The Big 12 featured three new football coaches this past fall. Now, after two completed recruiting cycles, the trio showed each has a top attribute in common.
They’re upbeat, smooth-talking recruiters capable of bringing top talent to their respective campuses.
It’s still too soon to tell if all three can be consistent winners, but Texas’ Tom Herman, Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley and Baylor’s Matt Rhule have piled up prospects. And if you’re going to win in the fall, you need to win in living rooms during recruiting season.
Here, we examine the Big 12, what coaches have been contending with since the season ended and the best and brightest of their 2018 signees.
Baylor: Filling Zach Smith’s shoes
Class rank: 30th, fourth in Big 12
Left early for draft: none
Key losses: Taylor Young, LB; Ishmail Wainwright, TE; Mo Porter, OL; K.J. Smith, DE; Brian Nance, DE; Jordan Feuerbacher, TE
Other comings/goings: Quarterback Zach Smith, who lost his starting job to Charlie Brewer, announced he was transferring to Tulsa. Baylor had hoped to sign FCS transfer Alex Thomson, but he committed to Marshall. … Texas A&M hired Bears defensive line coach Elijah Robinson.
Recruiting celebrations: Imagine what Rhule can do in recruiting if he has a winning season. With only one 2017 victory to sell to prospects, Rhule’s class beat out all but those at Texas, Oklahoma and TCU.
The top signee is quarterback Gerry Bohanon, who was ranked as the top prospect in Arkansas and the 10th best dual-threat quarterback in the country. He’s enrolled and will go through spring practice.
Bohanon was one of five, four-star prospects in the class. Like Bohanon, receiver Tyquan Thornton already is enrolled. Athlete BJ Hanspard, receiver Joshua Fleeks and running back Craig Williams will join the team this summer.
Six of the signees are offensive linemen, a position of need for the rebuilding Bears.
Iowa State: Questions at quarterback
Class rank: 53rd, seventh in Big 12
Key losses: Joel Lanning, LB and QB; Kamari Cotton-Moya DB; Jake Campos, OT; Allen Lazard, WR; Vernell Trent, DL
Left early for draft: none
Other comings/goings: It’s still unclear whether the Cyclones will have the services of Kyle Klempt at quarterback. He’s filed for a sixth year of eligibility. Former Illinois quarterback Nate Scheelhaase was hired to coach running backs, replacing Louis Ayeni, who took a job with Northwestern.
Recruiting celebrations: Receiver Joseph Scates had to postpone his signing day party because of the weather, but he still sent in his national letter of intent. He selected the Cyclones after considering offers from Alabama, Michigan State, Oklahoma and West Virginia.
Iowa State also landed quarterback Brock Purdy, beating out Texas A&M for the star from Arizona. Purdy threw for 4,400 yards and 57 touchdowns last season
Kansas: Needing immediate talent
Class rank: 64th, eighth in the Big 12
Key losses: Ben Johnson, TE; Gabriel Rui, K; Cole Moos, P
Left early for draft: Dorance Armstrong, DE
Other Comings/going: The Jayhawks hired A.J. Ricker to coach the offensive line. Ricker spent last season as an offensive analyst at Oklahoma State. He replaced Zach Yenser. Bill Miller, a one-time defensive coordinator at KU, will coach linebackers. He had spent the past four seasons at Florida State.
Recruiting celebrations: Kansas needs an immediate talent injection. This class gave them instant experience. Eleven among the 18-player group are junior college transfers. Ten players already are enrolled.
The stars of the class are from the high school ranks. Running back Anthony Williams is a four-star prospect from Boutte, La., and cornerback Corione Harris is a four-star player from New Orleans.
