Big 12: Thomas Johnson

Wrapping up signing day in the Big 12

February, 2, 2012
2/02/12
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National signing day has come and gone, and as with any game week, we'll provide a proper wrap-up of the events of the week. Time to hand out a few superlatives.

Top class: Texas

The Longhorns did what the Longhorns do once again: Dominate a state with a talent pool as rich as any in America. The flagship school in the state of Texas reeled in 12 ESPNU 150 signees, seven more than any school in the Big 12, and finished the day at No. 3 in ESPN Recruiting's class rankings, the only Big 12 team in the top five.

Player you'll see next year: Courtney Gardner, WR, Oklahoma

The Sooners grabbed Gardner, a juco prospect, on signing day after he had been committed to Arkansas. Gardner's physical maturity earned rave reviews. For the Sooners, who need big help at pass-catcher positions, he'll provide a big, versatile target to help replace Ryan Broyles, who left for the NFL and left a big void in the Sooners' lineup when he tore his ACL late in 2011.

Best save: Texas A&M

The Aggies got some semi-expected news early, receiving word that Bralon Addison had sent his letter of intent to Oregon. It didn't take A&M long to get over it, though. The nation's No. 18 receiver had left the fold, but later in the day, at a news conference in Dallas broadcast live on ESPNU, the nation's No. 3 receiver pledged to the Aggies. The sweetest part for the Ags: SEC-bound Thomas Johnson had previously been committed to Texas, which is badly in need of receivers.

Biggest thieves: Texas

The Longhorns did a little work on the recruiting trail late, too. Eight of the final nine commitments that Texas received were previously committed elsewhere, and Mack Brown's staff flipped four players between Saturday and signing day. The final one came midday on signing day, when LSU-committed, Shreveport-bred Torshiro Davis flipped his commitment from LSU and sent Texas his letter of intent.

Future award winner: Johnathan Gray, RB, Texas

You don't become the nation's all-time high school leader in touchdowns scored by accident. Gray is the top overall player headed to a Big 12 school and could do big things in Texas' physical attack. The backfield will be crowded at first, but Gray seems like a can't-miss prospect who could perhaps become another award winner in the backfield for Texas, which hasn't had one since Cedric Benson in 2004.

Program on the rise: Baylor

RG who? Baylor's more than just one player, and Art Briles' staff proved it this year. Baylor brings in a class just outside the national top 25 that's loaded with prospects on the side of the ball the Bears need the most help with: Defense. Linebacker Brian Nance and defensive tackle Javonte Magee are among the nation's best at their positions.

The Aggies lost one commit on Wednesday morning, but Texas A&M picked up an even bigger signee later.

Thomas Johnson, the nation's No. 3 receiver, chose the Aggies live on ESPNU, sliding on a Texas A&M hat after asking host Dari Nowkah for his thoughts on where he should go. Johnson is the nation's No. 33 prospect.

Better yet for the Aggies? Johnson was previously committed to Texas before de-committing from the Longhorns last month.

Here's what our scouts have to say about the Dallas native:
Johnson is a game breaking wide receiver with an athletic wiry build and explosive speed. He was hampered by injury as a junior, but his limited duty produced some eye-popping production both as a wide receiver and Wildcat QB. Reminds us of another Skyline WR Mike Davis from the 2010 class only Johnson may be a little more fluid. He plays big and physical. Has a muscular build and could develop into an imposing threat. Is very fluid and shifty with smooth change-of-direction skills.

The Aggies lost Bralon Addison, but picking up Johnson will be huge. The 6-foot, 180-pounder was apparently attracted to new coach Kevin Sumlin's reputation for being one of the game's best offensive minds.

Big signing-day plans for ESPN

January, 26, 2012
1/26/12
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Make sure to tune in to ESPNU all next Wednesday for our national signing day coverage.

You can see the full plan here.

The main event, perhaps, will be Dorial Green-Beckham's announcement at 10:15 ET. The Springfield, Mo., native and nation's No. 1 receiver is considering Missouri, Arkansas and Texas.

Coverage starts at 9 a.m. ET on ESPNU and will continue for 10 hours.

