On to the 'bag:
Trotter: James, of course, is referring to the report Wednesday that Oklahoma had delayed its stadium renovation plans, which president David Boren later vehemently denied. I have spoken to a couple of people about this and here's what I can say: The school has in fact endured fundraising issues, due in small part to the mediocre football season and due in large part to falling oil prices. (Oklahoma's economy, and thus donor base, is significantly tied to energy.) I have also heard rumblings that the school might ultimately scale back some of the original proposal, which at $370 million was ambitious to begin with. But as far as I know, the school has no plans to delay construction. In fact, I don't believe Boren has the authority to call off or delay construction without approval of the regents first. The regents did not discuss the stadium proposal in their meeting Wednesday, but you can bet they will be discussing it informally in the coming weeks before formally hashing out the next step at its scheduled March meeting in Tulsa.
@Jake_Trotter what is the story with the OU stadium expansion, on, scaled back, off, on again?— James Aydelott (@jamesaydelott) January 29, 2015
Trotter: My money is on William Crest. I know Skylar Howard had some moments filling in for Clint Trickett last season. But there was a reason why Crest as a true freshman beat out Howard as the No. 2 quarterback coming out of August before suffering a shoulder injury. Howard's mobility added another dimension to the West Virginia offense. But he really struggled with his accuracy at times. Based on what I've heard about Crest and his potential, I think he's West Virginia's long-term answer behind center.
@Jake_Trotter who do you think will be wvu qb next year ?— martywvu24 (@martyakers24) January 29, 2015
Trotter: I think so. Of course, we thought there would be a huge gap between Baylor/Oklahoma and rest of the conference this season. Then the Sooners finished 8-5. A lot can happen. Baylor could encounter issues replacing Bryce Petty at quarterback. TCU could struggle with new faces defensively. There could also be a surprise team come out of nowhere, just like TCU this past season. But with what the two teams have coming back, there's a lot more to like about TCU and Baylor right now than anyone else in the conference.
@Jake_Trotter will there be a huge gap between baylor/tcu and the rest of the conference?— Isaac (@haas_isaac) January 29, 2015
Trotter: Jordan Stevenson seems most likely, followed by Chris Carson, then Chris Warren III. But my educated guess is that none of three you mentioned will end up in Stillwater. That doesn't mean Oklahoma State won't land a high-profile running back. I just get the sense the Pokes are targeting a late flip from somewhere else, maybe. As for Devin Davis, I don't know that he's ever going to get over that devastating knee injury. That would be too bad, too, because people were talking about him as a potential first-round talent as a left tackle.
@Jake_Trotter Chris Warren, Chris Carson, Jordan Stevenson, other. Rank them on the likelihood each winds up in Stillwater. And Devin Davis?— christian (@cbake44) January 29, 2015
Trotter: Texas is putting together the most impressive recruiting class, though the Longhorns are taking quite a gamble. If they don't flip Kyler Murray from Texas A&M, they could whiff on signing a quarterback, which was the probably the biggest need in this class. Just about every class is going to have some impact in 2015, although Texas has some major pieces graduating. Considering the caliber of players the Longhorns are bringing in - and could bring in - the answer could be them also.
@Jake_Trotter Who do you think is bringing in the strongest recruiting class ? and whose class will make an impact this year ?— E (@Vandeezal) January 29, 2015
Trotter: I have no idea who Mack's front-runner is anymore. He canceled an unofficial visit to TCU this weekend, which isn't a great sign for the Horned Frogs. Of course, it doesn't rule them out, either. But there seems to be some Texas momentum with Mack. Murray, again, is huge for the Longhorns. It's the difference between them possibly having their quarterback of the future and the status quo, which wasn't great for them last year.
@Jake_Trotter is TCU still the frontrunner for Daylon Mack? how important is Kyler Murray's decision?— Steve Godich (@_CaptainCowboy) January 29, 2015
Trotter: Tech is hoping to land ESPN 300 defensive tackle Darrion Daniels and/or ESPN 300 RB Chris Warren III. I don't feel great about their chances for either, though we'll see what happens. Daniels is expected to announce between Texas Tech, Iowa, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State on Friday night. Warren seems like he's leaning toward either Washington or Texas. The Red Raiders are also still in on ESPN 300 defensive tackle Joseph Wicker, who is down to Arizona State, UCLA and Texas Tech, as well as three-star New Orleans linebacker Arthur McGinnis. If they can land one of Daniels, Wicker or McGinnis - and they can prevent any more decommitments - it will be a solid finish to a very solid class.