Kansas State: Another JUCO-heavy class
Class ranking: 69th, ninth in Big 12
Key losses: Jesse Ertz, QB; Will Geary, DT; Nick Walsh, P; Matthew McCrane, K; Tanner Wood, DL
Left early for draft: Bryon Pringle, WR
Other comings/goings: Bill Snyder lost one of his most trusted lieutenants when Dana Dimel accepted the head coaching job at Texas-El Paso. Dimel worked for Snyder a total of 19 years over three stints in Manhattan. Winston Dimel, Dana’s son, announced he’s transferring and probably will follow his dad.
Snyder promoted receivers coach Andre Coleman to offensive coordinator. He also made Charlie Dickey (offensive line) and Collin Klein (quarterbacks) co-coordinators.
Recruiting celebrations: Snyder certainly doesn’t adhere to recruiting lists. Of the 21 signees, 13 of them didn’t even show up among the national rankings on 247Sports.com, which rates more than 1,000 prospects. Twenty players were rated as three-star prospects.
Humble Summer Creek’s John Holcombe could be the quarterback of the future. At 6 feet, 4 inches and 227 pounds, he has the sturdy build to run Snyder’s run-friendly offense. New Orleans safety Lance Robinson was courted by TCU, Virginia Tech, Arizona and West Virginia. He’s considered K-State’s second-highest rated prospect.
Oklahoma: A top class, PM (post-Mayfield)
Class rank: ninth, second in Big 12
Key losses: Baker Mayfield, QB; Dimitri Flowers, FB; Ogbonnia Okronkwo, DE; Eric Wren, C; Jeff Badet, WR; D.J. Ward, DE; Steven Parker, SS
Left early for the draft: Orlando Brown, OT; Mark Andrews, TE; DuVonta Lampkin, DT; Dwayne Orso Bacchus, OT
Other comings/goings: Former starter Nick Basquine, a receiver, already has been ruled out for spring practice. He reaggravated an Achilles’ tendon injury that forced him to miss last fall. Three players have announced their plans to transfer — tailback Abdul Adams, safety Will Sunderland and linebacker Ricky DeBerry. A&M lured away long-time strength coach Jerry Schmidt.
Recruiting celebrations: The Sooners signed 22 players — 10 already are in school and will participate in spring drills.
The best player signed is offensive tackle Brey Walker, a five-star prospect. Four other prospects were ranked among the top-100 players in the country by 247Sports. They are defensive tackle Michael Thompson, cornerback Brendan Radley-Hiles, defensive end Ronnie Perkins and running back T.J. Pledger. Plus, Tramonda Moore was ranked as the third-best junior college prospect and top offensive tackle.
Oklahoma State: Aloha, Dru Brown
Class ranking: 33rd, fifth in Big 12
Key losses: Mason Rudolph, QB; James Washington, WR; Marcel Ateman, WR; Zachary Crabtree OT; Brad Lundblade, C; DeQuinton Osborne, DT; Tre Flowers, S
Left early for NFL: none
Other comings/goings: Hawaii quarterback Dru Brown plans to join the program as a senior transfer. He’s not expected to hit Stillwater until the summer. Oklahoma State fired defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer after the bowl game. He was replaced by Duke defensive coordinator Jim Knowles.
Recruiting celebrations: Tulsa Union star receiver C.J. Moore is the highest rated recruit. Denton Ryan quarterback Spencer Sanders is the second highest rated prospect and he could be in the mix to replace Rudolph. Spencer started for four years for the powerhouse program in Denton. He threw for more than 10,000 yards and rushed for more than 3,600.
Gundy did most of his heavy lifting in recruiting during December, when he signed 23 prospects. The Cowboys landed only two this week. Keep an eye on Amadou Fofana, a junior college all-American from Highland Community College in Kansas. Fofana is a defensive end. Defensive tackle Samuela Tuihalamaka also signed. He’s from Santa Ana, Calif., and got a late start in recruiting because coaches didn’t see his game film until late last season.
