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The Dotted Line: The Big 12's talent deficiency begins on recruiting trail

Denton Ryan's Ja'Tavion Sanders was one of only six national top-100 prospects that signed with a Big 12 school during the early period in December. The nation's No. 1-ranked athlete will play wide receiver and/or defensive end at Texas.

A close look at the state of recruiting within the Big 12 reveals the origin of national disrespect.

Pundits point to the NFL draft, but the problem isn’t purely development. Recruiting rankings aren’t an exact science, but they are solid indicators of talent. The Big 12 lacks high-end talent compared to the SEC and even the Big Ten. 

Six prospects within the national top-100, according to 247Sports' composite rankings, signed with a Big 12 program during the early period in December. Two of those are considered consensus five-stars. Oklahoma signed five of the six top-100 players and one of the five stars. Texas signed the other. 

The highest-ranked prospect to sign with a Big 12 program not named Oklahoma or Texas was quarterback Behren Morton. The 158th-ranked overall prospect signed with Texas Tech.

A closer look at those six top-100 prospects:  

Caleb Williams, QB, Washington D.C. Gonzaga

FYI: 6-1, 210; five-stars; No. 6 overall, No. 1-ranked dual-threat quarterback  

Signed with: Oklahoma 

Oklahoma is evolving into QBU under the leadership of head coach Lincoln Riley. Former Sooners Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts are enjoying NFL success. Spencer Rattler is sure to follow. Riley hopes Williams is OU's next great quarterback. He’s an athletic prospect who compares favorably to Mayfield. He picked Oklahoma over heavy interest from Clemson. 

Ja’Tavion Sanders, ATH, Denton Ryan

FYI: 6-3, 220; five-stars; No. 21 overall, No. 1-ranked athlete 

Signed with: Texas

Sanders is the only top-100 prospect to sign with a Big 12 school not named Oklahoma in the 2021 class. He was a two-way star for Class 5A state champion Denton Ryan, starring at defensive end and wide receiver. Most believe his upside is best achieved as a pass rusher. He played more receiver as his career evolved in high school. He’ll likely get a crack on offense with Texas hiring Steve Sarkisian. 

Billy Bowman Jr., ATH, Denton Ryan

FYI: 5-10, 175; four-stars; No. 38 overall, No. 2-ranked athlete 

Signed with: Oklahoma 

Bowman was a one-time Texas commit. He played wide receiver and safety throughout his prep career and is capable of playing both at a high level in college. Bowman experienced his best season as a receiver as a senior, catching 85 passes for 1,206 yards and 15 touchdowns. He ended his career with 229 catches for 2,941 yards and 44 scores. He also accounted for more than 100 tackles and 10 interceptions during a four-year varsity career. 

Mario Williams, WR, Plant City, Fla.

FYI: 5-11, 178; four-star; No. 42 overall, No. 4-ranked wide receiver

Signed with: Oklahoma

Williams is another electric slot receiver option for the Sooners. He’s ranked just behind Bowman, who could play a similar position. Freshman Marvin Mims lit up the Big 12 from the slot position in 2020. Williams picked the Sooners over 33 other offers, including Alabama, Ohio State and Clemson. He caught 160 passes for 3,191 yards and 41 touchdowns in his four-year career. He's also an excellent baseball player. 

Clayton Smith, DE, Texarkana Texas High

FYI: 6-4, 220; No. 43 overall, No. 2-ranked weak-side defensive end 

Signed with: Oklahoma 

Oklahoma always recruits well in Texas, but that's been even more pronounced in the 2021 cycle with Texas undergoing a coaching change. Smith was high on UT early, but Oklahoma won out because of the success achieved by the Sooners over the last five seasons. Remember, Oklahoma has won every Big 12 title in these recruits’ high school careers. They were in the seventh grade the last time a team other than Oklahoma won the conference. Smith is an excellent edge rusher. 

Savion Byrd, OT, Duncanville

FYI: 6-5, 295; four-stars; No. 62 overall, No. 9-ranked offensive tackle 

Signed with: Oklahoma 

Byrd is a high-upside tackle who played on both sides of the line of scrimmage at Duncanville, which is one of the best Class 6A programs in Texas. Oklahoma beat out Texas, LSU and Alabama for him. He's the only offensive lineman inside the national top 100 to sign with a Big 12 school, which is another indication of the conference's problems facing the programs on the national stage.