Big 12: Marquel Combs

Big 12 lunchtime links

October, 1, 2013
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If you haven't already seen the video of Dana Holgorsen sipping Red Bull on the sideline, enjoy.

The Early Offer: Juco hits, misses 

September, 17, 2013
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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's latest feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: We take a look back at how the nation’s top three junior college players from the Class of 2013 have transitioned into their roles at Ole Miss, Nebraska and Kansas.


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Kansas season preview

August, 16, 2013
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Today we take a closer look at Kansas, a squad looking to rebound after being the lone Big 12 team that didn’t make a bowl game in 2012.

KANSAS JAYHAWKS

Coach: Charlie Weis (36-38, six seasons, 1-11, one season at KU)

2012 record: 1-11 (0-9 in Big 12)

[+] EnlargeTony Pierson
John Rieger/USA TODAY SportsTony Pierson will look to get more carries this season for the Jayhawks.
Key losses: WR Kale Pick, CB Greg Brown, S Bradley McDougald, DE Toben Opurum, OL Tanner Hawkinson

Key returnees: RB James Sims, RB/WR Tony Pierson, LB Ben Heeney, LB Jake Love

Newcomer to watch: DB Cassius Sendish. The junior college transfer was immediately impressive in the spring, on and off the field. So impressive, in fact, that the Jayhawks brought him to Big 12 media days. He's already drawn praise from Weis for his versatility during KU’s preseason camp.

Biggest games in 2013: The middle of the season is brutal for the Jayhawks. A five-week stretch of TCU, Oklahoma, Baylor, Texas and Oklahoma State will show if the Jayhawks have improved or if they still have a long way to go.

Biggest question mark heading into 2013: Will the Jayhawks' influx of Juco talent make a difference?

Defensive lineman Marquel Combs, the No. 3 player in the ESPN JC100, leads the way as the headliner of a group which includes Sendish and receiver Rodriguez Coleman, another juco signee who is making waves in KU’s preseason camp.

Weis, mimicking Kansas State, hit the junior colleges hard in the hopes of turning the Jayhawks' fortunes around with an infusion of college-ready talent. Time will tell if it pays off.

Forecast: Even though the Jayhawks finished 1-11 in 2012, KU showed more fight than its final record displayed. Texas and Oklahoma State barely escaped Lawrence with victories, and Texas Tech needed double-overtime to knock off the Jayhawks in Lubbock.

KU has several offensive weapons, including running back James Sims and dual threat Tony Pierson, who would be key offensive threats for any Big 12 squad with their explosive playmaking ability. Sims rushed for 1,013 yards in nine games last season, while Pierson rushed for 760 yards in 11 games in mostly backup duty after Sims’ return early in the season. At quarterback, BYU transfer Jake Heaps could be the key to KU’s success as he looks to improve on the Jayhawks’ average of 148.67 passing yards per game last season, which ranked No. 113 in the nation.

Defensively, the Jayhawks hope players like Sendish and Combs can join returning linebackers Ben Heeney (112 tackles) and Jake Love (36 tackles) to slow Big 12 offenses. KU will be counting on Combs to make a major impact in the middle after he turned down offers from Kansas State, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Ole Miss and others to be a Jayhawk.
DALLAS -- Charlie Weis has seen leadership.

He's also seen what he refers to as "real leadership."

"There’s a difference," the Kansas coach told ESPN.com in a recent interview.

Kansas has drawn plenty of attention this offseason for welcoming a parade of almost 20 junior college players, but the Jayhawks are getting more than just a talent upgrade in the new additions to the roster. After spending a spring with many of those players enrolling early and participating in practice, he's seeing that real leadership in two new members of his defense.

It starts with a mature cornerback in Cassius Sendish, who showed up with a commanding presence and impressed Weis immediately. The 6-foot, 187-pounder was one of the nation's top juco prospects a year ago at Arizona Western and may be one of four new starters in the secondary.

"I wouldn’t say he’s been a surprise, but he is a natural leader and I think that one of our biggest problems with our defense is we were void of real leadership," Weis said. "Cassius is a very intelligent, physical player and I think in the secondary, he’ll be one of the key leaders of our defense. You don’t find those guys very often. They grow into it, but he kind of walked in the door with that."