We'll have reporters on 13 campuses, and the class rankings will be updated throughout the day on ESPN.com.

Ten players -- including four who rank at the top of their position -- are slated make their announcements live on ESPNU.

Beckham's not the only player with potential Big 12 connections.

Thomas Johnson and Andrus Peat may land in the conference, too. Here's more on uncommitted players considering Big 12 teams.

You can interact via the #signingday hashtag on Twitter, and I'll certainly be providing updates via Twitter and on the blog. You can follow me on Twitter here.

It'll be a fun day, and ESPN's the place to be to take it all in.

High school All-Americans headed to Big 12

December, 23, 2011
12/23/11
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We've unveiled our high school All-America team this week, and it's time to take a look at the guys who will be headed to Big 12 schools (or at least schools currently in the Big 12).

FIRST TEAM

Johnathan Gray, RB, Aledo (Texas) -- Texas commit
  • The nation's top running back set the national record for career touchdowns (205) in his final high school game, a win over Manvel (Texas) in the Class 4A, Division II state championship. Gray, who scored 70 touchdowns this season and led Aledo to its third straight state title, finished second all time in points scored (1,232) and third in rushing yards (10,908).
Trey Williams, RB, Dekaney (Houston) -- Texas A&M commit
  • Williams was pivotal in Dekaney's run to the Class 5A, Division II state title in the fourth-year school's first playoff appearance. He ran for 3,884 yards and 48 touchdowns on 427 carries, caught two touchdown passes and returned a kickoff for a score.
Evan Boehm, OL, Lee's Summit West (Missouri) -- Missouri commit
  • The nation's top guard earned All-State first team honors and guided Lee's Summit West to the Class 5 state semifinals.
SECOND TEAM
THIRD TEAM

Five Big 12 teams in 2012 recruiting top 25

June, 10, 2011
6/10/11
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You saw the first version of the ESPNU 150 earlier this week, and now, we've released our class rankings as well Insider.

Four Big 12 teams made the cut.

Here they are.

1. Texas
Nine ESPNU 150 commits headline Texas' well-stocked early class. Adding five-star RB Johnathan Gray (Aledo, Texas/Aledo), No. 8 in the ESPNU 150, to join 2011 five-star RB Malcolm Brown is a huge step in the right direction. Cayleb Jones (Austin, Texas/Stephen F. Austin) and Thomas Johnson(Dallas/Skyline) are top 35 players overall and the top two wideouts in the state. The pair of Under Armour All-Americans can run, and Jones is a big target while Johnson is a home run threat.
My take: It's not surprising to see the Longhorns here, despite the 5-7 year in 2010 and resulting shakeup.

"You're not going to see too much of a significant change in Texas recruiting, unless you see successive losing seasons," ESPN national recruiting director Tom Luginbill told me last month. "I think you'd have to see a minimum of, not counting last year, another two after this. If you count last year, three total before you see a significant drop."

The Longhorns have nine ESPNU 150 commits, two more than anyone else, which make up over half its class. Having the most historic success in the state that produces the second-most top-flight prospects has its advantages. Texas is reaping those benefits, despite the successes of others around on the recruiting trail. Players love playing for Mack Brown, and infusing his staff with younger coaches full of energy that are even more skilled at relating to his players won't change that.

4. Texas A&M
20 commits, the most in the country. RB Trey Williams (Houston/Andy Dekaney) is undersized, but a water bug of a runner who is tough to keep up with. OLB Jordan Richmond (Denton, Texas/Billy Ryan) is rangy, athletic and should have plenty in front of him to keep blockers occupied in the future with five D-linemen also on board, including four-star DE Michael Richardson (DeSoto, Texas/DeSoto). ATH Bralon Addison (Missouri City, Texas/Hightower ) is an electrifying threat on offense.
My take: As previously predicted, the Aggies' class debuts in the top 5. Luginbill says the strength of the class is in its middle, not its top. That will pay off.

"If you took an 85-man roster and spread it over the course of four years and you have 3-4 classes with 20 guys in each class and the top 4-6 were five-star guys, that's only making up a quarter of those 85 guys, if that," Luginbill said.

