Big 12: Dylan Cantrell

Freshmen impact in the Big 12

September, 25, 2013
9/25/13
10:30
AM ET


Having a highly ranked recruiting class and a bunch of four-star signees sounds good in the spring and summer, but it's a different story when the season begins. The freshmen who are game-ready are the ones who get the playing time, no matter their star rating. Here's a look at the five Big 12 schools getting the most from their true freshmen:

[+] EnlargeBaker Mayfield
Cal Sport Media/AP ImagesFreshman Texas Tech signal-caller Baker Mayfield, a walk-on, has been the surprise of the Big 12 thus far.
1. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders practically earn this top spot by default by relying on two true freshmen at quarterback. Baker Mayfield made a big first impression, but it seems the battle is opening back up after two solid games from freshman Davis Webb, and the imminent return of Michael Brewer. Still, going 4-0 with two rookies behind center makes coach Kliff Kingsbury’s bunch a worthy No. 1 on this list.

Tech has played eight other true freshmen in 2013, and a few are making solid contributions. Receiver Dylan Cantrell has six catches for 56 yards, linebacker Malik Jenkins has recorded five tackles and a pass breakup and receiver Carlos Thompson already has a 73-yard kick return and 35-yard punt return.

2. Oklahoma: Is it possible Oklahoma’s best running back is its fourth-string freshman? Keith Ford, the gem of the Sooners’ class, has rushed for 66 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries and wowed in OU’s last game against Tulsa.

Fellow freshman Stanvon Taylor earned his first career start against Tulsa, and he’s one of several newcomers contributing in the secondary along with Hatari Byrd, Ahmad Thomas, L.J. Moore and Dakota Austin. Linebacker Dominique Alexander has also chipped in six tackles through three games.

3. West Virginia: Of all the new skill players who joined West Virginia’s offense this year, who would’ve expected Daikiel Shorts would be the Mountaineers’ leading receiver and Wendell Smallwood would be their No. 2 back? Shorts has 12 catches for 151 yards and two touchdowns, and Smallwood has 139 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries thus far.

A total of seven true freshmen have played for WVU this season, and four of them are defensive backs. Corner Daryl Worley is off to a nice start with six tackles, a tackle for loss and a pass breakup.

4. Oklahoma State: Many expected Ra’Shaad Samples to be OSU’s breakout true freshman receiver, but so far that distinction belongs to Marcell Ateman. He has hauled in eight passes for 92 yards, good for fourth-best on the team.

Freshman kicker Ben Grogan has hit all 19 of his extra-point attempts and is 1-for-2 on field goals, and defensive backs Jordan Sterns and Deric Robertson have combined for eight tackles this season.

5. Baylor: Baylor might have two of the conference’s most talented true freshmen in receiver Robbie Rhodes and defensive tackle Andrew Billings, but they haven’t had to do much so far. Rhodes has 65 receiving yards and Billings has recorded three tackles, including one tackle for loss. Kiante’ Griffin is also contributing at linebacker with three tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss.

TCU can also make a case for the No. 5 spot. The Frogs don’t have a Devonte Fields-caliber breakout star yet, but receiver Ty Slanina has two reception and is currently listed as a starter, and former ESPN 300 prospect Tevin Lawson is breaking into the rotation at defensive tackle with two stops already.
Signing day has come and gone, but we'll have plenty of coverage looking more closely at each Big 12 team's class. This morning, we're looking at how each team filled its needs. We ran down the top of the Big 12 alphabet earlier today. Here's the second half:

OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS

Needs filled: The Cowboys once again lost both starters at defensive end, and junior-college transfer Sam Wren could have an immediate impact. ESPN 300 member Vincent Taylor is a big presence and might contribute early, too. In all, OSU signed six defensive linemen. In this offense, you can never have too many receivers, especially gifted ones. Marcell Ateman and Ra'Shaad Samples will have some fun in Stillwater.

Holes remaining: The Pokes lost one starter at linebacker and will have two seniors on next season's team, but didn't sign a linebacker in this class. We'll see if they can make up for that with development and recruiting in 2014.

TEXAS LONGHORNS

Needs filled: Texas is getting some big upgrades on the offensive line, headlined by the nation's No. 1 center, Darius James. Kent Perkins and Jake Raulerson are also top-10 tackles nationally and guard Rami Hammad and juco tackle Desmond Harrison fill out the class, which was one-third offensive linemen.

Holes remaining: Texas kept striking out with defensive linemen and ended up signing zero, despite losing Alex Okafor and Brandon Moore, and with Jackson Jeffcoat a rising senior. That could be a problem soon, but the Longhorns lost Daeshon Hall and missed out on Andrew Billings, who went to Baylor.

