Five recruiting trends across the Big 12 Conference
There are always interesting recruiting trends when one takes a bigger-picture look across the college football landscape rather than just the busy day-to-day recruiting news. Today, we finish a weeklong series breaking down each conference with a look at the Big 12.
RELATED: Five recruiting trends developing across the Big Ten | SEC | ACC | Pac-12
CLASS OF 2022: Top 100
MORE: Rivals Transfer Tracker
FIVE-STAR NUMBERS LAGGING CONFERENCE-WIDE
Signing five-stars is just one gauge to building a successful recruiting class, but it’s also a sign that teams are preparing to make a run at the College Football Playoff. The numbers across the Big 12 have been lackluster over the last decade.
Only three times since 2010 have teams in the conference signed more than three five-stars. and that was in 2011 and 2012 when Oklahoma and Texas had three and then in 2019 when the Sooners had four five-stars and Texas had one. Every other year there were only one or two across the entire Big 12, and in 2017 and 2013 no five-stars were signed.
Here’s the other concern: Over the last decade only Texas and Oklahoma have signed five-stars, with one exception: The surprising win for TCU last recruiting cycle when the Horned Frogs landed five-star RB Zachary Evans.
FARRELL’S TAKE: This has been a problem for the Big 12. At first I thought it was cyclical because the state of Texas was down a bit at the end of Mack Brown’s tenure with the Longhorns, but the state has been on a serious upswing when it comes to talent and too many are leaving the Big 12. Oklahoma recruits well offensively, but Texas has had a real problem overall since Charlie Strong was hired years ago and Tom Herman hasn’t fixed it.
SOONERS OUTPERFORMING RATINGS
Over the last 10 recruiting cycles, Texas has won the Big 12 crown seven times, including three in a row for the Longhorns in 2018, 2019 and 2020. Even when Oklahoma had four five-stars signed in the 2019 class and the Longhorns had just one, the computer spit out the results as a Texas win in the Big 12 team rankings.
However, there’s one problem: Oklahoma has won seven of the last 10 league titles on the field. The Sooners have also won four of the last five, so this is a perfect example of recruiting rankings not exactly correlating each time to on-field performance.
Or it means Texas recruits have been somewhat overrated in the last decade and the Sooners have not gotten enough respect.
FARRELL’S TAKE: It’s a little of both. Texas hasn’t developed its players like Oklahoma has, and perhaps the Sooners aren’t getting the respect they deserve. It certainly helps when your head coach is a quarterback and offensive guru and you land transfers like Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts, who don’t show up in the recruiting rankings.
BAYLOR CONTINUES TO RISE
Matt Rhule came to Baylor with a nearly impossible task: Turn around the Bears after the Art Briles scandal and do that job in a state filled with established powerhouses while having no local connections. In three short years, Rhule did just that, as he turned Baylor from a 1-11 squad in 2017 to an 11-win team in 2019.
Another aspect of the program where Rhule did well was in recruiting, as Baylor finished third and fourth twice during his short stint in Waco, the third-place finish being the best for the Bears during the Rivals era dating back to 2002.
First-year coach Dave Aranda already has Baylor third in the Big 12 behind, of course, Texas and Oklahoma with 17 commitments, 13 of them as in-state prospects. DT Byron Murphy, WR Hal Presley, OL Connor Heffernan and DBs Tevin Williams and Cicero Caston lead the way for an impressive Baylor haul so far.
FARRELL’S TAKE: Aranda is a well-respected defensive coach, and he’s had experience recruiting at a high level - but he’s filling some huge shoes. The job Rhule did at Baylor recruiting, evaluating and developing players is one of the best you’ll see in college football, and I’m not sure Aranda can match that.
MIXED BAG IN KANSAS
Kansas has not been a hotbed of recruiting talent, but over the last few years there have definitely been some elite prospects who - if they stayed home - could have made a tremendous impact at Kansas State or Kansas.
Here are some of the biggest names who have departed for greener pastures since 2016: Amani Bledsoe, Xavier Kelly, Isaiah Simmons, Isaiahh Loudermilk, Trevor Kent, Djimon Colbert, Jafar Armstrong, Jace Ruder, Graham Mertz, Marcus Hicks, Breece Hall and then the top-six recruits in the 2020 class, including Turner Corcoran to Nebraska and Ky Thomas and Daniel Jackson to Minnesota.
The 2021 class has gone better for Kansas State coach Chris Klieman as the Wildcats have pledges from two of the top-five in-state recruits, including No. 1 Davonte Pritchard from Gardner (Kan.) Edgerton. Kansas landed three-star RB Devin Neal out of Lawrence, Kan.
The Jayhawks are doing particularly well this recruiting class, with the fifth-best group in the Big 12 and a major commitment from high three-star WR Keon Coleman. Getting some of the state’s top talent to stay home could be huge in the program rebuild.
FARRELL’S TAKE: Simmons is the one who gets the most attention, but Kansas and Kansas State have been missing out on too many in-state targets and haven’t done a great job in surrounding states. If they want to make a push in the Big 12, that has to change.
WHERE DO TOP TEXAS PLAYERS GO?
There seems to be a notion that the state of Texas is being raided by outside actors - and to some degree that has been true. But the Longhorns and Texas A&M, especially, have done an excellent job over the last five recruiting cycles to keep top players home.
When it comes to the top 10 players over the last five cycles, Texas has landed 10 of those prospects, followed by Texas A&M with seven, including five-stars Demond Demas (WR) and Jaylon Jones (CB) last recruiting cycle.
After those two teams, Ohio State has done the best job during that time frame with six, followed by Alabama (five), Oklahoma (four) and then LSU with three. The only other in-state program to get any was TCU, with five-star Zachary Evans and four-star WR Quentin Johnson in the last recruiting cycle.
FARRELL’S TAKE: With powerhouses coming into Texas, the middling programs in the Big 12 will always struggle a bit. But there was a time when Baylor and TCU were beating out Texas and others for elite recruits, and that’s not likely to happen again anytime soon. The biggest issue? Oklahoma, Ohio State, Alabama and others develop Texas players much better than the Longhorns or Aggies.