Big 12 Football Recruiting: Key to Every Team's 2014 Class
National signing day (Feb. 5) will mark the beginning of the quest to Big 12 supremacy for the 2014 college football season.
All 10 teams will jockey for position over the next couple of days. Each team will look to solidify the players who have already committed and add the missing pieces necessary to cap off a strong class of 2014.
But for every single one of these teams, there’s that one recruit that will be key to his team’s future success.
Join B/R as we take a look at that player for each Big 12 team.
Class Rank: 54
Commitments: 22 (0 5-star, 1 4-star)
Key Pickup: RB Traevohn Wrench
The Jayhawks football program has been a downright mess over the last couple of years. If all doesn’t change soon, 2014 could very well be the final season for head coach Charlie Weiss.
Expect 4-star running back Traevohn Wrench to try and change that.
Offensively, running back James Sims was the only positive note for Kansas’ offense—230 CAR, 1,110 YDS, 7 TD. With his graduation, expect Weiss to turn to a heavy load of Wrench.
With a strong build and breakaway speed, the Gardner, Kan., native has all the traits to succeed.
It’ll just be a matter of whether the Jayhawks’ lack of a quarterback ultimately proves to be the offense’s downfall.
Class Rank: 53
Commitments: 24 (0 5-star, 1 4-star)
Key Pickup: WR Allen Lazard
The Cyclones have long been considered the laughingstock of the Big 12. However, in 2014, look for the team’s offense to take a significant step forward.
If returning 10 starters on offense wasn’t good enough, Iowa State also will welcome in 4-star receiver Allen Lazard.
The No. 2-ranked prospect in the state, Lazard should make an immediate impact for the team. His size—6’5” and 207 pounds—and explosiveness will make him a freshman to keep an eye on.
Paired with stud wide receiver Quenton Bundrage, the Cyclones could very well have one of the top 1-2 receiving duos in the entire Big 12.
Class Rank: 45
Commitments: 20 (0 5-star, 1 4-star)
Key Pickup: DT Terrell Clinkscales
The Wildcats were one of the hottest teams in college football over the second half of the season. The team closed out its 2013 campaign winning six of its final seven games, including the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl over Michigan.
It’s imperative that Kansas State gets back its intensity on defense, after losing seven starters on the unit.
Junior college transfer and 4-star prospect Terrell Clinkscales could go a long way towards doing that. The Dodge City, Kan., native recorded 43 tackles (10.0 for loss) and four sacks last season.
With standout Ryan Mueller demanding the majority of the attention, look for Clinkscales to benefit.
Putting together an imposing defensive line will ensure the Wildcats will pick up from where they left off.
Class Rank: 43
Commitments: 22 (0 5-star, 0 4-star)
Key Pickup: QB Foster Sawyer
The Horned Frogs could be a team that may surprise a lot of folks around the Big 12 in 2014. However, for that to happen, the team has to find a consistent answer at quarterback.
That solution could be 3-star prospect Foster Sawyer.
Yes, TCU will return Trevone Boykin—who started the majority of 2013 at quarterback. But keep in mind, the soon-to-be junior didn’t play all that well at the position and the team seems to want to use his athleticism at wide receiver.
If Sawyer can come in and perform adequately, that would be a major boost for the Horned Frogs.
Otherwise, the team might have no other choice but to ride Boykin under center once again.
Class Rank: 39
Commitments: 20 (0 5-star, 1 4-star)
Key Pickup: ATH, Dravon Henry
In general, the Mountaineers defense was a mess.
But that wasn’t more true than in the secondary. West Virginia ranked No. 108 against the pass (263.3 YPG), allowing 24 passing touchdowns and only intercepting 12 passes.
Help could be coming with the addition of 4-star athlete Dravon Henry.
With the ability to play safety, cornerback and running back, look for the Aliquippa, Penn., native to showcase his talents all over the field. He has the versatility and explosiveness that could make him a formidable figure in the Mountaineers secondary.
The athleticism and ball skills that Henry possesses have been missing from this defense for quite some time.
Class Rank: 38
Commitments: 27 (0 5-star, 0 4-star)
Key Pickup: S Payton Hendrix
The Red Raiders shocked the college football world by getting off to a 7-0 start. However, defense wasn’t a large factor towards that surge.
Texas Tech will take an extra hit on that side of the ball as the team only returns four starters.