Don't be surprised if all four new starters in Kansas' secondary are new players, Weis said. He brought in another player in the ESPN Juco 100, Chris Martin, because of his history recruiting him to Notre Dame. Martin originally committed to Weis and the Irish before transferring to Florida, where Weis coincidentally ended up for the 2011 season. He's had issues in the past and attended three different high schools, but the 6-foot-4, 250-pound pass rusher gives an immediate upgrade up front physically that's been long absent in Lawrence.

"The whole team feeds off of him. We haven’t had a guy that looks like an NFL outside linebacker/defensive end," said Weis, who added that he's also one of the team's fastest players. "He's like what I'm used to looking at in the NFL."

Kansas' defense centered around linebacker Ben Heeney last season, and may again in 2013, but the talent upgrades around him should help Kansas' defense improve and allow Heeney to improve, even if his stats take a dip after he finished fourth in the Big 12 with 112 stops in 2012.

"He shouldn’t have to make 100 or whatever tackles," Weis said. "That tells you you’re not making any tackles up front."

Martin and fellow newcomers like Ty McKinney, who also impressed Weis and DC Dave Campo this spring, and summer enrollee Marquel Combs could help change that.

Breaking down spring camp: Kansas

March, 5, 2013
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Kansas will be the next Big 12 team to take the field for spring practice later today. Time for a closer look.

Schedule: The first of KU's 15 NCAA-allowed practices will be today, leading up to a spring game in Lawrence on April 13.

What's new: Kansas made some minor shifts in its coaching staff, but the real attraction in Lawrence this spring is the influx of junior college talent. We'll get to that a bit later. The biggest staff change is Clint Bowen stepping up to coach the linebackers, replacing DeMontie Cross, who left for TCU this offseason.

New faces: This list is about to get serious, so buckle up. That's what you have to expect when about three-fourths of your class is junior college transfers. Kansas is bringing in 11 players early this spring.
  • CB Colin Spencer
  • DT Marquel Combs
  • OT Zach Fondal
  • OG Ngalu Fusimalohi
  • DT Tedarian Johnson
  • DE Chris Martin
  • CB Dexter McDonald
  • DT Ty McKinney
  • P/KOS Trevor Pardula
  • CB Cassius Sendish
  • OL Mike Smithburg

That's obviously a big haul, and KU's focusing on grabbing an immediate talent upgrade. Whether they have one in reality will show up this spring.

All eyes on: Quarterback Jake Heaps. KU seemed like it was set at the position after Heaps and Dayne Crist transferred from major programs following Charlie Weis' hire. Last year's campaign with Crist went poorly and he was benched midway through the season. Heaps would like better results and has already entrenched himself as a leader like Crist did. Will it lead to better results on the field? We may get a feel for that this spring.

Question marks: Kansas needs receiver help and needs it badly. But I like the defense's chances to make some further strides after some improvements last season under Dave Campo. The receiving unit having no touchdown catches last season is inexcusable, though. It just has to be better. Juco transfer Rodriguez Coleman won't be there in the spring, but guys like Chris Omigie, Tre Parmalee and Andrew Turzilli need to show progress this spring and fill in for the losses of Daymond Patterson and Kale Pick.

Breaking out: Defensive tackle Jordan Tavai. There will be a lot of attention paid to Marquel Combs this spring, but Tavai showed up midway through fall camp last season and earned a starting spot by season's end. After going through the offseason program and having a season under his belt, he could be a new man next fall for the Jayhawks. The senior juco transfer could show off some of that progress this spring.
This week, I asked you to weigh in with your vote as the Big 12's biggest impact junior college transfer next fall.

Whaddaya know, Big 12 fans dig the quarterback. junior college All-American quarterback and Kansas State transfer Jake Waters took home your vote by a sizeable margin. He hauled in 37 percent of the vote, outpacing every other contender by at least 16 percent of the votes.

It could definitely happen, and like I said in the post, he could be a household name this time next year. Coach Bill Snyder's track record with junior college transfers speaks for itself, and Waters has a good shot to win the quarterback job this spring when he goes head to head with Daniel Sams. I'm still a bit surprised Waters won the vote by that much.