@Jake_Trotter how do you see Texas Tech finishing up in their race for some last-minute top recruits?— Jeremy Fry (@jeremy_fry) January 29, 2015
Trotter: I like K-State running back commit Alex Barnes, who is just a three-star prospect. Bill Snyder doesn't like to play freshmen, either, but Barnes has the size to help a backfield in need of help right away. Another underrated guy I think could be a factor next season is Oklahoma three-star cornerback Antoine Stephens. The Sooners desperately need CB reinforcements. And even though Stephens went under the radar with his recruitment, he has the size and range that Mike Stoops covets in his cornerbacks.
@Jake_Trotter What under-the-radar Big 12 commits do you expect to have an immediate impact?— Forrest Grimes (@FGrimesN7) January 29, 2015
Trotter: I've never seen "Friday Night Lights" and I love Baylor fans. I'm just not sure they love me back.
@Jake_Trotter which is the generally more frustrating human: Julie Taylor of Friday Night Lights or a Baylor fan?— Luke (@lehockett) January 29, 2015
Following my heart... #GigEm— Kyler Murray (@TheKylerMurray) January 30, 2015
@HamiltonESPN: With this quote by five-star and No. 1-ranked quarterback Murray, a worried Texas A&M fan base let out a collective sigh of relief. The final decision by Murray to sign with Texas A&M also provides Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin with a shot in the arm in the final days headed to national signing day.
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- Kansas is working to prevent any more decommitments in its class, writes Matt Tait of the Lawrence Journal-World. The Jayhawks have seen three recruits decide they won't sign with Kansas on signing day during the past few weeks, including receiver Kevin Thomas, who flipped to SMU, and defensive back Arico Evans, who flipped to TCU. It's not unusual to see a recruiting class take hits after a coaching change. New head coach David Beaty is doing a solid job with the Jayhawks class, which features 23 current commitments. It's important to note that all decommitments aren't necessarily a bad thing when a coaching change occurs. There's no guarantee the incoming coach wants the recruit as much as the previous regime did and there is also no guarantee the recruit would be a good fit in the new system.
- How important is Kyler Murray's decision? Matt Hinton, our colleague at Grantland, addresses the question as the elite quarterback prospect is set to decide between Texas and Texas A&M. The No. 13 player in the ESPN 300, Murray has plenty of options with college football's elite in hot pursuit and professional baseball looming as a legitimate option as well. I can't recall so much significance riding on the decision of one recruit. The Longhorns and Aggies will each have top-notch classes no matter what but it sure seems like Murray has replaced the Thanksgiving in-state rivalry game; he's become the face of bragging rights for both sides with his final destination unclear.
- Former Kansas State receiver Tyler Lockett goes into detail about how he attacks defenders with ClevelandBrowns.com. Lockett is undersized yet not a speedster, which means it's pretty much a guarantee some teams will overlook him, much like several college football programs did when Lockett was in high school. The rest is history for KSU's all-time leading receiver. He had a solid showing at the Senior Bowl so I wouldn't be surprised if Lockett becomes one of the most productive rookie receivers in the NFL in 2015.
- Oklahoma's program is a growing presence on social media, writes Eric Bailey of the Tulsa World. Bob Stoops' Twitter feed lets everyone know when the Sooners land a commitment and the bulk of the staff has been increasing its social media presence in recent years. It's no surprise Oklahoma has seen clear improvements on the recruit trail as the Sooners began to catch up with the times and start to get more active and creative on social media. It's also not a surprise that a few of OU's top recruiters, particularly defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery, are the most active Sooners coaches on social media.
- How did West Virginia get longtime Georgia commit Shaquery Wilson to flip to the Mountaineers? By planning to put the ball in his hands, writes Allen Taylor of WV MetroNews. The Bulldogs projected him to play cornerback while Dana Holgorsen wants to put Wilson at receiver. The four-star prospect could have the chance to make an immediate impact in Morgantown with Mario Alford and Kevin White moving on. Landing Wilson is a huge credit to the WVU coaching staff, who kept pursuing him and finally landed his commitment in the home stretch of the recruiting cycle.
