Big 12: Lynn Katoa

Thoughts on a history of top-flight recruits

February, 4, 2011
2/04/11
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On Wednesday, we wrapped up our look back at the last five years of ESPNU 150 recruits that signed with Big 12 teams.

Here's a quick refresher course on every Big 12 ESPNU 150 signee:
I learned a lot in looking back on these classes, and the spectrum of results was fascinating. Here are a few thoughts:
  • There wasn't a Heisman Trophy winner among the bunch -- Oklahoma's Sam Bradford was a three-star recruit -- but there were plenty of All-Americans and All-Big 12 talents, as well as a few draft picks. It's interesting to note that the 2010 class was the only one in which more than one Big 12 Freshman of the Year came to campus as an elite recruit. Oklahoma State linebacker Shaun Lewis and Oklahoma safety Tony Jefferson shared the defensive honors last season.
  • I'll count probable draft picks, but here's how many NFL draft picks emerged from each class. Obviously, the most recent classes won't be included, and it tapers off quite a bit as you reach the '08 class, which will have a few more drafted eventually. Any players after the 2008 class are ineligible for the draft.
  • 2006: 8
  • 2007: 3 (Dez Bryant, Sam Acho, Curtis Brown)
  • 2008: 1 (Blaine Gabbert)
  • Additionally, I don't have a ton to say about the 09-11 classes because, well, at this point, you can't have much to say. Oklahoma or Texas don't have too many four-year, or even three-year starters at too many positions. It's still very, very early to pass judgment on those guys.
  • Obviously there's still time, but the 2008 class looking back was pretty weak in comparison to those around it. It's easily the worst of the four classes, not including 2011. Two of the top five recruits have transferred. The other three in that group have yet to make significant contributions. Players like Jon Major, Cyrus Gray, Emmanuel Acho, Kendall Wright and Landry Jones join Gabbert as some of the best in the class, but guys like Jameel Owens, Kye Staley, Lynn Katoa and Justin Johnson aren't even with the teams they've signed anymore. Plenty of others haven't come close to the projected impact others would hope.
  • Compare that to the accomplished 2006 class, which was loaded at the top of the board. DeMarco Murray, Sergio Kindle, Jevan Snead, Gerald McCoy and Eddie Jones won't make anybody say, "Who?" That's a strong top 5. Mike Goodson, Jeremy Beal, Josh Freeman, and Jermaine Gresham could all have solid NFL careers, too. In my book, this is the class others will have to live up to.
  • One quick thought: Are Jevan Snead and Josh Freeman's careers the inverses of each other?
  • I'll give a full breakdown of the team totals later on next week, but I was shocked at how few Nebraska reeled in. From 2006-10, they had just three. S Rickey Thenarse signed in '06, OT Baker Steinkuhler signed in '08 and OG Andrew Rodriguez signed in '10. Steinkuhler, of course, has moved to defensive tackle since. For a team that's won the North the past two seasons and at times looked like a national title contender in 2010, that's a pretty solid endorsement of Bo Pelini's coaching. He's won 29 games in his first three seasons, and his nationally-ranked class in 2011 signed four ESPNU 150 recruits alone. For all you non-mathematicians out there, that's more than 06-10 combined. That has to give Nebraska fans a whole lot of confidence about the program moving forward, even if three of those four signees are from Texas, where Nebraska may struggle to recruit after its move to the Big Ten. That, however, is a whole different post and discussion.
  • As an overview of all this, I can't stand it when people decry the recruiting rankings system all together, declaring it worthless. It's not. I also can't stand it when others contend the rankings mean everything. They don't. The truth is right where it usually is: somewhere in the middle. Cite all the two-star recruits you want. I can come back with 10 more that showed in their college careers why they were two-star recruits. You can build a successful program on three and four-star signees, but the facts are this: if you keep reeling in top-level recruits, you've got a much, much greater chance of having big success. Bottom line, that's the truth. You'll encounter some busts among the five-stars. You'll encounter some gems in the two-stars. But recruiting rankings mean something, just not as much or as little as people like to think sometimes.