Oklahoma defensive tackle Quincy Russell grabbed 21 percent of the vote, finishing second. He won't be a household name by this time next year, but how many Big 12 defensive tackles ever are? There's opportunity for him to make a big impact for the Sooners' depleted defensive line immediately.

My pick for the biggest impact, though? I'm looking square at Oklahoma State defensive end Sam Wren, who received 17 percent of the vote, good for fourth in the poll. Oklahoma State needs a ton of help there after losing three seniors, and I don't see a lot of potential in the guys following them up on the line. I obviously don't spend much time watching junior college football, but when Mike Gundy is talking about his recruiting class and Wren's name is one of the first out of his mouth, that's a very good sign. We'll see how Wren does this spring. Enrolling early will be huge for him.

Texas offensive tackle Desmond Harrison was third with 18 percent of the vote. I'd expect him to find a place in the rotation, but I don't know that I'd call him a huge impact player. Oddly, the highest-ranked player in the poll hauled in the fewest votes. Big 12 fans don't seem to be buying into defensive tackle Marquel Combs' potential to make an impact at Kansas. I'll be shocked if he doesn't start, but the nation's No. 3 overall prospect will have plenty to say in spring practice when KU kicks off next week.

What'd you think of the poll results?
We talked freshmen last week, but today, it's time to look at the league's biggest incoming juco transfers. Take your vote on which one will have the biggest impact in 2013.

SportsNation

Which is the Big 12's biggest impact junior college transfer?

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    41%
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    9%
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    15%
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    18%
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    17%

Discuss (Total votes: 2,764)

Jake Waters, QB, Kansas State: Waters is an All-American who broke Cam Newton's completion percentage record for his Iowa junior college, and he'll try to knock off Daniel Sams and win K-State's starting quarterback spot. The 6-foot-2, 215-pounder is No. 70 in our ESPN Juco 100. If he wins the job, he could be a household name this time next year.

Marquel Combs, DT, Kansas: Combs is the highest-ranked player among jucos headed to the Big 12. The No. 3 overall prospect signed on to help Kansas beef up its defensive line and could have a big impact immediately at 6-foot-3 and 310 pounds out of Memphis.

Sam Wren, DE, Oklahoma State: Mike Gundy has been raving about Wren, who'll help Oklahoma State fill its void at defensive end, where the Cowboys lost three seniors from last year's team. The 6-foot-3, 255-pound Palestine, Texas native is coming to OSU from junior college in Arizona.

Quincy Russell, DT, Oklahoma: Oklahoma needs a whole lot of help on its defensive line, and Russell might be the man to help. The San Antonio, Texas native is a load at 308 pounds and 6-foot-4, ranking as the nation's No. 39 overall juco prospect.

Desmond Harrison, OT, Texas: Texas had success bringing Donald Hawkins in from junior college last year on the offensive line, and they're going back to the well with Harrison, a 6-foot-8, 310-pound California native who'll try to contribute for the Longhorns as the nation's No. 38 overall prospect among jucos.

Vote in our poll.

Big 12 signing day superlatives

February, 8, 2013
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With signing day in the rearview mirror, it's time to pass out some awards for the Big 12's recruiting efforts.

Biggest winner on signing day: Baylor coach Art Briles -- Briles is capitalizing on the Bears' on-field success with some huge signees who have Baylor turning some heads. Hometown blue-chip prospect Andrew Billings gave the Bears a huge late boost on the defensive line, a position of need, and the Bears' class finished just outside the national top 25. It's Briles' best class in terms of ranking, with six four-star prospects, four of whom will be playing defense. The two offensive four-stars are both top-five nationally at their positions -- No. 3 WR Robbie Rhodes and No. 5 dual-threat QB Chris Johnson.

Best closer: Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury -- The Red Raiders' class was shredded by the transition from Tommy Tuberville and lost its top commit, Devin Lauderdale. Kingsbury got Lauderdale back and pulled in a class of 24 players after sitting at just 11 players in the middle of January. It's not going to turn a lot of heads, but Tech landed four players with at least four stars.

