Big 12: John Kolar

With spring ball a month away, we'll be ranking the position groups in the Big 12 over the next two weeks. These evaluations will be based on past performance, future potential and quality depth. Our outlooks will probably look different after the spring. But this is how we see them at the moment. We begin this series with quarterbacks:

1. TCU: Trevone Boykin is one of the top returning quarterbacks in the country and should open the season on the short list of legitimate Heisman contenders. Boykin was fabulous in Year 1 of the Doug Meacham/Sonny Cumbie spread offense, and could be even better with a season of experience under his belt. Depth after Boykin is a bit of a concern, though Foster Sawyer and Grayson Muehlstein were highly touted signees last year.

2. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys boast one of the top young QBs in the league -- if not the country -- in Mason Rudolph, who led Oklahoma State to wins over Oklahoma and Washington to end his true freshman season. In just three starts, he displayed a poise that could elevate the Cowboys into dark-horse Big 12 contender status. After Rudolph the Cowboys have a pair of quarterbacks with extensive starting experience in J.W. Walsh and Daxx Garman. They also just signed ESPN 300 passer John Kolar, who could have the luxury of redshirting.

3. Texas Tech: If Rudolph isn't the Big 12's best young returning quarterback, Patrick Mahomes is. He caught fire after taking over the starting job, throwing for 14 TDs in Tech's final three games, including a 598-yard passing effort in a near upset of Baylor. Mahomes has become such an integral part of the program, the Red Raiders have said they will tailor spring practices around his baseball schedule. Davis Webb was thought to be Tech's quarterback of the future going into last season, but struggled with turnovers, then injuries. He still has the ability to be a quality player.

4. Baylor: Bryce Petty is gone, but the cupboard is hardly devoid of talent. Seth Russell has been a solid backup the last two years, and will enter the spring as the favorite to take over as the starter. Russell, however, will have plenty of competition, notably via incoming freshman Jarrett Stidham, who was the top-rated QB recruit to sign into the Big 12. Stidham has all the tools to be a star in the league down the road. Dual-threat Chris Johnson will also be in his third year.

5. Oklahoma: Quarterback remains a huge question mark for the Sooners, but it also has the chance to be way better than it was in 2014. Baker Mayfield is finally eligible after transferring in from Texas Tech last year. Mayfield was the Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year in 2013, and could be the favorite to win the job. Returning starter Trevor Knight was actually solid at times last season, but also killed the Sooners with costly mistakes, topping the league with three pick-six interceptions, all of which came in defeats. Cody Thomas, who started three games while Knight was injured, has given up baseball to focus on the QB derby, but might be a long shot after completing just 46 percent of his passes as a starter. Justice Hansen, who redshirted last year, is a former ESPN 300 recruit.

6. West Virginia: Skyler Howard sparked West Virginia with his wheels after Clint Trickett missed the final three games last year. But Howard was also hit and miss with his accuracy, which prevented him from locking up the job. Instead, he'll have to fend off William Crest, who actually beat out Howard for the No. 2 job coming out of fall camp before a shoulder injury forced a redshirt. Crest has a skill set reminiscent of former West Virginia standout Geno Smith. Paul Millard brings veteran depth after taking a redshirt in his fourth year. Freshman David Sills, who once committed to USC in junior high, will also take part in spring drills.

7. Texas: For now, the Longhorns are basically where they were last year. Tyrone Swoopes is the only quarterback on the roster with any experience. He's had his moments, but also struggled late last season as the Texas offense cratered. Jerrod Heard is the X factor. He won a pair of high school state championships and was a highly touted signee, but clearly wasn't ready as a true freshman. Barring an unforeseen transfer, the Longhorns will have to ride with one of those two. Kai Locksley was a key late addition to last week's class, but his passing needs development.

8. Iowa State: When healthy, Sam B. Richardson was the least of Iowa State's problems last year. He did a solid job limiting turnovers and made plays with his feet. He should be the starter again. The Cyclones also return Grant Rohach, who has 245 pass attempts the last two seasons in relief.

9. Kansas: Michael Cummings pumped life into the Jayhawks after going from fourth string to starter following the Charlie Weis firing. Kansas also signed a pair of promising players at the position last week in three-star Ryan Willis and Carter Stanley.