Tracking Big 12 ESPNU 150 signees: 2008

January, 31, 2011
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ESPN the Magazine had a fascinating feature looking back at the past 25 No. 1 high school recruits Insider, where they are now and what the ranking meant to them. With apologies to Vince Young, there aren't a ton of Big 12 talents on the list, but there have been plenty of great recruits to come through the Big 12. We took a look on Thursday at how the All-Big 12 team stacked up as recruits, and you saw quite a mixed bag.

Well, it's the same for the recruits who came to campus with high rankings and high profiles. Going back to 2006, here's how every Big 12 commit from the ESPNU 150 turned out. We'll eventually get to 2010 and the current class, 2011, around signing day, but here's how the 2008 class breaks down. No. 7: Jermie Calhoun, RB, Oklahoma. Has 242 yards and a touchdown on 56 carries. Missed final two months of sophomore season in 2010 after tearing ACL against Colorado on Oct. 30.

No. 9: Darrell Scott, RB, Colorado. Transferred to South Florida after 2009 season because of lack of playing time. Ran for just 95 yards on 23 carries as a sophomore after running for 343 yards and a touchdown on 87 carries as a freshman in 2008.

No. 11: R.J. Washington, DE, Oklahoma. Has seven tackles and half a tackle for loss in two seasons after redshirting his first year on campus.

No. 16: D.J. Grant, WR, Texas. Redshirted in 2008, missed all of 2009 season with knee injury. Still trying to fully recover from injury, per former offensive coordinator Greg Davis at a November news conference.

No. 17: Dan Buckner, WR, Texas. Caught 50 passes for 526 yards in two seasons, including 45 for 442 as a sophomore in 2009. Transferred to Arizona after the season, less than 24 hours after an arrest in College Station, Texas.

No. 38: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri. Two-year starter who threw for 6,822 yards and 40 touchdowns in his three-year career, which featured two All-Big 12 seasons. Projects as early first-round pick in 2011 draft.

No. 57: Cyrus Gray, RB, Texas A&M. Earned All-Big 12 honors in 2010 with seven consecutive 100-yard games to close the season. Has 2,253 yards and 18 touchdowns for his career. Also caught 72 passes for three touchdowns and more than 500 yards.

No. 66: Jarvis Humphrey, DT, Texas. Forced to withdraw from the University of Texas because of a kidney condition.

No. 72: Jameel Owens, WR, Oklahoma. Caught four passes for 44 yards in 2008 before transferring to Tulsa after the season.

No. 79: David Snow, OG, Texas. Appeared in all 38 career games, including 13 starts at center (11 in 2010) and five at right guard.

No. 84: Stephen Good, OT, Oklahoma. Became a starter in 2009 and was second on the team in knockdowns that season. Part of the Sooners' rotation at guard in 2010.

No. 91: Derrick Hall, ATH, Texas A&M. Did not qualify academically. Enrolled at Navarro College before signing with Tulsa out of junior college.

No. 92: Daniel Franklin, ILB, Oklahoma. Reserve linebacker has seen playing time on special teams.

No. 95: DeSean Hales, WR, Texas. Has 11 career receptions for 77 yards. Appeared in 20 games over three seasons.

No. 98: Jon Major, LB, Colorado. Missed entire freshman season with torn ACL in fall camp. Became a starter in 2010. Has 54 career tackles with three pass break-ups and two tackles for loss.

No. 100: Emmanuel Acho, OLB, Texas. Has 11 career starts and was an All-Big 12 performer in 2009 as a sophomore. Has 135 career tackles, 21 tackles for loss, four sacks, six forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.

No. 114: Nolan Brewster, OLB, Texas. Reserve safety has appeared in 27 games, including special teams, over career. Has 32 tackles, one interception and two tackles for loss.

No. 117: Kye Staley, RB, Oklahoma State. Missed all of 2009 with knee injury and left the team before the 2010 season.