Biggest surprise: Kansas' strong class -- As it turns out, Kansas coach Charlie Weis knows how to shop around playing time. Great shots at immediate starting positions seem to be a very valuable recruiting bait for junior college players, and Weis had a bunch to offer. You don't have to be coming off a huge season to recruit well. Weis landed five of the top 100 junior college prospects in the country, highlighted by No. 3 Marquel Combs and No. 74 Rodriguez Coleman, a receiver. We saw what Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze did in selling big-time recruits the chance to be on the ground floor of building a program. On a smaller scale, Weis did that with this class.

Who flipped/Biggest loss -- For the past year, Texas had counted on A'Shawn Robinson -- one of the nation's best defensive tackles and a native of Arlington, Texas -- as part of its recruiting class. In the months before signing day, rumors swirled that he was wavering. Finally, he made it official days before signing day, and on Wednesday, he signed with Alabama after a man in an elephant suit delivered his letter of intent. Points for creativity, but the loss was another strike for Texas on the defensive line. Strike one came when the Horns lost DE Daeshon Hall earlier in the recruiting season, and the day before signing day, Texas hit strike three when it lost Billings (see above).

Kansas State also was fired up about getting a commitment from juco linebacker De'Vondre Campbell, a 6-foot-5, 224-pounder at a Kansas junior college. Bill Snyder lost him on signing day, though, when Campbell elected to sign with Minnesota. That left a hole at a position of need for the Wildcats.
Signing day has come and gone, but we'll have plenty of coverage looking at each Big 12 team's class. This morning, we'll look at how each team filled its needs.

BAYLOR

Needs filled: Prerogative No. 1 for Baylor is fixing its defense, and the Bears are getting some help at linebacker in prep transfer Brian Nance, Raaquan Davis (No. 28 outside linebacker) and Travon Blanchard (No. 37 OLB). Future defensive tackle Andrew Billings was a home-grown talent who should compliment Javonte Magee well up front in the years to come. The Bears also need to keep the offensive machine humming. They seem to have done that with their two top signees, Robbie Rhodes, the nation's No. 3 receiver, and Chris Johnson, the nation's No. 5 dual-threat passer who coach Art Briles raved about in his signing day presser.

Holes remaining: Debate their quality all you'd like, but the Bears lost players in the secondary like Chance Casey and Mike Hicks, and cornerback Joe Williams will be a senior. There's not a lot of strength at defensive back in this class, unless Taion Sells (No. 46 safety) and Alfred Pullom (No. 67 safety) can blossom in Waco.

IOWA STATE

Needs filled: Rodney Coe comes to Ames via junior college and will try and replace some losses along the defensive line, but the biggest need for the Cyclones has been offensive playmakers. Aaron Wimberly checks in via the juco ranks at running back, but can ISU develop Texas receivers Brandon Harris and Bryan Ajumobi into major weapons at the Big 12 level?

Holes remaining: The Cyclones lost a pair of starters at linebacker and signed just one linebacker in this class, Florida native Brian Mills. Besides that, Iowa State did a nice job of bringing in big bodies along the defensive line and filling some offensive line holes, too, headlined by in-state prospect Jake Campos, who Iowa State swiped from Mizzou.

KANSAS

Needs filled: I'll be honest here, KU could use a big talent upgrade at pretty much every position on the field, other than running back. It's all about the jucos for the Jayhawks. Marquel Combs could be a major player up front to help KU stop the run and collapse pockets, but KU got a pair of big-time playmakers at receiver, too, in Ishmael Hyman and Rodriguez Coleman. Chris Martin offers another solid option as a pass-rusher. The Jayhawks also added a pair of quarterbacks in Montell Cozart and Jordan Darling.

Holes remaining: Did KU get enough high-quality linemen to replace its three lost starters? Ahongalu Fusimalohi is a juco transfer and Joey Bloomfield is the nation's No. 118 offensive tackle, but replacing solid starters like Tanner Hawkinson and Trevor Marrongelli is no easy task.

KANSAS STATE

Needs filled: K-State basically lost its entire defense from last year, so any defenders will be greatly appreciated. Four of the classes' top five signees are defenders, highlighted by inside linebacker Nick Ramirez and juco corner Nate Jackson. Inside linebacker Tanner Wood and juco defensive end Devon Nash will also help fill the Wildcats' big losses defensively.

Holes remaining: The Wildcats are solid at running back this year, but it could be looking a bit thin in the future. John Hubert will be a senior this year and Bryce Brown didn't pan out, so K-State might have used a running back in this class. It didn't happen. K-State was shut out at the position.

