin is gone, and he's probably taking most of his pre-snap shifts with him. Will Major Applewhite still look to run a power offense? Texas has recruited and developed its offensive line really well lately, but David Ash has matured, and even with a wealth of backs in Malcolm Brown, Johnathan Gray, Joe Bergeron and Daje Johnson, Texas hasn't been able to keep them healthy or get consistent production out of one for an entire season. Will Applewhite put more responsibility in Ash's hands? He was good at times last season, but the rising junior was inconsistent. His ceiling is probably a legitimate Heisman campaign. His floor is probably getting benched in favor Connor Brewer or Jalen Overstreet -- or maybe even incoming freshman Tyrone Swoopes. Where will he fall on the spectrum? Will Texas continue to try to pound the trenches?
2. Plug up the middle of the defense. Texas' defense made no sense last season. The personnel is absolutely there to be great up front. The defensive tackles are deep and talented, led by guys like Malcom Brown, Ashton Dorsey, Desmond Jackson and Chris Whaley. The linebackers were solid, even without Jordan Hicks, who should be back next season. Peter Jinkens is a rising star and a few others have potential. Coordinator Manny Diaz didn't take another job, electing to stay in Austin and attempt fix the most underwhelming unit in the Big 12. It all starts with the ability to stop the run, something Texas never did consistently last season. Fix that, and the rest of this defense comes around, I say.
3. Discover and develop leadership. Texas was still a pretty young team last season after rebooting on both sides of the ball after the 2010 season. The freshmen and sophomores who contributed in 2011 are juniors and seniors now, but the team is losing guys like Alex Okafor and Kenny Vaccaro, players who had been around awhile and served as role models for younger guys. Look for Jackson Jeffcoat and David to fill the role this year, but other players, like Malcolm Brown or Jaxon Shipley, might emerge, too. We'll see who steps up in the spring.
More offseason to-do lists:
Only one Big 12 team made his list, and it's the Texas Longhorns.
No question here. Texas is in a league of its own in the Big 12 when it comes to the defensive line. Ends Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor are the league's two best, and Okafor was named Big 12 Preseason Defensive Player of the Year by the media.
The Longhorns checked in at No. 3 on Haney's list, behind only Florida State and LSU.
The kicker for Texas? Jeffcoat and Okafor get plenty of attention, but the depth at defensive tackle might take this line to the next level.
Ashton Dorsey returns along with sophomore Desmond Jackson, but juco transfer Brandon Moore and incoming freshman Malcom Brown could have a big impact. If that rotation starts collapsing pockets up front, flushing quarterbacks into the flats, Jeffcoat and Okafor are going to be racking up big, big numbers this year. Look out for former running back Chris Whaley on the line, too.
Texas is going to have a fearsome front four all season, regardless of who's on the field, well-deserving of a spot in the national top three.
TCU and Oklahoma may have the next-best defensive lines in the league, but nobody's got one like Texas does this year. We'll see how much damage the Longhorns do.
Also, here's how the last few years of Big 12 ESPNU 150 recruits shaped up:
- Big 12 signees in the 2006 ESPNU 150
- Big 12 signees in the 2007 ESPNU 150
- Big 12 signees in the 2008 ESPNU 150
- Big 12 signees in the 2009 ESPNU 150
- Big 12 signees in the 2010 ESPNU 150
No. 21: Quandre Diggs, CB, Texas: Diggs led the Longhorns in interceptions with three and tied for the team lead in passes defended with 16. He also had 43 tackles, including four for loss, and two forced fumbles. Diggs was the Longhorns' kick returner, with 17 returns for 324 yards, and returned 8 punts for 181 yards and a 22.6-yard average "You just keep adding more and more [to Diggs' responsibilities], and he seems to be handling it all," secondary coach Duane Akina told the Austin Statesman. "All of this is on top of him being a very productive defensive player in a very explosive offensive conference."
No. 31: Desmond Jackson, DT, Texas: Jackson was originally planning to redshirt in order to add some size to his 6-foot-1, 280-pound frame but ended up playing in all 11 games. Jackson had a big fall camp and was able to get into the rotation at tackle, although he was never able to crack the starting lineup. He finished the year with eight tackles and a sack and is expected to compete for a starting job next fall.
No. 35: Brandon Williams, RB, Oklahoma: Williams was able to graduate high school early and enrolled at OU in time for spring ball. His playing time increased each game this year and he finished the year with 46 carries for 219 yards, averaging almost 5 yards a carry. He had his breakout game against Iowa State, rushing 11 times for 80 yards.
No. 51: Trey Metoyer, WR, Oklahoma: Metoyer, who committed to Oklahoma, was declared academically ineligible for the 2011 season and played at Hargrave Military Academy this fall.