No. 118: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor. Two-time All-Big 12 performer has 194 career catches for 2,341 yards and 16 touchdowns.

No. 122: Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma. Became starter as redshirt freshman in 2009 after Sam Bradford injured a shoulder in the season opener. Earned All-Big 12 honors in 2010. Has 7,916 career yards with 64 touchdowns and 26 interceptions.

No. 125: Justin Johnson, RB, Oklahoma. Transferred in June 2009 to Abilene Christian after playing sparingly as a freshman in 2008.

No. 138: Dravannti Johnson, LB, Texas. Made 21 tackles in 2010 after redshirting in 2008 and not playing in 2009.

No. 143: Rodrick Davis, DT, Texas A&M. Reserve lineman redshirted in 2008, accumulated no stats in 2010.

No. 150: Lynn Katoa, OLB, Colorado. Transferred in May 2009 after academic issues. Was ineligible for 2008 season.

Hawkins will coach Colorado wide receivers in 2009

June, 1, 2009
6/01/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Colorado coach Dan Hawkins made a variety of announcements Monday, most notably that he will be serving as the Buffaloes' wide receivers coach in addition to his head coaching duties.

Hawkins will instruct defensive coaching intern Ashley Ambrose in his transition into becoming a college assistant coach during 2010. Ambrose is a former 13-season NFL veteran who also served as a coaching intern with the Atlanta Falcons in 2006.

"I was educated as a teacher and spent the majority of my professional life in the trenches as a teacher-coach," Hawkins said. "My first year at Boise as head coach, I also coached the tight ends. I am extremely excited about rolling up my sleeves and being a position coach again."

Hawkins becomes the first Colorado head coach to also serve as a position coach since Bill McCartney, who directed the Buffaloes' quarterbacks in 1993. Hawkins technically replaces Eric Kiesau, the former Colorado receivers coach who was promoted to offensive coordinator last month after Mark Helfrich left for a similar position at Oregon. Helfrich also coached the quarterbacks, which Kiesau will now do.

Hawkins also announced he has hired Bob Foster, as Colorado's outside linebackers coach. Foster, 68, has four decades of coaching experience and was the defensive coordinator at Californa-Davis when Hawkins was a player and coach there. He has also served as a defensive consultant for Hawkins when he was head coach at Willamette and later served as an assistant at Oregon and California.

Colorado also announced that former Michigan wide receiver Toney Clemons has enrolled in summer school at Colorado. 

Clemons played two seasons in the Michigan program, including 11 catches for 101 yards last season. He will sit out the 2009 season as a redshirt before becoming eligible next season.

Former Colorado wide receiver Kendrick Celestine has re-enrolled in school and could return to the team. Celestine played in the first two games of the 2008 season and then quit for personal reasons on Sept. 21.

"We take a great deal of pride in mentoring our guys to achieve excellence as a person, student, and athlete," Hawkins said. "Sometimes that comes with some hard lessons to learn. Should Kendrick recognize what he left behind and the opportunities he can have here -- we certainly welcome him back."

Hawkins also announced that seven players won't return this fall to the team for assorted reasons. Two are lettermen, senior guard Devin Head and junior wide receiver/return specialist Josh Smith.

Head, who played in 27 career games with 17 starts, is academically ineligible, with Smith is looking to transfer, likely to a school in California.

Smith told Hawkins he plans to work on furthering both his music (singing and production) and football careers.

Smith set Colorado records for kickoff returns (50) and yards (1,286) last season. He produced 52 receptions for 838 yards (16.1 per reception) and three touchdowns in two seasons.

Redshirt freshman tight end Ryan Wallace has sought his release to transfer closer to his Bowling Green, Ky., home, with sophomore linebacker Lynn Katoa likely to transfer to a junior college. Three walk-ons also won't be back, including junior fullback Matt Burgner, freshman wide receiver Marion Brown and junior offensive lineman Evan Eastburn.