OKLAHOMA

Needs filled: Defensive line was the biggest one, and the Sooners grabbed two pass-rushers in the ESPN 300, D.J. Ward and Matt Dimon. Those two should pay off big, and Ward has enrolled early. Hatari Byrd also gives the Sooners an answer in the secondary while the nation's No. 3 running back, Keith Ford, helps provide solid depth at running back.

Holes remaining: Oklahoma lost Tom Wort to the NFL draft and Corey Nelson will be a senior next year, but Oklahoma didn't stock this class with a single linebacker. The Sooners don't put many traditional linebackers on the field and has converted a lot of safeties into outside linebackers, but still.

Big 12 recruiting primer

February, 6, 2013
2/06/13
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ESPN RecruitingNation has signing day covered. Follow ESPNU’s coverage, chat with analysts and get breaking news on our Signing Day Live page beginning at 7:30 a.m. ET through 7 p.m. ET. For more on what to expect on signing day, check out the Big 12 conference breakdown Insider.

Bold Prediction for the Big 12: Kliff Kingsbury saw a lot of success as offensive coordinator at Texas A&M. He’ll see similar success as head coach at Texas Tech.

Baylor
Biggest Need: Offensive linemen to protect the talented skill-position players.
Biggest Recruit: ESPN 150 receiver Robbie Rhodes (Fort Worth, Texas/Southwest) has the tools to be not only a starter but also an all-conference player as a freshman.

Iowa State
Biggest Need: With only one commit at the position, the Cyclones need linebackers.
Biggest Recruit: Four-star offensive tackle Shawn Curtis (Orlando, Fla./Olympia), at 6-foot-6 and 270 pounds, should be a future leader for the Cyclones’ offensive line.

Kansas
Biggest Need: The Jayhawks need a running back or two.
Biggest Recruit: Juco defensive tackle Marquel Combs (Memphis, Tenn./Pierce College) is the No. 3 junior college prospect in the country for a reason. He’s a run-stopper.

Kansas State
Biggest Need: Running back, just like its Sunflower State counterpart.
Biggest Recruit: Linebacker Nick Ramirez (Lee’s Summit, Mo./Lee’s Summit West) is the only four-star commit, but three-star junior college quarterback Jake Waters (Council Bluffs, Iowa/Iowa Western Community College) might be the sleeper of the class.

Oklahoma
Biggest Need: Linebacker is a huge necessity.
Biggest Recruit: If ESPN 150 running back Keith Ford (Cypress, Texas/Cypress Ranch) stays healthy, he could have a promising college career -- which could lead to an NFL opportunity.

Oklahoma State
Biggest Need: The Cowboys need help at quarterback and linebacker.
Biggest Recruit: ESPN 300 receivers Ra'Shaad Samples (Dallas/Skyline) and Marcell Ateman (Wylie, Texas/Wylie East) bring different dynamics but similar results to the football field.

TCU
Biggest Need: Playmaking wide receivers.
Biggest Recruit: ESPN 300 running back Kyle Hicks (Arlington, Texas/Martin) has the potential to be outstanding, but three-star athlete Ty Slanina (East Bernard, Texas/East Bernard) could be stellar at several spots.

Texas
Biggest Need: While Texas is strong on the offensive line, it needs defensive linemen.
Biggest Recruit: ESPN 150 center Darius James (Killeen, Texas/Harker Heights) leads a very talented class of Longhorns offensive linemen.

Texas Tech
Biggest Need: The Red Raiders could use more defensive tackles.
Biggest Recruit: Quarterback Davis Webb (Prosper, Texas/Prosper), an Elite 11 finalist last summer, could be special under the wing of Kliff Kingsbury.

West Virginia
Biggest Need: Players in the secondary.
Biggest Recruit: ESPN 300 inside linebacker Darrien Howard (Dayton, Ohio/Chaminade-Julienne) has the tools to shut down a lot of plays before they even get started.

The biggest Big 12 offseason storylines

January, 17, 2013
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The offseason is under way, but offseasons are fun, too. Here are the storylines to keep an eye on until the teams are back on the field in 2013.