TCU HORNED FROGS

Needs filled: The running backs were drained after last season, but the Frogs had one of the league's best hauls at the position, grabbing ESPN 300 member Kyle Hicks and Trevorris Johnson, two of the best backs in Texas. The Frogs are also loading up on 6-foot, 200-pound linebackers who'll be able to cover in the open field. Paul Whitmill headlines that group, but the Frogs signed three linebackers with that profile.

Holes remaining: Josh Boyce and Skye Dawson are gone, and though LaDarius Brown and Brandon Carter will be there for 2013, you need a lot more big-time receivers than that to win in the Big 12. TCU signed four athletes, but no pure receivers in this class.

TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS

Needs filled: Receivers are always a must in this offense, and Tech got a pair of good ones in Dylan Cantrell and Justis Nelson. After Seth Doege graduated and Scotty Young transferred, Tech needed a quarterback to follow Michael Brewer and Davis Webb, the nation's No. 24 pro-style passer, could be that guy.

Holes remaining: The Red Raiders might be a little thin at defensive tackle after signing just one in this class. Kerry Hyder will be a senior and Leon Mackey graduated. Tech will have to develop that position and maybe put some weight on some defensive ends -- a position where Texas Tech is well-stocked.

WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS

Needs filled: Defense, defense, defense. West Virginia needs some talent upgrades all over the field, and landed linebacker Al-Rasheed Benton and ESPN 300 member Darrien Howard. Hodari Christian is another talented linebacking prospect and Dontrill Hyman will try to have an immediate impact as a pass-rusher out of junior college. WVU signed four outside linebackers and two defensive ends.

Holes remaining: Where are the cover guys? WVU needs help in the secondary and got it in safeties Malik Greaves and Jeremy Tyler, but didn't sign a pure cornerback in this class.
June is nearly over, and as we head into July, it's time to update the Big 12 recruiting scorecard. You can see each full class by clicking on the team name, but you'll need ESPN Insider access to see the full coverage.

Here's where the Big 12 stands for the respective 2013 classes, which can't sign letters of intent until February.

Remember, this card is in pencil. Players are free to switch commitments until they sign a letter of intent with a school.

1. Texas Longhorns

Total commits: 15
ESPN 150 commits: 7
Key commits: QB Tyrone Swoopes, C Darius James, OT Jake Raulerson, OT Kent Perkins
Class update: Texas lost the nation's top receiver, Ricky Seals-Jones, but could pick him up later down the line. It added junior-college tight end Geoff Swaim and safety Erik Huhn.

2. Oklahoma Sooners

Total commits: 12
ESPN 150 commits: 4
Key commits: RB Greg Bryant, RB Keith Ford, DE D.J. Ward, QB Cody Thomas
Class update: Oklahoma added three commits since our last update, including a new ESPN 150 member in Thomas. It also added linebacker Jordan Mastrogiovanni, receiver Jordan Smallwood and athlete Austin Bennett.

3. Baylor Bears

Total commits: 13
ESPNU 150 commits: 1
Key commits: WR Robbie Rhodes, QB Chris Johnson, OLB Raaquan Davis, RB Johnny Jefferson
Class update: Baylor got the biggest pickup in the entire Big 12 since our last update, adding the nation's No. 5 receiver in Rhodes. That allowed the Bears to crack the national top 25, but they were already third in the Big 12. Baylor also added safeties Taion Sells and Austin Jupe as well as outside linebacker Xavier Phillips.

4. Oklahoma State Cowboys

Total commits: 10
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: WR Fred Ross Jr., WR Marcell Ateman, DT Vincent Taylor, OT Zach Crabtree
Class update: The Cowboys added four commits between our April and May updates, then added five more in the past month to leapfrog Texas Tech. OSU has three commits in the ESPN 300, and six players with three stars. It added Taylor, quarterback Luke Del Rio, safety Jordan Sterns, guard Rami Hammad and running back Corion Webster.

5. TCU Horned Frogs

Total commits: 9
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: OLB Paul Whitmill, OLB Sammy Douglas, OG Patrick Morris
Class update: TCU added five commits since our last update, and now has seven three-star commits. The Horned Frogs hopped over Kansas State and Texas Tech after adding defensive end Bryson Henderson, tight end Charlie Reid, cornerback Steve Wesley, tight end Bryson Burtnett and safety George Baltimore. (Future All-Name teamer?)

6. West Virginia Mountaineers

Total commits: 7
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: QB Chavas Rawlins, OT Marcell Lazard, RB DeShawn Coleman
Class update: WVU added three commits since we last updated, getting a nice boost from a slow start on the trail. Three players are four-stars and four are three stars. Inside linebacker Darrien Howard pledged to the Mountaineers, as did guard Tyler Tezeno and inside linebacker Elijah Wellman. Howard is the class' first player from Texas.