Smith's departure robs Colorado of top deep threat

May, 31, 2009
5/31/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Josh Smith apparently has decided that the career route to becoming the next Jay-Z or Fifty Cent can be furthered by attending a school other than Colorado.

Smith and tight end Ryan Wallace have announced they are leaving the school. The move snatches away one of Colorado's top receivers and a developing player in Wallace who many thought could turn into a serviceable Big 12 tight end.

Smith announced that he's leaving Colorado because he wants to pursue a musical career after producing rap demos and CDs since high school. Schools that have the music major he's interested in are Arizona State and USC.

Additionally, the Boulder Camera reported that Smith spent time in the Phoenix area with Arizona State quarterback Samson Szakacsy recording tracks. That seemingly would provide a neat entry into the Sun Devils program if Smith should choose to continue playing at his new school.

Smith's departure comes after he dropped on the team's depth chart over the spring. The Buffaloes aren't exactly loaded at the position and Smith was expected to challenge for a starting job this spring.

But he struggled at times as Markques Simas and Dustin Ebner zoomed past him at his "X" wide receiver position and Scotty McKnight and walk-on Jason Espinoza are fixtures on the other side.

The other question will be how this affects the Buffaloes' relationship with heralded running back Darrell Scott, who is Smith's nephew.

Scott had a strong spring after struggling during his freshman season last year. He reportedly tried to talk Smith out of transferring.

And Wallace was listed at fifth-string on the Buffaloes' post-spring depth chart but was thought to have a good future with the program. He becomes the third member of the heralded 2008 recruiting class to leave Colorado, joining linebacker Lynn Katoa and wide receiver Chance Blackmon.

Colorado's biggest offensive weakness is its lack of breakaway threats. Smith is the team's best deep threat and top kickoff returner.

With a heavy ground-based attack, new offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau hopes to build more of a vertical play-action passing game. He already will be making a tough choice between quarterbacks Cody Hawkins and Tyler Hansen and taking away his best deep threat won't help the offense's productivity.

The Colorado offense ranked last in the Big 12 last season in total offense and scoring. Smith was a critical element in plans for coach Dan Hawkins, who vowed his team would "win 10 games with no excuses" this season after a disappointing 5-7 record last year.

Even with Smith's drop on the depth chart, it's still not a good situation for the Buffaloes or their ability to stretch the field with Smith leaving.

Big 12 football and the APR

May, 7, 2009
5/07/09
5:23
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

My apologies for posting this a day late, but I thought that the scores for each Big 12 team in the NCAA's most recent Academic Progress Rate report merited mention.

No Big 12 teams have lost scholarships yet. In fact, only Mississippi and Minnesota have been affected so far among the schools in the "Big Six" conferences.

I think the biggest reason why the rich have tended to be more successful than the smaller schools is because of the academic infrastructure these schools are able to create. Between tutors, computer laboratories and all of the other academic bells and whistles, these schools devote a lot of money to keeping their students eligible -- for obvious reasons.

Here's how the football programs of the Big 12 stacked up in their APR scores this year.

Oklahoma            952 

Missouri                951

Nebraska               950

Texas A&M            946

Kansas                  941  

Kansas State          939

Oklahoma State     939

Texas                   939

Iowa State             935 

Texas Tech            935

Baylor                    930

Colorado                929

Interestingly, the two teams that played in the conference football championship game had the highest APR rates.

None of the schools were below the 925 threshold where penalties begin. That score roughly approximates to a 60 percent graduation rate.  

Colorado is coming perilously close with an APR score of 929. Coach Dan Hawkins provided the program with some wiggle room when he signed only 19 recruits in his 2009 class -- two below the number he could have signed.  

The Boulder Daily Camera reported the Buffaloes have had at least four scholarship football players leave the program ineligible in the current school year.

If the program's score falls below 925 this year, it would lose a scholarship for every player who left ineligible during the year. The number could be five depending on the status of former linebacker Lynn Katoa.

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