In this week's Big 12 roundtable, we break down the recruiting storylines in the Big 12 as national signing day nears:
The final week is most critical for which team?
Brandon Chatmon: First off, the home stretch of this recruiting cycle is critical for every Big 12 program. Some are trying to finish strong and others are trying to build a wall around their list of commitments. It's an especially important week for Oklahoma, with a solid class that could get better if the Sooners can win battles for cornerback Jared Mayden and linebacker Caleb Kelly. Oklahoma expects to have several quality visitors on the final weekend, including ESPN 300 defensive end Maxs Tupai and receiver Zach Farrar. The Sooners have done a pretty good job addressing needs, but landing another receiver like Farrar could really round out a class that features one receiver.
Max Olson: Wrote on this topic earlier in the week, but Texas has the most unfinished business with one week to go. In addition to all those undecided ESPN 300 recruits, the Horns have already persuaded elite defensive tackles Jordan Elliott and Chris Daniels and four-star tight end Irvin Smith to back out of commitments in the past two weeks. Can the Horns lock them up and also persuade a guy like Erick Fowler (LSU) or Mark Jackson (Texas A&M) to flip at the last minute? As far as Charlie Strong’s priorities go heading into signing day, fortifying the future of Texas’ defensive line is probably No. 1.
Trotter: I agree with Max, it seems to be Texas. The Longhorns have the most to gain out there with blue-chip prospects like Elliott and Daniels heavily considering them with a few days to go. So far, Texas' class has been underwhelming. But if the Longhorns close strong, they could sniff the top 10.
Which team has the most surprising class thus far?
Chatmon: I’ve been impressed with what Matt Campbell and Iowa State have gotten accomplished in a short amount of time. It reminds me of the good job David Beaty did during his short time to put together his first recruiting class at Kansas. What impresses me most is the commitment to the trenches. Iowa State has seven linemen committed (four offensive linemen, three defensive linemen), including Sean Foster, the Cyclones lone four-star prospect. Frankly, I didn’t expect Campbell and his new coaching staff to put together a good class this quickly. There’s a clear plan, so I’m really interested in seeing what the former Toledo coach can do with a full recruiting cycle in Ames.
Olson: I continue to be wowed by how Campbell has rebuilt the Cyclones’ class and created momentum. Another class that intrigues me: Texas Tech. Kliff Kingsbury has been flying under the radar in this recruiting cycle and took a different approach, locking up a lot of early commitments and keeping pretty much all of them. The juco players the Red Raiders took are really promising, but nearly everyone else got three-star ratings. How many of them are being underrated and how many will develop into standouts? We shall see.
Trotter: The most surprising class so far has been Texas'. It wasn't long ago the Longhorns produced top five classes like clockwork. Sure, a lot of those classes didn't pan out. But there's a difference between taking a hit in the rankings in order to find guys that fit your system and finishing with a class outside the top 30. The Longhorns need to close strong, which they very well could do.
Who is the most important uncommitted recruit out there?
Chatmon: Not only does he have a great first name, Brandon Jones could be a difference-maker if he ends up at Baylor or Texas. Those two Big 12 squads are being considered by the No. 49 player in the ESPN 300 from Nacogdoches, Texas. His versatility would make him an asset at Baylor or Texas if the four-star safety ends up playing his college football in the Big 12. Arkansas and Texas A&M are among the other schools pursuing Jones. He plans to take his final official visit to Baylor this weekend and he could be a critical piece of the Bears’ class for a program that needs more difference-makers in the secondary. Meanwhile, he would add another versatile piece to a stellar group of youngsters in the secondary at Texas if he ends up deciding to play for Charlie Strong.
Olson: I definitely agree that it’s Jones. He’d probably start right away for Texas and would be an instant difference-maker for Baylor. I’ll throw another name out there that would be essential: Malcolm Pridgeon. The 6-foot-7, 300-pound tackle is ESPN’s No. 5 rated junior-college prospect and would help solve a huge need for a Baylor offensive line that just lost its All-American left tackle. It’s hard to tell where that recruiting battle between Baylor, Florida, Virginia Tech and Ohio State is heading, but it should come down to the wire.
Trotter: I'll throw a couple more names out there in ESPN 300 wide receivers Quartney Davis and Audie Omotosho. Oklahoma State is one of the finalists to land Davis, and is battling TCU, among others, for Omotosho. It's crazy to think about, but coming off a 10-win season, the Cowboys are one of only three Big 12 teams without an ESPN 300 or ESPN JC 50 commitment. The others? Iowa State and Kansas. Oklahoma State desperately needs to add a little starpower to its class. Snagging Davis and/or Omotosho would fit the bill.