7. Texas Tech Red Raiders

Total commits: 7
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: ATH Devin Lauderdale, WR Dylan Cantrell, OG Baylen Brown
Class update: Texas Tech didn't add anyone since our last update, but has two four-star recruits and three three-star commits.

8. Kansas Jayhawks

Total commits: 5
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: TE Ben Johnson, LB Kellen Ash, QB Jordan Darling
Class update: Kansas added two commits since our last update -- Darling and cornerback Colin Spencer -- and jumped ahead of in-state rival K-State. Each of Kansas' commits is ranked.

9. Kansas State Wildcats

Total commits: 4
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: ILB Tanner Wood, DE Jordan Willis, WR LeAndrew Gordon
Class update: Kansas State hasn't added a commit since our update a month ago, but all four commits have at least three stars.

10. Iowa State Cyclones

Total commits: 4
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: QB Trevor Hodge, OG Jacob Homa, S Kamari Syrie
Class notes: Iowa State wasn't even on the scoreboard the last time we updated, getting all four of its 2013 commits in the last month. However, only one recruit, Hodge, is ranked. It also added Homa, Syrie and tight end Emmanuel Bibbs.
May is nearly over, and as we head into June, it's time to update the Big 12 recruiting scorecard. You can see each full class by clicking on the team name, but you'll need ESPN Insider access to see the full coverage.

Here's where the Big 12 stands for the respective 2013 classes, which can't sign letters of intent until next February.

Remember, this card is in pencil. Players are free to switch commitments until they sign a letter of intent with a school.

1. Texas Longhorns

Total commits: 14
ESPN 150 commits: 8
Key commits: QB Tyrone Swoopes, WR Ricky Seals-Jones, C Darius James, OT Jake Raulerson
Class update: Texas added just one players since our last update, cornerback Antwuan Davis. The Bastrop, Texas, native is the nation's No. 13 cornerback and the No. 19 player in Texas. He checks in at No. 147 on our ESPN 150.

2. Oklahoma Sooners

Total commits: 9
ESPN 150 commits: 3
Key commits: RB Greg Bryant, RB Keith Ford, DE D.J. Ward
Class update: Oklahoma has added five commits since our last update, but no ESPN 150 commits. The biggest pickup was pro-style QB Cody Thomas, a native of Colleyville, Texas. The Sooners also added ATH Stanvon Taylor, kicker Jack Steed and offensive lineman Dalton Rodriguez. It's a nice bounce back from a slow start on the trail for the Sooners.

3. Baylor Bears

Total commits: 9
ESPNU 150 commits: 1
Key commits: QB Chris Johnson, OLB Raaquan Davis, RB Johnny Jefferson, WR Quan Jones
Class notes: Baylor has added three commits since our last update, but no ESPN 150 recruits. Davis pledged his intent to come to Waco from Heath, Texas. DT Tanner Thrift is also on the way, and OLB D.J. Green is one of the class' top talents as the nation's No. 27 outside linebacker.

4. Texas Tech Red Raiders

Total commits: 7
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: ATH Devin Lauderdale, WR Dylan Cantrell, OG Baylen Brown
Class notes: Texas Tech added two commits since we last updated the scorecard. Brown is the top recruit to join the fold. The 6-foot-4, 280-pounder is from Helotes, Texas. Safety Stormy Butler is trying to crash both Lubbock and my All-Name Team.

5. Oklahoma State Cowboys

Total commits: 5
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: WR Fred Ross Jr., WR Marcell Ateman, OT Zach Crabtree
Class update: OSU has been a big mover since our last update, picking up four commits, giving the Cowboys two four-star players and helping OSU leap over Kansas State. Crabtree joined the class on Tuesday, and Ateman gave OSU a second receiver earlier this month.

6. Kansas State Wildcats

Total commits: 4
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: ILB Tanner Wood, DE Jordan Willis, WR LeAndrew Gordon
Class notes: Guard Chance Allen is the only addition to the class since we last checked in with the SnyderCats. He's a 6-foot-4, 295-pounder from Spring, Texas, a Houston suburb.

7. TCU Horned Frogs

Total commits: 4
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: OLB Paul Whitmill, OLB Sammy Douglas, OG Patrick Morris
Class notes: TCU added two commits since our last update, but only two of the class members are ranked. Whitmill was the biggest addition, and takes a place as the top recruit in the class. The 6-foot, 200-pounder is the nation's No. 21 outside linebacker and hails from Bastrop, Texas. ATH Ty Slanina also committed last week.

8. West Virginia Mountaineers

Total commits: 4
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: QB Chavas Rawlins, OT Marcell Lazard, RB DeShawn Coleman
Class notes: WVU didn't have a commit the last time we checked in, but has the weakest class of those with just four commits. Only one, Rawlins, is nationally ranked. It's early, but WVU's got to pick it up. Worth noting: Three of the commits are from Pennsylvania and one is from New Jersey. The recruiting strategy switch hasn't paid off just yet. It's very, very early, though.