10. Kansas State: The Wildcats are a blank slate at quarterback following the graduation of Jake Waters. Ex-walk-on Joe Hubener will get first dibs at the job entering his fourth year on campus. Hubener has good arm strength and good speed, but only 17 career pass attempts. He'll be pushed this spring by three-star signee Alex Delton, who is already in school.
Evaluating recruits is an inexact science. From every class, five-star prospects become busts; two-star signees turn into All-Americans.

But as an exercise, I've compiled below what an All-Big 12 team would look like based solely on ESPN RecruitingNation rankings -- even though the actual All-Big 12 teams down the road are sure to look very different (jucos not included):

OFFENSE
QB: Jarrett Stidham, Baylor (No. 2 QB-DT)
RB: Chris Warren, Texas (No. 9 RB)
RB: Tristian Houston, Texas (No. 20 RB)
WR: Jovon Durante, West Virginia (No. 13 WR)
WR: Ryan Newsome, Texas (No. 22 WR)
WR: John Humphrey, Oklahoma (No. 23 WR)
TE: Devonaire Clarington, Texas (No. 1 TE-H)
OT: Bobby Evans, Oklahoma (No. 16 OT)
OG: Patrick Vahe, Texas (No. 12 OG)
C: Jozie Milton, TCU (No. 8 C)
OG: Conner Dyer, Texas Tech (No. 31 OG)
OT: Madison Akamnonu, Texas Tech (No. 28 OT)
AP: DeAndre McNeal, Texas (No. 28 ATH)

DEFENSE
DE: Ricky DeBerry, Oklahoma (No. 14 DE)
DT: Breiden Fehoko, Texas Tech (No. 10 DT)
DT: Neville Gallimore, Oklahoma (No. 16 DT)
DE: Louis Brown, Oklahoma State (No. 23 ATH)
OLB: Malik Jefferson, Texas (No. 3 OLB)
ILB: Anthony Wheeler, Texas (No. 3 ILB)
ILB: De'Amontae Jackson, Iowa State (No. 19 ILB)
OLB: Cameron Townsend, Texas (No. 17 OLB)
CB: P.J. Mbanasor, Oklahoma (No. 6 CB)
CB: Holton Hill, Texas (No. 14 CB)
S: DeShon Elliott, Texas (No. 5 S)
S: Will Sunderland, Oklahoma (No. 17 S)

Best players at each position who didn't make the cut:
QB: John Kolar, Oklahoma State (No. 3 QB-PP)
RB: Ja'Mycal Hasty, Baylor (No. 21 RB)
WR: John Burt, Texas (No. 25 WR)
TE: Stone Wolfley, West Virginia (No. 16 TE-Y)
OT: Johnny Wilson, Oklahoma State (No. 34 OT)
OG: Vaimoe Sekona, Oklahoma State (No. 37 OG)
C: Cody Wheeler, Texas Tech (No. 14 C)
AP: Blake Lynch, Baylor (No. 30 ATH)
DE: Gabriel Campbell, Oklahoma (No. 27 DE)
DT: Marquise Overton, Oklahoma (No. 20 DT)
OLB: Reggie Walker, Kansas State (No. 54 OLB)
ILB: Cecil Cherry, Texas (No. 20 ILB)
CB: Tyrek Cole, West Virginia (No. 19 CB)
S: Jamile Johnson, Texas Tech (No. 19 S)