1. Can Casey Pachall get back on track? TCU's quarterback is officially back with the team after leaving school to go to an in-patient drug and alcohol treatment facility. Most people want to know if he'll be the same player, but what's even more important is whether he can avoid the same pitfalls and get his life back on track.

2. Expansion junction, what's your function? The odds seem strongly against it, but you know we're not getting through a college football offseason without talking expansion at some point. How much will it heat up? Will Florida State re-emerge as a Big 12 candidate?

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin and Art Briles
AP Photo/Darren AbateArt Briles, left, has done a great job developing quarterbacks at Houston and at Baylor.
3. Will the 'Quarterback Whisperer' do it again? Baylor coach Art Briles' last four quarterbacks have been absurd. Kevin Kolb and Case Keenum got it done at Houston, and Robert Griffin III won a Heisman as the best of the bunch at Baylor. Nick Florence led the Big 12 in passing yards last year. What does Briles have in store this season? Bryce Petty has better measurables than Florence, but can the redshirt junior show off his experience in the system and make good decisions?

4. Striking the fear back in Lubbock. Kliff Kingsbury is looking to bring swagger back to Lubbock. He's still piecing together his staff, but the 33-year-old has the pieces to put together a solid team on the field, too. Can Texas Tech break the string of late-season collapses the past two years?

5. Charlie Weis' juco revolution. Weis has made it clear that he wants quick fixes and to win now at KU. Will his juco recruiting haul do it? Defensive lineman Marquel Combs was the nation's No. 1 juco recruit, and Weis has done a heck of a job selling immediate playing time to these guys. The current recruiting class has 17 juco transfers among 25 commits. Will it pay off, and how will these guys look once they get on campus? Are wins just around the corner?

6. A quarterback competition for the ages. Was Oklahoma State the first team ever to have three 1,000-yard passers? Two of them were freshmen, too. The QB derby last spring was good. This year's will be even better, with all three showing they could win games in Big 12 play. Clint Chelf will have the inside track, but Wes Lunt and J.W. Walsh will try to swipe it away. Could one transfer be imminent after the spring?

7. Are the Longhorns finally, officially, certifiably back? Texas looked like it was back after going up to Stillwater and winning a dramatic game that helped the Longhorns ascend to No. 11 in the polls. Then consecutive losses capped by a Red River Blowout made it obvious the Horns weren't quite back yet. David Ash's development and fixing Manny Diaz's surprisingly vulnerable defense will decide whether 2013 is the season Texas returns to the BCS stage.

8. What about the championship game? Bob Bowlsby turned some heads when he inquired with the NCAA about a waiver to hold a championship game with just 10 teams. I don't think there's much fire around that smoke, but how serious will any talk of a return of the Big 12 title game get? The coaches would hate it.

Lunch links: How to get a No. 100 jersey

December, 20, 2012
12/20/12
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I own a Fuddrucker's with Scottie Pippen.
Our ESPN Recruiting team released its new Junior College 100, a list of the top 100 prospects in junior colleges across the country. There's a whole lot of Big 12 teams getting in on that action.

You'll need ESPN Insider to see the full list, but here's a quick taste of how the Big 12 is shaping up on the list:

Kansas leads the way with six commits, including the nation's No. 1 juco talent, defensive tackle Marquel Combs. That's pretty impressive work from coach Charlie Weis, who clearly wants to win now.

Texas Tech has a pair of skill position talents headed to Lubbock, led by No. 11 on the list, the spectacularly named receiver Javess Blue.

Kansas State has two players on the list, led by No. 24, CB Nate Jackson from the College of San Mateo in California.

Oklahoma State grabbed No. 13 on the list, DE Sam Wren.

Baylor grabbed No. 25, tight end Gus Penning. Iowa State has two commits on the list, led by No. 39, tight end Emmanuel Bibbs.

Texas even got in on the tight end action, grabbing No. 27 on the list, Geoff Swaim.

West Virginia has the No. 26 player on the list, RB Dreamius Smith, who was headed to KU out of high school at one point. TCU linebacker Deryck Gildon left the team because of grades, but he's heading back to Fort Worth and is No. 59 on the list.

That's some pretty serious work from the Big 12. Seventeen total players in the top 100 are headed to Big 12 schools.

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