TCU: All eyes on Justin Rogers’ arm
Class ranking: 25th, third in Big 12
Key losses: Mat Boesen, DE; Ranthany Texada, DB; Matt Pryor, G; Kenny Hill, QB; Travin Howard, LB
Left early for draft: none
Other comings/goings: Sonny Dykes was on the offensive staff as an analyst, but SMU hired him away as its head coach to replace Chad Morris. The program was forced to defend itself a week before signing day when former receiver Kolby Listenbee filed a lawsuit against coach Gary Patterson, the school and the Big 12. Listenbee contended that he was pressured to play and harassed after an injury.
Recruiting celebrations: Justin Rogers, who is considered the third-best dual-threat quarterback in the country, is believed to be the highest rated player ever to sign with TCU. He’s ranked as the 43rd best player on the 247Sports national composite. He arrived to Fort Worth, in part, because of a chance meeting between his older brother and TCU offensive coordinator Sonnie Cumbie at a rental car counter in Fort Worth. … The class included nine players ranked as four-star prospects.
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Texas: Herman inks a top-3 class
Class rank: third, first in Big 12
Key losses: Poona Ford, DT; Armani Foreman, WR
Left early for draft: Michael Dickson, P; DeShon Elliott S; Holton Hill, DB; Malik Jefferson, LB; Connor Williams, OT
Other comings/goings: Tailback Chris Warren quit the Longhorns before the bowl game, but rather than transferring, he announced he was entering the draft. Receiver/returner Reggie Hemphill-Mapps announced this week he was transferring.
Recruiting celebrations: Tom Herman cleaned up after his first full year to recruit. He signed seven of the top-10 players from the American-Statesman’s Fabulous 55, including the top five. UT suffered heavy losses in its secondary. Coincidentally, the best five players who signed with the Longhorns were defensive backs, led by BJ Foster and Caden Sterns, the top two players in the state.
There also are players who can help the offense, including tailback Keontay Ingram and receiver Brennan Eagles.
Texas Tech: Heavy on offense, light on defense
Class ranking: 74th, 10th in Big 12
Key losses: Nic Shimonek, QB; Justin Stockton, RB; Derrick Willies, WR; Dylan Cantrell, WR
Left early for draft: Keke Coutee, WR
Other comings/goings: Eric Morris, who has been Tech’s offensive coordinator for five years, left to become the head coach at Incarnate Word. Kevin Johns, formerly of Western Michigan, replaced him.
Recruiting celebrations: Tech’s class featured only one four-star prospect — receiver Erik Ezukanma. Will there be three-star finds? Pro-style quarterback Alan Bowman, already on campus, threw for 11,393 career yards at Grapevine High School.
Receiver KeSean Carter, from The Woodlands, is the defending Class 6A state champion in the 100 meters, with a time of 10.32 seconds.
Tech signed only four defenders, but the Red Raiders don’t have a lot of defensive spots on the roster, considering that Tech returns all but one player from its defensive two-deep.
West Virginia: Looking for immediate impacts
Class ranking: 35th, sixth in Big 12
Key losses: Kyle Bosch, OL; Al-Rasheed Benton, MLB; Kyzir White, DB; Ka’Raun White, WR
Left early for draft: Justin Crawford, RB
Other comings/goings: Tony Dews, who served three coaching stints at WVU, accepted a job with the Tennessee Titans. Receiver David Sills, who led the country in touchdown receptions, announced he was sticking around for his senior year.
Recruiting celebrations: WVU’s top guy is four-star prospect Dante Stills, a defensive end. WVU had a big advantage recruiting Stills, since his father, Gary, was a Mountaineers star in the late 1990s and played nine seasons in the NFL.
Four-star safety Kwantel Raines could see playing time next season. He also played receiver in high school, but he appears to be destined for the secondary at WVU. He grew up in Alquippa, Pa., and looked hard at Penn State before opting for the Mountaineers.
Three-star prospect Leddie Brown has a chance to join the tailback rotation. It has a big opening since Crawford left early for the NFL. Brown was offered by Alabama last spring and also considered North Carolina and Florida.