A few observations:
  • Everyone relax. Again, this is not a personal projection. It's based solely on the ESPN RecruitingNation evaluations and rankings. Some will be right. Some will be wrong. OK, you can all breathe again.
  • The teams above underscore how dominant the defensive classes from Texas and Oklahoma were. The Longhorns landed the league's two best linebackers in Malik Jefferson and Anthony Wheeler, and its best safety in DeShon Elliott. Bob Stoops, meanwhile, called this the best secondary class the Sooners had signed in his tenure, and it's difficult to argue with Oklahoma bringing in a pair of blue-chippers in P.J. Mbanasor and Will Sunderland. Both Red River rivals have difference-makers coming in at every level. It will be interesting to watch how they all develop.
  • Oklahoma State and Texas Tech quietly put together a pair of noteworthy classes up front. Besides loading up on transfer offensive linemen, the Cowboys signed two of the Big 12's best high school blockers in Johnny Wilson and Vaimoe Sekona. On the other side, Louis Brown is a little raw, but he has the athleticism to be a big-time playmaking defensive end down the line. In Lubbock, Madison Akamnonu and Conner Dyer have the chance to be cornerstones for future Tech offensive lines. The Red Raiders also scored a potential stud up front defensively in tackle Breiden Fehoko. Both the Cowboys and Red Raiders successfully beefed up their trenches, after enduring major struggles last year (OSU offensively, Tech defensively).
  • Once again, Baylor and West Virginia are two of the leaders in incoming skill talent. Jovon Durante is top-rated receiving coming into the Big 12 and has a chance to help the Mountaineers in 2015 at a position of need. Also watch out for his Miramar, Florida, cohort, cornerback Tyrek Cole, who will be joining a potentially loaded West Virginia secondary. Baylor signed the league's top QB in Jarrett Stidham, one of its top-three running backs in Ja'Mycal Hasty and a dynamic receiver in Blake Lynch. Once again, neither the Bears nor the Mountaineers will be lacking firepower.
  • TCU doesn't show up much on the above teams, but last season's 12-1 record will have a much bigger effect on the Class of 2016. In fact, it already has. The Horned Frogs are off to a phenomenal start on next year's class with eight 2016 commits already on board, including four in the ESPN Junior 300.
Every signing day there are recruits that are overshadowed by other members of their recruiting class for various reasons. Some prospects unshaken commitments to their schools keeps them off the radar while other prospects are overlooked because of the other talent on their school's commit list or other headline names in the region.

Here’s a look at five overlooked commitments who could end up outshining the recruits who will be the talk of the town on Wednesday.

Norman (Oklahoma) North quarterback John Kolar
Committed to Oklahoma State
Rank: No. 72 in ESPN 300
 Why he’s overshadowed: Because he wants to be. Kolar didn’t make an event out of his recruitment. He picked OSU in March and went through the remainder of the recruiting cycle without even a murmur about any indecision.
Why he could make a big impact: With sophomore-to-be Mason Rudolph standing between him and major playing time, an immediate impact from Kolar is unlikely. Yet, he’s the No. 3-ranked pocket passer in the nation with the ability to become a star in the Cowboys offense. Other ESPN 300 prospects like Baylor signee Jarrett Stidham and Texas signee Malik Jefferson have gotten the headlines, but Kolar could have as big an impact during his career as any player in the Class of 2015.

Longview (Texas) running back Ja’Mycal Hasty
Committed to Baylor
Rank: No. 262 in ESPN 300
Why he’s overshadowed: Hasty is looking up at 20 running backs in the RecruitingNation rankings, yet he has the potential to be as productive as any of those higher-ranked players, particularly in Art Briles' offense. In addition, Hasty picked Baylor early in the recruiting cycle while other in-state running backs became household names while taking their time making a choice.
Why he could make a big impact: Hasty combines terrific open-field ability with excellent speed. He could be a major headache when combined with the Bears’ exceptional receivers and talented quarterbacks with his quickness and big-play ability.

Honolulu (Hawaii) Farrington defensive tackle Breiden Fehoko
Signed with Texas Tech
Rank: No. 51 in ESPN 300
Why he’s overshadowed: Fehoko would have been a household name if he played his high school football in Texas, and his unwavering commitment to Texas Tech didn’t spark the speculation that makes elite prospects become "program saviors" in the eyes of fan bases. He’s highly-regarded by recruiting analysts and college programs alike, but he hasn’t gotten the attention of other ESPN 300 recruits like Texas’ Malik Jefferson or Oklahoma’s PJ Mbanasor.
Why he could make a big impact: His talent is unquestioned, and the Red Raiders would love to have an anchor to build their revamped defense around. It wouldn’t be a shock to see Fehoko become one of the Big 12’s top defenders, and Tech needs that type of impact defender if the Red Raiders hope to turn things around under Kliff Kingsbury.