No. 55: Steve Edmond, LB, Texas: Playing in 10 games, Edmond was an ace on Texas' special teams. He made five tackles on the unit, which was fourth on the team. He also forced a fumble and had two tackles for loss this season for the Longhorns.
No. 64: Danzel Williams, ATH, Oklahoma: Ranked as an athlete, Williams is at Oklahoma playing running back, a position the Sooners have always stockpiled with talent. Fellow freshman back Brandon Williams did see some time this season for the Sooners, so Danzel Williams will be a little behind the eight ball, as the Sooners aren't scheduled to lose any of their backs going into next season.
No. 87: Josh Turner, ATH, Texas: Turner was recruited as an athlete, and he has found a home as a defensive back and special teams contributor. As a gunner, Turner has blocked a punt, which was returned for a touchdown, and has six tackles and a fumble recovery.
No. 93: Sedrick Flowers, OL, Texas: Flowers has played in three games for the Longhorns, and he is expected to compete for a starting job next season. It won't be easy, though, as Texas will lose only three of its 18 linemen to graduation at the end of the year.
No. 101: Nathan Hughes, DE, Oklahoma: Hughes redshirted for the Sooners.
No. 103: Jordan Wade, DT, Oklahoma: Wade was academically cleared in October and will be in Norman, Okla., in January.
No. 119: Jordan Phillips, DT, Oklahoma: Phillips, who wasn't cleared to play until just before the start of the season, redshirted this year.
No. 124: Herschel Sims, RB, Oklahoma State: Sims played in eight games, and finished as the Cowboys' third-leading rusher with 242 yards and two touchdowns. He was also a standout on special teams.
No. 133: Leroy Scott, CB, Texas: Scott played in eight games, mostly special teams, and had 10 tackles and a blocked punt.
But the wait will only be a couple of more months for the top recruits in the 2011 class. We took a brief look at this group on signing day to cap our review of the ESPNU 150's history, but a few have made headlines even since signing.
Since you won't have to wait long to see these guys, here's where each sits as they begin summer workouts at their respective campuses:
Texas (Seven signees)
- No. 7: Malcolm Brown, RB, Texas -- The incessant hype has increased the intrigue for Brown, but we'll see what kind of impact he can make when he joins the Longhorns this fall.
- No. 21: Quandre Diggs, CB, Texas -- Diggs, the younger brother of NFL corner Quentin Jammer, made a big impact this spring with his instincts, and it wouldn't surprise anyone if he opened 2011 as a starter.
- No. 31: Desmond Jackson, DT, Texas -- The Longhorns are well stocked on the defensive line, but Jackson joins the team this fall.
- No. 55: Steve Edmond, LB, Texas -- Edmond will have a chance to learn from two good ones this year: Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho, both leaders on Texas' team.
- No. 87: Josh Turner, ATH, Texas -- One of the top players in Oklahoma, Turner kept his future position coach, Duane Akina, who came back to Texas after taking a job at Arizona this offseason.
- No. 93: Sedrick Flowers, OG, Texas -- Flowers, meanwhile, will have a new coach in Stacy Searels when he arrives to campus. The Longhorns' coaching shake-up cost them just one commit, OT Christian Westerman, an Arizona native who signed with Auburn.
- No. 133: Leroy Scott, CB, Texas -- Like Turner, Scott will try to become the next great at Texas, where Akina has turned the program into DBU.
- No. 35: Brandon Williams, RB, Oklahoma -- Williams was the nation's No. 5 running back, and turned heads after he enrolled early this spring. He's already a likely contributor in the Sooners' rotation, alongside Roy Finch and Brennan Clay.
- No. 51: Trey Metoyer, WR, Oklahoma -- Metoyer hasn't officially qualified yet, but could add more depth to Oklahoma's receiving corps, among the best in the nation.
- No. 64: Danzel Williams, ATH, Oklahoma -- Williams is expected to play running back when he starts camp this fall.
- No. 101: Nathan Hughes, DE, Oklahoma
- No. 103: Jordan Wade, DT, Oklahoma
- No. 119: Jordan Phillips, DT, Oklahoma -- Hughes, Wade and Phillips should give Oklahoma some solid depth on the defensive line in the future.
- No. 124: Herschel Sims, RB, Oklahoma State -- Sims was the Cowboys' lone ESPNU 150 signee, but he'll join a crowded backfield behind Jeremy Smith and Joseph Randle when he arrives this fall.