Thankfully, 3-star Payton Hendrix should help out with that. After receiving offers from over 20 schools—including Notre Dame, Stanford, Arizona State and Baylor among others—the Dallas, Texas, native settled on playing for Lubbock.
It’s a huge get for head coach Kliff Kingsbury and his staff—one that could instantly provide a boost to a defensive unit that forced only 19 turnovers last season.
Class Rank: 25
Commitments: 28 (0 5-star, 5 4-star)
Key Pickup: QB Mason Rudolph
The Cowboys were oh so close to winning their second Big 12 title in three seasons.
If the team wants to continue that play, it will have to find an answer at quarterback.
With Clint Chelf graduating, Oklahoma State is left with J.W. Walsh as the only remaining quarterback on the depth chart with significant playing experience. Thankfully, 4-star quarterback Mason Rudolph could help out.
The Rock Hill, S.C., native is as consistent overall as you can be. He possesses all the characteristics necessary for a solid collegiate quarterback.
Given that the Cowboys have a running back in Desmond Roland—along with several top running back prospects—Rudolph will have the opportunity to grow under center with little pressure.
It will be interesting to see who ultimately wins the starting job in Stillwater.
Class Rank: 24
Commitments: 23 (1 5-star, 3 4-star)
Key Pickup: OLB/S T’Kevian Rockwell
The Bears shocked many people around the nation by winning the Big 12. A large reason for that was a hard-nosed defensive unit.
Unfortunately, the team will only return four starters on defense.
Among the losses, Baylor will lose three corners, one safety and its “Bear”—nickel position. Only Terrell Burt returns with any experience in the safety.
Expect 4-star prospect T’Kevian Rockwell to step in and make a case for early playing time. With his athleticism and speed—he runs a 4.40 40—the Wylie, Texas, native would make a great candidate for “Bear.”
Everyone will want to talk about the Bears adding 5-star wide receiver KD Cannon to the mix.
However, Rockwell is the key pickup during this class.
Class Rank: 18
Commitments: 23 (1 5-star, 5 4-star)
Key Pickup: RB Joe Mixon
There’s no doubt that the Sooners’ Sugar Bowl victory has paid dividends towards the team’s recruiting class.
The biggest incoming name is that of 5-star running back Joe Mixon, who committed just a day after the victory.
His commitment comes at an opportune time for Oklahoma, as the team is set to lose each of its three top running backs for next season. Only Keith Ford will return with any playing time under his belt.
With Mixon, the Sooners get a guy who should be able to step in and compete for significant playing time immediately. His ability to make plays in the passing game as well will have Oklahoma fans reminiscent of the days of DeMarco Murray.
“Mixon is a guy who is going to give you more of the flash,” ESPN recruiting expert Damon Sayles said, via The Dallas Morning News' Josh Friemel. “He’s not the super flashy guy, he’s real elusive and hard to tackle. When you look at Perine without his shoulder pads, he’s a tank. I mean he’s huge. He’s going to give you that power style and mesh it with some finesse.”
With quarterback Trevor Knight appearing to ease into his role as the starting quarterback, having a consistent rushing attack behind him is key.
Mixon gives the Sooners exactly that.
Class Rank: 12
Commitments: 21 (0 5-star, 7 4-star)
Key Pickup: QB Jerrod Heard
After looking like a sure-fire lock for a top 10 recruiting class, the Longhorns have seen several decommitments following the coaching change.
Still, the team has managed to hold onto one of its key recruits in 4-star Jerrod Heard.
Fortunately, he is among one of new head coach Charlie Strong's backers.
"(Texas) definitely got a good coach," Heard toldOrangeBloods.com reporter Jason Suchomel. "How he turned Louisville around into one of the top schools, he's a great recruiter, got some good guys in and I think that's what he's going to do at Texas. It's heading to the right track."
It’s no secret that Texas has struggled at the quarterback position since Colt McCoy. Last season was no different, as the team’s quarterbacks combined to throw for 2,762 yards, 18 touchdowns and 15 interceptions on 57.1 percent passing for a passer rating of 117.7.
A healthy David Ash and soon-to-be sophomore Tyrone Swoopes are already pegged to compete for the starting job in Austin over the next couple of months.
However, don’t sleep on Heard. His combination of arm strength and speed—he runs a 4.59 40—should allow him to push his way into that competition.
All in all, it was certainly a key pickup for the Longhorns.
Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.