Lakeland (Florida) Victory Christian linebacker Cecil Cherry
Committed to Texas
Rank: No. 20 inside linebacker, No. 105 in Florida
Why he’s overshadowed: The Longhorns have three ESPN 300 linebackers on their commit list, making it easy to overlook Cherry. Alabama, Ohio State and Auburn join Texas on his offer list, a sign of his supreme talent. But Jefferson, Cameron Townsend and Anthony Wheeler will garner the bulk of the headlines on Wednesday.
Why he could make a big impact: Cherry looks like a ideal prospect for Charlie Strong’s defense. He’s athletic, aggressive and will bring a physical presence to the field. Cherry has the talent to end up being as good as any Big 12 linebacker signed on Wednesday.

Stone Mountain (Georgia) Stephenson receiver Isaiah Zuber
Committed to Kansas State
Rank: No. 124 in Georgia, No. 161 receiver
Why he’s overshadowed: Georgia is a talent-rich state, making it easy for a talent like Zuber to be overlooked. A three-star prospect who picked KSU over offers from Virginia Tech, Boston College and others, Zuber could become a key playmaker in the Wildcats' offense.
Why he could make a big impact: Zuber doesn’t bring exceptional size or blazing speed to the table. But his quickness is a major asset, and the Wildcats have a habit of finding quality receiving prospects who might not have the ideal measurable, but can be developed into productive playmakers.

Big 12 recruiting scorecard

May, 5, 2014
5/05/14
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Below is the latest in recruiting around the Big 12:

BAYLOR
Total commits: 8
ESPN 300 commits: 6
The latest: The Bears have gotten off to an awesome start offensively, but they would love to keep safety Kahlil Haughton home. Haughton has numerous offers, including LSU and Oklahoma as well as Big Ten powers Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State.

IOWA STATE
Total commits: 1
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: Mark Mangino helped change Kansas' fortune by unearthing gem QB Todd Reesing, who eventually took the Jayhawks to the Orange Bowl. The Cyclones have extended an offer to dual-threat QB Joe Burrow, who had a phenomenal junior season with 53 total TDs and just six picks. With offers beginning to pour in, Iowa State will have to fight to get him, but Burrow would be a huge pickup for Mangino's first offensive recruiting class.

KANSAS
Total commits: 1
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Jayhawks finally picked up their first commitment over the weekend, but it was a big one. Ryan Willis is the No. 26 pocket-passing QB in the country, and was being pursued by Kansas State and Illinois. His dad went to Kansas State, but Willis was drawn to new coordinator John Reagan’s offense. Willis went to the same high school as Kansas’ current starting QB Montell Cozart, and could be Cozart’s successor down the line.

KANSAS STATE
Total commits: 1
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Wildcats also have only one commit so far in three-star QB Alex Delton, but it too was a key pickup. Delton reportedly put on a show during the Dallas Elite 11 QB camp over the weekend. With starter Jake Waters a senior next season, the K-State QB position could be up for grabs in 2015.

OKLAHOMA
Total commits: 3
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Sooners are looking to beef up their offensive and defensive lines in this class, and are in on several big-time prospects. Oklahoma already owns commitments from DT Marquise Overton and OT Bobby Evans, and will be angling to keep the nation’s No. 1 offensive guard Jalin Barnett in state.

OKLAHOMA STATE
Total commits: 4
ESPN 300 commits: 2
The latest: The Cowboys already have landed ESPN 300 QB John Kolar and ESPN 300 RB Ronald Jones II. Oklahoma State is in strong position to land an ESPN 300 receiver, too, with Tyron Johnson, Kemah Siverand, Carlos Strickland and K.J. Hill all reciprocating interest.

TCU
Total commits: 9
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: With ESPN 300 QB Zach Gentry narrowing his list to Alabama, Oklahoma State, Tennessee and Texas, TCU has refocused its QB search. Nearby Bo Schneider might be a possibility.

TEXAS
Total commits: 9
ESPN 300 commits: 5
The latest: Only two of the nine verbal commitments Mack Brown landed for 2015 are still on the commit list, as new coach Charlie Strong has completely revamped the Longhorns’ recruiting game plan. Texas, however, still doesn’t have a top-10 in-state player on board. That could change emphatically if the Longhorns could snag the state’s No. 5 player -- outside linebacker Malik Jefferson, who will announce his college plans after the upcoming football season.