Signees: 22 (four enrolled early)
Top prospects: Running back Malcolm Brown is the big headliner, the nation's No. 2 running back and No. 7 overall prospect. Cornerback Quandre Diggs gives the Longhorns the nation's top corner and No. 21 overall prospect. Defensive tackle Desmond Jackson and linebacker Steve Edmond are also two of the nation's best at their positions. Josh Turner, Sedrick Flowers and Leroy Scott give the Longhorns seven ESPNU 150 commits.
Needs met: Texas isn't starved for talent at any position. Its biggest problem in 2010 was a lack of talent at the skill positions, so it needs to find some solutions there, be it from talent already on campus or with incoming recruits. Brown gives the Longhorns a running back with their two other backs, Fozzy Whittaker and Cody Johnson, set to be seniors in 2011. Diggs and Scott also give them depth at cornerback, where Aaron Williams, Curtis Brown and Chykie Brown left openings.
Analysis: Part of me feels bad for Malcolm Brown. There might not be another player in the country with more expectations in his first year on campus, and that's not necessarily fair. Brown seems like he's embraced them, and hasn't wavered much since committing to the Longhorns in August. Texas couldn't run the ball in 2010. Brown is expected to help them do it in 2011. I just hope fans realize that offensive lines have just a little bit to do with that, too. The Longhorns did what they usually do, and hauled in the best recruiting class in the Big 12, narrowly beating out Oklahoma. They got a nice balance of offensive and defensive talents, but most other recruits will offer depth early on in their careers. Also, I wouldn't put much stock into Texas' drop from No. 1 to No. 5 nationally in the recruiting rankings. They lost just one recruit (granted, it was their top recruit, offensive tackle Christian Westerman of Arizona, who signed with Auburn) after replacing six assistants and Texas already had 22 commits in late June. The drop was precipitated by SEC teams Alabama and Auburn and USC gaining late signees from uncommitted prospects.
ESPN recruiting grade: A
- Big 12 signees in the 2006 ESPNU 150
- Big 12 signees in the 2007 ESPNU 150
- Big 12 signees in the 2008 ESPNU 150
- Big 12 signees in the 2009 ESPNU 150
- Big 12 signees in the 2010 ESPNU 150
And signing day has arrived, so here's who'll begin their career with plenty of hype and expectation next fall.
No. 7: Malcolm Brown, RB, Texas
No. 11: Aaron Green, RB, Nebraska
No. 21: Quandre Diggs, CB, Texas
No. 31: Desmond Jackson, DT, Texas
No. 35: Brandon Williams, RB, Oklahoma
No. 50: Jamal Turner, ATH, Nebraska (QB)
No. 51: Trey Metoyer, WR, Oklahoma
No. 55: Steve Edmond, LB, Texas
No. 64: Danzel Williams, ATH, Oklahoma
No. 87: Josh Turner, ATH, Texas
No. 93: Sedrick Flowers, OG, Texas
No. 101: Nathan Hughes, DE, Oklahoma
No. 103: Jordan Wade, DT, Oklahoma
No. 109: Charles Jackson, CB, Nebraska
No. 115: Bubba Starling, QB, Nebraska
No. 119: Jordan Phillips, DT, Oklahoma
No. 124: Herschel Sims, RB, Oklahoma State
No. 133: Leroy Scott, CB, Texas
Nobody knows how any of these players' careers will play out, but as we've seen in the past, there might be some guys from this group who never see this field, and there might be a Heisman winner. Right now, you never know.
I learned quite a bit in going over the past five years in recruiting across the Big 12, so I'll have some thoughts and observations later this week from what I saw from the ESPNU 150 from 2006-11.
The Under Armour All-American will be on ESPN tonight at 7 p.m. ET, and there's plenty of talent taking the field that you'll see in the Big 12 next year. Here's an overview of commits to keep an eye on that plan to sign with their respective schools in February.
The game will be played at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Nebraska (Yes, I know he'll never play in the Big 12. But we're still covering them here.)
- Jamal Turner, QB
- Kendal Thompson, QB
- Nathan Hughes, DE
- Jordan Phillips, DT
- Brandon Williams, RB
- Danzel Williams, ATH
- Quandre Diggs, CB
- Desmond Jackson, DT
- Josh Turner, WR/ATH
- Christian Westerman, OL
- Taylor Bertolet, K
- Le'Raven Clark, OT
The 5-7 Longhorns didn't qualify for a bowl game for the first time since 1997, but Texas also has the nation's No. 1 recruiting class for 2011 headed to Austin, featuring 23 commitments -- including eight who rank among ESPN's top 150 for the 2011 class.
Jamie Newberg of ESPN got in touch with a few of Texas' top commits, and despite Texas' struggles, they sound optimistic.