It's not a huge visit weekend in the Big 12 with most programs having the bulk of their class locked in and most recruits already committed to the school of their choice.
Yet Kansas State, Oklahoma and Texas are among the Big 12 schools that will be hosting prospects that could end up filling a need or stand as one of the top signees in their Class of 2015.
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After a nervous week for the Aggies amid Murray's unofficial visit to the Texas Longhorns nine days ago, a collective fan base and coaching staff can breathe a sigh of relief.
"Texas A&M is where my heart is at," Murray said late Thursday night. "Coach [Charlie] Strong and Texas is a great opportunity, but I felt that A&M was the place for me. Not because of my dad having played there, but just the right place for me."
The finalization for Murray came after a Thursday night in-home visit by Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin and offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital.
"It went well," Murray said. "All my questions were answered. I just can't wait to get this all over with and get back to playing ball."
Murray's decision comes three weeks after Texas A&M granted quarterback Kenny Hill his release to transfer to any school of his choice.
Hill was replaced late last season at quarterback by freshman Kyle Allen, who helped the Aggies salvage an 8-5 finish.
Murray will sign his letter of intent to Texas A&M on Wednesday at 11 a.m. ET in a ceremony at Allen High.
Murray's father, Kevin, was a two-time All-American at Texas A&M. But Kevin Murray said that mattered little in his son's decision.
It's been a while since Texas A&M and the University of Texas have been locked in a handful of major recruiting battles. A rivalry that was once played on the field is now playing out in high schools and living rooms with six days left until national signing day. While Longhorns fans are in a state of frenzy due to rumors and chatter, the Aggies remain the "cool school" in the Lone Star State and hold the momentum headed into the first two of five announcements that could flip that perception within the state lines.
What exactly is on the line for both programs beginning with Friday's announcements by ESPN 300 cornerbacks Holton Hill and Kris Boyd? The Longhorns' shot at starting a wave of momentum of their own, and the Aggies showinging their ability to make a late push on two prospects Texas has recruited as priorities.
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Position to improve: Offensive line
Why it was a problem: Going into the 2013 season, Texas had the most experienced offensive line in the country. Just a few games into the 2014 season, Texas had perhaps the least experienced line in the country. Losing senior center Dominic Espinosa to a season-ending injury after one game was a devastating blow. The projected starting tackles, Desmond Harrison and Kennedy Estelle, were kicked off the team. What remained was a group that redefined the label "patchwork line."
Left tackle Marcus Hutchins had never started a game and was a reserve defensive tackle a year earlier. Five different players earned at least one start at right tackle. Taylor Doyle made his first-ever start at center in the Oklahoma game. Only one player -- left guard Sedrick Flowers -- held down the same job for the full season. In all, Texas tried six different offensive line combinations over 13 games and had the No. 94 rushing attack in FBS despite featuring two five-star running backs.
How it can be fixed: Addition and competition. Joe Wickline, hailed as one of the nation’s top offensive line coaches when he was hired away from Oklahoma State, must have been as frustrated as anyone by what he witnessed in 2014. He’s assembled a nice recruiting class which features several linemen who can help immediately. Juco transfer tackles Brandon Hodges and Tristan Nickelson are on campus and will be given every opportunity to become starters. Two more freshmen have already enrolled, and ESPN 300 guard Patrick Vahe might be the best of the bunch. The newcomers must push the seven linemen with starting experience who are slated to return. Texas had no depth and few options last season. Every starting job is probably fair game.
Early 2015 outlook: Flowers, Doyle and guard/tackle Kent Perkins probably stand the best chance of retaining their spots this fall so long as they stay healthy. There will be pressure on Hodges and Nickelson this spring. They need to prove they can provide at least starter-caliber play. Then it’s all about finding out who raises their game. Can guys who were in and out of the lineup like Camrhon Hughes, Darius James and Jake Raulerson take a big step forward? Can Hutchins improve off 13 starts? There are a lot of question marks to be addressed over these next seven months.
