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Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Big 12's 2014 impact freshmen

By William Wilkerson

More than ever we are seeing a growing number of freshmen make instant impacts across the college football landscape. Here is a look at a few freshmen that could make a difference for their respective Big 12 programs in 2014.

Current 2014 QB prospect who could start immediately: There really isn’t one player who seems like the overwhelming answer here. Baylor, Iowa State and Kansas don’t have a quarterback commitment. Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech and West Virginia should all have quarterbacks returning. If you had to pick one, though, it might make sense to go with West Virginia commitment William Crest (Baltimore/Dunbar). The Mountaineers (2-1, 0-1) are scoring just 24 points per game this season under split time between Paul Millard and Ford Childress. Both players will be back next season but Crest could be a good shot in the arm, especially considering his ability to create with his feet. It’s a longshot but probably the most likely among Big 12 programs.

Program changing 2014 recruiting class: This one could have easily gone to Baylor and the abundance of offensive weapons that have committed to the Bears. But we’ll go with Oklahoma State because of what this class could do on the defensive side of the ball over the next few seasons. It’s no surprise that OSU’s top two commitments are offensive players. But the next three, and four of the next five, are defensive standouts in ESPN 300 outside linebacker Gyasi Akem (Broken Arrow, Okla./Broken Arrow), ESPN 300 cornerback Chris Hardeman (Houston/Alief Taylor), four-star inside linebacker Josh Mabin (Spring, Texas/Klein Oak) and three-star defensive end Jordan Brailford (Tulsa, Okla./Booker T. Washington). If the Pokes can shore up some of the holes they have on defense, and combine that with what they customarily have on offense, the rest of the Big 12 could be in for a long couple of seasons.

Current 2014 prospect with Heisman potential: There are a few players committed to Big 12 programs in 2014 that could be the answer here. But Oklahoma commitment Justice Hansen (Edmond, Okla./Edmond Santa Fe) gets the nod. He’s going to a program that has a history of winning conference championships, likes to throw the ball and gives its quarterback the freedom to run if he so chooses. Hansen, the highest rated quarterback among Big 12 QB commitments (No. 97 overall and No. 4 dual-threat) has the ability to do it all. Plus he should have plenty of help around him (though OU’s 2014 OL class is lacking right now) to get the job done. Texas QB commitment Jerrod Heard (Denton, Texas/Guyer), Baylor wide receiver pledge K.D. Cannon (Mount Pleasant, Texas/Mount Pleasant) and Oklahoma State QB commitment Mason Rudolph (Rock Hill, S.C./Northwestern) are also possibilities.

Current 2014 prospect who may sit initially but become a star: Heard, a Texas quarterback commitment. The ESPN 300 quarterback and Elite 11 finalist is one of the top dual-threat signal callers in the country. The Longhorns coaching staff loves Heard and want him to see the field as much as possible. But he will likely have to wait at least one season before he sniffs the field. That’s just because the Longhorns should have David Ash back for his fourth year and he will be challenged by current true freshman Tyrone Swoopes.

Current committed recruit who is in a good position for development: Gary Patterson is a defensive-minded coach who has made a living getting more than anyone expected he could from three-star recruits. Rarely has he ever had a linebacker commitment with the skill set of Jimmie Swain IV (Olathe, Kan./Olathe North), a four-star recruit. Swain, who chose TCU over offers from virtually every FBS conference, should thrive under Patterson’s leadership. He’s a tough-nosed player with a college-ready frame at 6-foot-3 and 229 pounds.

2014 position group with chance for instant impact: Oklahoma State is set to lose four linebackers to graduation in Caleb Lavey, Shaun Lewis, Joe Mitchell and Deion Imade. Luckily for the Pokes they have one of the top linebacker classes in the Big 12 coming in. Akem and Mabin are top 15 linebackers at their respective positions, and three-star Justin Phillips (Pearland, Texas/Pearland) is a top 50 inside linebacker.

Most versatile 2014 recruit who could play either side of ball: Baylor athlete commitment Davion Hall (Texarkana, Texas/Liberty-Eylau) is a legitimate candidate to play either wide receiver or safety. The Bears like him more at WR right now but they have plenty of weapons on that side of the ball. If they wanted to move him to safety it should be a seamless transition. As his scouting report says, “Is a legitimate candidate to play on either side of the ball as a safety or wide receiver.”

The next Marcus Mariota: When looking for the underrated recruit who could thrive in the correct system, Texas Tech quarterback commitment Patrick Mahomes (Whitehose, Texas/Whitehouse), who is only rated as a three-star and the No. 21 dual-threat quarterback overall, comes to mind. Given his style of play and the system he’ll work in under Kliff Kingsbury, he has a real chance at becoming a household name around the country. Already this season, Mahomes (6-3, 200 pounds) has completed 74 of 122 passes for 1,237 yards, 12 touchdowns and no interceptions. He’s also rushed 28 times for 90 yards and two scores.