9. Kansas Jayhawks

Total commits: 3
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: QB Montell Cozart, TE Ben Johnson, LB Kellen Ash
Class notes: Kansas hasn't added anyone since our mid-April update, but the program is branching out its recruiting strategy to a national stage, not just the Kansas City area and Texas. That's nothing new for former Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis. Can he convince them to commit, though? We'll find out soon.

10. Iowa State Cyclones

Total commits: 0
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: None
Class notes: Still nada on the board for the Cyclones, who are the lone Big 12 team without a commit in the fold yet.

Recruiting season got started in earnest on Tuesday with the release of the ESPN 150, so it's time to offer our first real check-in on where the Big 12 recruiting classes sit with a little less than 10 months before players can officially sign.

Remember, this card is in pencil. Players are free to switch commitments until they sign a letter of intent with a school.

1. Texas Longhorns

Total commits: 13
ESPNU 150 commits: 7
Key commits: QB Tyrone Swoopes, WR Ricky Seals-Jones, C Darius James, OT Jake Raulerson
Class notes: Texas' top three commits are all the best at their positions, and 10 of the class' 13 commitments are four stars or higher. That's nothing new in Austin, but Swoopes looks like the quarterback of the future in Austin, though he hails from a smaller school in Whitewright, Texas. Seals-Jones is a physical presence at 6-foot-5, 220 pounds.

2. Oklahoma Sooners

Total commits: 4
ESPNU 150 commits: 3
Key commits: RB Greg Bryant, RB Keith Ford, DE D.J. Ward
Class notes: Oklahoma's class is still pretty small for now, but the Sooners are getting some much needed help at running back, where numbers are suddenly thin following a rash of transfers after the season. Ward joins fellow DE Matt Dimon in the class, too.

3. Baylor Bears

Total commits: 6
ESPNU 150 commits: 1
Key commits: QB Chris Johnson, RB Johnny Jefferson, WR Quan Jones
Class notes: No surprise here: Baylor's new class is loaded with skill position talent. Johnson is the nation's No. 2 dual-threat passer and Jefferson is the nation's No. 36 running back. It seems like almost every year, Baylor reels in a huge prospect. For now, 2013 is no different, and coach Art Briles looks like he can continue his QB lineage. Johnson is a four-star, and Jefferson and Jones are three-star recruits.

4. Texas Tech Red Raiders

Total commits: 5
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: ATH Devin Lauderdale, WR Dylan Cantrell, CB Will Barrow
Class notes: Texas Tech has landed top-25 recruiting classes in each of Tommy Tuberville's first full seasons in Lubbock, and the Red Raiders are off to another nice start in 2013. Super recruiter Robert Prunty's developed a penchant for reeling in ESPN 150 talent, so keep an eye on the newest major player on the recruiting scene. Lauderdale is a four-star recruit.

5. Kansas State Wildcats

Total commits: 3
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: ILB Tanner Wood, DE Jordan Willis, WR LeAndrew Gordon
Class notes: Two of Kansas State's three commits are three-star recruits. The Wildcats won 10 games in 2011, but another solid year in 2012 could help spur recruiting efforts even further.

6. Oklahoma State Cowboys

Total commits: 1
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: WR Fred Ross Jr.
Class notes: Ross is a four-star and the nation's No. 21 receiver, but OSU could climb this list quickly, riding the success from its first Big 12 title in 2011. It's a slower start than you'd envision for OSU, but we'll see if the Cowboys can win some battles with Texas Tech, TCU and others.

7. TCU Horned Frogs

Total commits: 2
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: OLB Sammy Douglas, OG Patrick Morris
Class notes: Douglas is a three-star recruit and the nation's No. 36 outside linebacker. That's a big position of need for TCU, but the Big 12 entrance and recent campus drug sting that resulted in four players being arrested will be battling for positive and negative pushes on the recruiting trail. We'll see which one wins out in 2012.

8. Kansas Jayhawks

Total commits: 3
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: QB Montell Cozart, TE Ben Johnson, LB Kellen Ash
Class notes: Kansas doesn't have a nationally ranked recruit, but Weis sounds like he's high on Cozart, a highly recruited QB from the Kansas City area who had offers from West Virginia and Minnesota.

9. West Virginia Mountaineers

Total commits: 0
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: None
Class notes: WVU is one of two teams without a commit yet in the 2013 class. We'll see if that picks up if WVU can validate its membership in the Big 12 with a strong debut season.

10. Iowa State Cyclones

Total commits: 0
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: None
Class notes: Iowa State has started slow, too. Another bowl appearance would help, but it has to be a bit frustrating for the Cyclones to be behind the eight-ball for now. That's especially true considering what Kansas has done thus far.

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