Actor/comedian Kevin Hart met with the Longhorns. Then he worked out with them. I wonder how many times that will be mentioned to the several blue-chip recruits still out there the Longhorns are attempting to close on.
Here's the photographic evidence of Hart's visit:
Below is a look back on the 13 most memorable Big 12 games of 2014:
No. 1: Oct. 11 – No. 5 Baylor 61, No. 9 TCU 58
Not only was this the game of the year in the Big 12, it might have been the game of the year in college football. TCU led by 21 in the fourth quarter after Marcus Mallet 's interception return for a touchdown. But the Horned Frogs couldn't hold on as Bryce Petty took over the rest of the way. The fourth quarter in Waco proved to be the difference in TCU not making the playoff.
No. 2: Nov. 1 – No. 7 TCU 31, No. 20 West Virginia 30
Carrying a nine-point lead into the fourth quarter, the Mountaineers were on the verge of throwing their hat into the Big 12 title race. Instead, West Virginia got conservative offensively, allowing the Horned Frogs to come back and nail a 37-yard, game-winning field goal as time expired. The Mountaineers never really recovered and wound up losing four of five games to end the season.
Once again, Bedlam delivered in the drama department. Behind two touchdowns late in the game, true freshman quarterback Mason Rudolph led the Cowboys to an improbable rally, capped by Tyreek Hill's 92-yard punt return touchdown to send the game to overtime, where the Pokes prevailed. The result had an impact on the trajectory for both programs, as Oklahoma State became bowl-eligible and the Sooners went on to get blasted in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
No. 4: Jan. 1 – No. 5 Michigan State 42, No. 8 Baylor 41
After TCU's 42-3 waxing of Ole Miss the previous day, the Big 12's top two teams were on the verge of sending a powerful message to the playoff committee. Instead, even though Petty set a Cotton Bowl Classic record with 550 passing yards, the Bears squandered a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter to sap their playoff snub argument.
No. 5: Dec. 31 – No. 6 TCU 42, No. 9 Ole Miss 3
Suggesting that they might have been one of the two best teams in the country despite getting snubbed from the playoff, TCU obliterated the Rebels in a game that was over before halftime.
No. 6: Oct. 4 – No. 25 TCU 37, No. 4 Oklahoma 33
After their Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama, Oklahoma was the preseason pick to win the Big 12. That began to unravel in Fort Worth as the Sooners went in the tank offensively late. Paul Dawson's interception of Trevor Knight and touchdown return was the only score of a fourth quarter that proved to be the springboard for TCU's 12-1 season.
No. 7: Oct. 18 – West Virginia 41, No. 4 Baylor 27
The Bears were riding high after their comeback victory over TCU. But the following week, Petty & Co. couldn't sustain that offensive momentum as West Virginia knocked off a top-five team on its third try. On the same weekend his father suffered a heart attack, Clint Trickett was magnificent, with 322 yards passing and three touchdowns as he outdueled Petty.
No. 8: Nov. 15 – No. 4 TCU 34, Kansas 30
The Horned Frogs were on the inside of the playoff as they made the trip to Kansas. That ride almost came to a complete end in Lawrence. The Jayhawks gave TCU quite a scare, holding a 27-17 second-half lead before running out of steam. Still, even though they escaped with the victory, the Horned Frogs dropped out of the top four of the playoff poll the following week.
No. 9: Oct. 18 – No. 14 Kansas State 31, No. 11 Oklahoma 30
Thanks to a late goal-line stand, K-State turned the Big 12 race on its head for good with a second consecutive victory in Norman. Quarterback Jake Waters spearheaded the upset, throwing for 225 yards and rushing for 51 more in a gutty performance in which he played through a shoulder injury. K-State stuck around in the Big 12 title race until the final week of the season, while the Sooners went on to lose three more times.
No. 10: Nov. 8 – No. 12 Baylor 48, No. 15 Oklahoma 14
Nothing signaled the changing of the guard in the Big 12 more than Baylor's absolute white-washing of Oklahoma in Norman. Petty was serious when he said the week before that he was "ready for OU" as he threw for 387 yards, including 224 to Corey Coleman. Baylor went on to join the Sooners (2006-08) as the Big 12's only other back-to-back conference champ.