Texas A&M is now charged with the task of holding together the class, while trying to add to it. It lost a very good commit in Louisiana native Davante Borque earlier this week, but the coaches will have to keep in touch with those committed to prevent others from following.

"I think that's going to be more of a challenge for Texas A&M than it's going to be for the Texas Longhorns," Luginbill said. "Not only fulfilling the rest of the class, but the challenge of maintaining this level of a class over an extended period of time could be one of their greatest recruiting challenges.

"It's a long way between now and February."

11. Oklahoma
The Sooners added three potential difference-makers at the offensive skill positions and retained the top two in-state prospects. RB Alex Ross (Jenks, Okla./Jenks) is a top-five back in the country with his great combination of size and speed. He could be the next big-load back in Norman. Receiver Sterling Shepard (Oklahoma City, Okla./Heritage Hall) may lack ideal measurables, but this guy simply makes plays and can move the chains from a variety of positions.
My take: Oklahoma has eight commitments after adding St. Louis receiver Durron Neal earlier this week, giving them three ESPNU 150 commits.

The Sooners 2012 class won't be big one, but Oklahoma is in on a number of big-name recruits, namely the nation's No. 1 quarterback (Gunner Kiel) and No. 1 receiver (Dorial Green-Beckham). Expect to see Oklahoma crash the top 10 as usual by next February.

14. Texas Tech
The Longhorns and Aggies are off to very hot starts in the state of Texas, but Tommy Tuberville's Red Raiders are enjoying some early success on the recruiting trail, as well. The class features two ESPNU 150 prospects led by wide receiver Reginald Davis (Tenaha, Texas/Tenaha), a speedy and athletic playmaking prospect. The other 150 member of this class is offensive tackle prospect Michael Starts (Waco, Texas/La Vega), a physically good-looking player with the athleticism for the tackle position.
My take: Texas Tech is fresh off the best class in school history. Starts was a big pickup for the Red Raiders, but could Tommy Tuberville's 2012 class be even better? The Red Raiders are on track to make it happen.

22. Oklahoma State
The Cowboys' class may have come in a little higher in the initial class rankings if ESPNU 150 LB Dalton Santos (Van, Texas/Van), the top ILB in the country, didn't decommit, but despite that the class is still off to a good start. It has three four-star prospects, highlighted by ESPNU 150 TE Dominic Ramacher (Denton, Texas/John H. Guyer). He is a big, ultra-versatile throwback player who can line up at just about any offensive skill position.
My take: Mike Gundy has built up Oklahoma State's recruiting year-by-year since he came to Stillwater, and the Cowboys look headed for another top 25 finish after a very solid class in 2011. He has just six commits in this class, including one ESPNU 150, but snagging Barry Sanders Jr., the son of the legendary Cowboys Heisman winner, would add a sure fan favorite to his future teams.

Texas leads the way in ESPNU 150

June, 8, 2011
6/08/11
12:35
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ESPN Recruiting has released its annual ESPNU 150, the nation's top 150 recruits. No more watch lists. No more guesses. The list can shift, but here's how the full list looks.

Committments are non-binding, and players won't be able to sign letters of intent until next February, but upon the list's release today, here's who is committed where:

And which players are committed where in the Big 12.

Texas (9 of 17 commits)
Texas A&M (3 of 22 commits)
Oklahoma (2 of 7 commits)
Texas Tech (2 of 8 commits)
Oklahoma State (1 of 6 commits)
Notes from the group:
  • Texas' nine commits are the most in the nation, leading Florida State (7) and Alabama (6). Texas A&M, with its three commits, is tied for seventh-most in the nation.
  • Oklahoma and Texas Tech's two commits have them tied for 12th most.
  • Of the ESPNU 150, 82 still remain uncommitted with about eight months to go before signing day.
  • Counting up the members of the list by state, Florida leads the way with 28 natives. Twenty of the players on the list call Texas home.
  • Six positions had more than 10 players on the list. Offensive tackles (21) were the largest group, followed by athletes and receivers (19), defensive tackles (16), defensive ends (14) and outside linebackers (11).

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