NCF Nation: Ty Slanina

Freshmen impact in the Big 12

September, 25, 2013
9/25/13
10:30
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Having a highly ranked recruiting class and a bunch of four-star signees sounds good in the spring and summer, but it's a different story when the season begins. The freshmen who are game-ready are the ones who get the playing time, no matter their star rating. Here's a look at the five Big 12 schools getting the most from their true freshmen:

[+] EnlargeBaker Mayfield
Cal Sport Media/AP ImagesFreshman Texas Tech signal-caller Baker Mayfield, a walk-on, has been the surprise of the Big 12 thus far.
1. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders practically earn this top spot by default by relying on two true freshmen at quarterback. Baker Mayfield made a big first impression, but it seems the battle is opening back up after two solid games from freshman Davis Webb, and the imminent return of Michael Brewer. Still, going 4-0 with two rookies behind center makes coach Kliff Kingsbury’s bunch a worthy No. 1 on this list.

Tech has played eight other true freshmen in 2013, and a few are making solid contributions. Receiver Dylan Cantrell has six catches for 56 yards, linebacker Malik Jenkins has recorded five tackles and a pass breakup and receiver Carlos Thompson already has a 73-yard kick return and 35-yard punt return.

2. Oklahoma: Is it possible Oklahoma’s best running back is its fourth-string freshman? Keith Ford, the gem of the Sooners’ class, has rushed for 66 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries and wowed in OU’s last game against Tulsa.

Fellow freshman Stanvon Taylor earned his first career start against Tulsa, and he’s one of several newcomers contributing in the secondary along with Hatari Byrd, Ahmad Thomas, L.J. Moore and Dakota Austin. Linebacker Dominique Alexander has also chipped in six tackles through three games.

3. West Virginia: Of all the new skill players who joined West Virginia’s offense this year, who would’ve expected Daikiel Shorts would be the Mountaineers’ leading receiver and Wendell Smallwood would be their No. 2 back? Shorts has 12 catches for 151 yards and two touchdowns, and Smallwood has 139 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries thus far.

A total of seven true freshmen have played for WVU this season, and four of them are defensive backs. Corner Daryl Worley is off to a nice start with six tackles, a tackle for loss and a pass breakup.

4. Oklahoma State: Many expected Ra’Shaad Samples to be OSU’s breakout true freshman receiver, but so far that distinction belongs to Marcell Ateman. He has hauled in eight passes for 92 yards, good for fourth-best on the team.

Freshman kicker Ben Grogan has hit all 19 of his extra-point attempts and is 1-for-2 on field goals, and defensive backs Jordan Sterns and Deric Robertson have combined for eight tackles this season.

5. Baylor: Baylor might have two of the conference’s most talented true freshmen in receiver Robbie Rhodes and defensive tackle Andrew Billings, but they haven’t had to do much so far. Rhodes has 65 receiving yards and Billings has recorded three tackles, including one tackle for loss. Kiante’ Griffin is also contributing at linebacker with three tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss.

TCU can also make a case for the No. 5 spot. The Frogs don’t have a Devonte Fields-caliber breakout star yet, but receiver Ty Slanina has two reception and is currently listed as a starter, and former ESPN 300 prospect Tevin Lawson is breaking into the rotation at defensive tackle with two stops already.

Big 12 recruiting primer

February, 6, 2013
2/06/13
7:00
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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.

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