No. 11: Oct. 25 – No. 10 TCU 82, Texas Tech 27
This wasn't a great game, but it was a memorable one. After all TCU set a Big 12 conference game record with 82 points. Amazingly, the game was relatively close in the second quarter. Then TCU outscored Tech 49-7 in the second half.
No. 12: Nov. 29 – No. 7 Baylor 48, Texas Tech 46
The Red Raiders ended their season going down swinging as true freshman Pat Mahomes threw for 598 yards and six touchdowns. The 25-point second-half rally came up short, though, after Mahomes was unable to get off a pass on the potential game-tying two-point conversion.
No. 13: Oct. 18 – Texas 48, Iowa State 45
Maybe the most underrated and most exciting finishes of the Big 12 season. Twenty-four points were scored in the final five minutes, including Nick Rose's game-winning field goal from 21 yards out with three seconds to go.
The next best 10 of 2014
West Virginia 37, Texas Tech 34
Auburn 20, Kansas State 14
Florida State 37, Oklahoma State 31
West Virginia 40, Maryland 37
Oklahoma 31, Texas 26
Alabama 33, West Virginia 23
Kansas State 32, Iowa State 28
UCLA 20, Texas 17
UCLA 40, Kansas State 35
Oklahoma 45, West Virginia 33
What he brings: Daylon Mack is a compact, but thickly built and powerful defensive tackle who is capable of being a disruptive force in the trenches. He lacks some in ideal height, but built like a powder keg the five-star can quickly explode off the ball and create problems. With a quick first-step and good snap anticipation, Mack is capable of blowing up plays in the backfield, but strong and with a low center of gravity, he is tough to move and control even when blockers can get a piece of him. He may be closer to his ceiling of development than most of the five-star prospects, but is a pretty darn good player at this stage. If he can continue to refine his technique and manage his weight, he has demonstrated the tools needed to be a handful at the college level and likely can begin causing havoc soon after hitting campus.
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A recruit goes largely unnoticed on signing day only to outperform highly regarded recruits in the same class during their first seasons in the program. Earlier today we looked at some "can't miss" recruits from the Class of 2014 during their first fall on campus. This afternoon we take a look at six Class of 2014 signees that went largely unnoticed on signing day but started to impact their teams immediately:
Kansas State linebacker Elijah Lee: The three-star prospect outperformed several five-star signees during their first semesters on campus. Lee forced his way into the Wildcats' plans with a strong preseason, earning a role as a pass-rush specialist. After a season featuring 19 tackles and 4.5 sacks, Lee looks like a future star for KSU’s defense.
Oklahoma State receiver James Washington: A three-star signee, Washington flashed elite potential several times during his freshman season. His competitive nature when the ball is in the air could elevate him to another level as a sophomore after a true freshman season with 28 receptions for 456 yards and six touchdowns.
Texas safety Jason Hall: The Longhorns' lowest-rated signee, Hall had the biggest impact as a true freshman. Hall hits like a fifth-year senior and has the potential to become a tone-setter for Charlie Strong’s defense in the next few seasons. The three-star recruit finished with 36 tackles in 12 games as a true freshman.
Texas Tech cornerback Tevin Madison: The three-star signee led all Tech freshmen in tackles, tackles for loss and pass breakups while starting seven games as a true freshman. ESPN300 member Nigel Bethel II was the Red Raiders’ highly regarded cornerback signee but Madison was second to none among Big 12 true freshmen at the position. He finished his debut season with 56 tackles and seven passes defensed.
TCU receiver Desmon White: The Horned Frogs' lowest-rated high school signee didn’t look like it. White earned a late-season role in TCU’s offense with his terrific open-field ability and quickness in the slot providing another potential option in the passing game. White didn’t have a major impact but he’s setting himself up to be a significant option in the offense as a sophomore. He finished with 14 receptions for 119 yards and one touchdown.
Kansas cornerback Matthew Boateng: A three-star signee, Boateng ended up providing depth at cornerback behind seniors JaCorey Shepherd and Dexter McDonald while playing in seven games for the Jayhawks. He finished with nine tackles, five pass breakups, a forced fumble, fumble recovery and interception as a true freshman. Boateng should play an even bigger role in 2015 with Shepherd and McDonald moving on.