TEXAS TECH
Total commits: 6
ESPN 300 commits: 2
The latest: Thanks to his efforts over the weekend in the Dallas Elite 11 QB camp, Texas Tech commitment Jarrett Stidham earned the eighth invite to the prestigious Elite 11 finals.

WEST VIRGINIA
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 2
The latest: With a host of skill players already on board, snagging players in the trenches will be the focus. West Virginia got in early on three-star guard George Asafo-Adjei, who received an offer from Florida over the weekend.

Breaking down the Big 12 in ESPN 300

April, 16, 2014
4/16/14
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Today is a minor holiday for recruitniks: The newest edition of the ESPN 300 recruiting rankings have been released, along with a slew of other grades and evaluations.

It's always a big-time endeavor for the ESPN crew of scouts, so be sure to click HERE for the ESPN 300 rankings.

Several of today's updates to the ESPN 300 affect the Big 12. Here's a closer look at what you should take away from the rankings:
  • Oklahoma State quarterback commit John Kolar enjoyed an incredible jump, going from unranked to the nation's No. 3 pocket passer. He's now ranked No. 82 overall in the ESPN 300. The Norman (Okla.) North senior-to-be impressed filling in for injured Alabama signee David Cornwell last year, and he has wowed our scouts as well.
  • What a killer start for Baylor. The Bears have verbal commitments from six high school prospects, and all six made the ESPN 300. The highest ranked of the bunch is WR John Humphrey Jr., who announced his commitment last night. He's one of three ESPN 300 receivers in the class, joining Devontre Stricklin and Chad President. The Bears signed four ESPN 300 recruits in last year's class, and three the previous year, so this is quite the jump. With Baylor high on the list of several other ESPN 300 prospects, including WR DaMarkus Lodge (No. 63 in ESPN 300) and DE James Lockhart (No. 113), there's a good chance this class ends up being the best in the Big 12 when it's all said and done.
  • Texas now has verbal commitments from five ESPN 300 recruits: S DeShon Elliott (No. 94), OT Toby Weathersby (No. 138), OG Patrick Vahe (No. 171), new RB commit Tristian Houston (No. 208) and RB Jordan Stevenson (No. 296). The Longhorns are in the mix for more than 30 ESPN 300 prospects and have offered several more elite out-of-state recruits. Texas has some real momentum under new coach Charlie Strong at the moment, and it's possible more than 10 uncommitted ESPN 300 prospects visits Austin this week for the spring game.
  • The state of Oklahoma has five prospects in the ESPN 300, and nearly all of them could end up being Sooners. OU already has verbal pledges from DT Marquise Overton (No. 150) and OG Joshua Wariboko (No. 190) and is among the leaders for OG Jalin Barnett (No. 36) and S Will Sunderland Jr. (No. 212). And then there's Kolar, who the Sooners could still make a push for over time. Four of Oklahoma's five current pledges are in the ESPN 300.
  • Texas Tech already has two top-50 recruits in QB Jarrett Stidham and DT Breiden Fehoko, and they'll be the lead recruiters of this Red Raiders class. Stidham checks in at No. 37 in the new ESPN 300, which puts him No. 4 among all prospects in Texas, and Fehoko is the nation's No. 7 defensive tackle.
  • It's a great year to find a running back in the state of Texas. Ten of them made the newest ESPN 300, and six have already committed to schools. The top-rated member of the group is Oklahoma State commit Ronald Jones II, the nation's No. 3 running back. Texas already has Houston and Stevenson, Baylor has Ja'Mycal Hasty (No. 274) and Texas A&M has pledges from Rodney Anderson (No. 263) and Jay Bradford (No. 277).
  • West Virginia is off to a great start with the 2015 class thanks to its dedication to recruiting Florida. Two of its verbal commits made the ESPN 300 in WR Jovon Durante (No. 120) and S Kendrell McFadden (No. 153), and half of its 10 pledges come from the Sunshine State. WVU is one of only seven program in the country with double-digit commitments at this point.

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