A few selections:
Quandre Diggs, the nation's top cornerback, from Angleton, Texas: "It doesn't affect me at all," Diggs said. "I think in the long run it will make us better. You can't be on top all the time. That's how I look at things. Now, more than ever, I believe that I have an even better opportunity to come in and help out the team."
Desmond Jackson, a four-star defensive tackle from Houston: "This is my dream. I grew up always wanting to play for UT. I remember getting my first letter from Texas when I was a sophomore and I started running around my house and screaming. When they offered me I was so excited and thrilled that I don't even know how to explain it. Like I said, this is my dream."
This isn't all that surprising, and Texas has done well recruiting skill positions in the past two years, with receivers like Mike Davis and Darius White picking the Longhorns, and Malcolm Brown signing up with Mack Brown for 2011. But if Texas' offensive struggles continue next season, it'll be interesting to see if that changes.
Texas has the most of any team in the nation, with eight of the nation's top 150 recruits pledged to the Longhorns eight months before signing day.
Oklahoma has the nation's second-most, with six commits. Here's how the Big 12 stacked up.
- No. 4 Christian Westerman, OT
- No. 17 Quandre Diggs, CB
- No. 25 Desmond Jackson, DT
- No. 51 Steve Edmond, ILB
- No. 70 Sedrick Flowers, OG
- No. 120 Sheroid Evans, CB
- No. 133 Leroy Scott, CB
- No. 140 Garrett Greenlea, OT
- No. 58 Trey Metoyer, WR
- No. 60 Danzel Williams, ATH
- No. 73 Brandon Williams, RB
- No. 89 Nathan Hughes, DE
- No. 102 Jordan Wade, DT
- No. 146 Kendal Thompson, QB
- No. 55 Jamal Turner, ATH
- No. 100 Herschel Sims, RB
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
NORMAN, Okla. -- Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops thinks that Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford has come back noticeably improved for his junior season.
Bradford broke Oklahoma single-season records with 50 touchdown passes and 4,720 passing yards last season, but he appears to have more confidence and a better deep arm after the first week of Oklahoma's practices.
|AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki|
|Sam Bradford has added 10 pounds on his frame since last season.|
"He's strong, he's quicker and the ball comes out that much faster," Stoops said. "With another year of experience out on the field, he'll think much quicker, too."
Bradford appears noticeably bigger after adding 10 pounds of muscle since the end of last year.
"Sam is getting better each and every day," senior wide receiver Adron Tennell said. "Throwing the ball, rolling out of the pocket, he's done it all. You can tell he's better than before."Stoops said there's little separation between his backups who are playing behind Bradford at quarterback.
"Those guys are still splitting their reps," Stoops said. "We keep snapping the ball and giving them experience. They are working well together and doing a nice job."
- Sophomore defensive back Jamell Fleming has been hobbled by a back injury and sophomore defensive back Desmond Jackson "has an issue with academic misconduct" that he's working through, Stoops said.
- Oklahoma's special teams have looked strong in recent practices. Kicker Jimmy Stevens showed improved range at Thursday's open practice with field goals of 50 and 53 yards.
Stevens' length is a big development for the Sooners. His longest kick last season was 42 yards and he shanked five extra points.
Stoops playfully chided about 300 fans who attended the Sooners' open workout Thursday night that they weren't cheering loud enough for Stevens' big kicks.
"They only cheer when there's an offensive play," Stoops said. "When the defense intercepts the ball they are quiet over there or when the kicker gets a nice 53-yard field goal."
- One of the early revelations of fall practice has been wide receiver/punter Cameron Kenney, a transfer from Garden City Community College.
Kenney has jumped into the mix at wide receiver and also is challenging for the punting position against Tress Way. It's a weird combination of a speedy wide receiver who also is a strong punter.
"He's pretty good," Stoops said. "He's shows a lot of signs (as a receiver), but he needs to be more consistent, but he's doing a lot of good things.
"He's punted well, too. It's very rare because you don't see a lot of wide receivers who can punt the ball 40 yards like he can."
Oklahoma receivers coach Jay Norvell said that Kenney reminds him of former Oklahoma wide receiver Juaquin Iglesias because of his combination of size and strength.
"It's because of his quickness, his way of getting in and out of plays and the fact he's very strong to the ball," Norvell said. "Cameron can also run well after the catch. He's a hard worker and the guys who work the hardest get better faster."
- Despite the loss of key playmakers like Iglesias, Manny Johnson and Quentin Chaney from last season, Norvell thinks his current group has the chance to be better than last year's productive group.
"I think we're more athletic and explosive than we were last year," Norvell said. "Whether that will correlate into productiveness, I'm not sure. But we have athletes and in that respect we probably have more deep threats than we did last year."