Posted by Adam Jacobi
The Big 12 may not have 12 members anymore, but it still does recruiting big -- especially down in Texas. Here's what to expect on National Signing Day.
Players to Watch
Brandon Alexander - Typically, Texas gets most of its recruiting out of the way early, and who can blame Mack Brown for that? When recruits in the most football-crazed state in America are beating down your door to get an offer, after all, filling a class full of blue-chippers months ahead of schedule isn't exactly difficult. And yet, when Texas jumps in late on a recruit, the team that was there first may have the inside track. So it appears with Alexander, a highly-touted DE who came into Tuesday still undecided between Texas, Texas A&M, Arkansas, and many other high-profile schools. According to Burnt Orange Nation, Alexander reportedly gave a verbal to Texas A&M Tuesday afternoon, but the commitment hasn't been confirmed elsewhere quite yet. We won't have to wait long for an answer on that front, but if it holds up, it's a coup for the Aggies, and a blow to Texas' depth at DE this season and beyond.
Nila Kasitati - TE/OL Nila Kasitati has been a soft verbal for Baylor for a while now, so Signing Day can't get here quick enough for the Bears -- especially since Oklahoma is pushing hard for Kasitati to switch his commitment. Oklahoma has a scholarship open after athlete Brandon Carter flipped from OU to TCU so he could play WR instead of defensive back (OU's favored position for Carter), and while the Sooners don't appear to have a replacement DB in mind, they do have their sights set on Kasitati as a potential star at offensive lineman instead. Does Kasitati honor his 10-month-long commitment to Baylor, or flip at the last second for the Sooners? Missouri is also in the mix here, but this appears to be a two-team race.
John Jenkins - This mammoth 6'4", 340-pound JUCO defensive tackle was an Oklahoma State commit for a while, but he decommitted in January to look farther east. OSU is still in the mix for Jenkins, who probably leans toward Georgia but didn't get an offer from Florida. He'd be a nice cap on an solid recruiting class, plus immediate help in the trenches for a defense that loses its two starting DTs. If OSU can get Jenkins back in the fold even after signing another JUCO DT in the meantime, Mike Gundy should be thrilled.
Teams to Watch
Texas - For somebody whose age suggests he's over the hill, Mack Brown can still recruit like nobody's business. Sure, the school recruits for itself quite a bit, but don't tell that to John Mackovic. Malcolm Brown is a potential Heisman winner at tailback, and Steve Edmond is one of three other MaxPreps Top 100 members of the class if it holds up (most of these commits are almost a year old, so we're assuming they're solid). Texas may have gone 5-7 this year, but it's recruiting like it's never going back. If Alexander's commitment to A&M holds up, it'll be interesting to see what Texas does with the freed scholarship.
Oklahoma - OU doesn't have a lot of players committed for this season -- just 17, which is enough to knock the Sooners down a few pegs on the MaxPreps rankings. There's lots of playmaking ability on offense though, with Troy Metoyer coming in as one of the best wideouts in the nation. Even adjusting for size, Oklahoma's class is good, but it isn't "Texas" good; we'll see what that does to the balance of power in the Red River Rivalry over the coming years.
Oklahoma State - Any thought that OSU is a flash in the pan brought on by QB Brandon Weeden and/or a couple of stud wideouts should be gone by now; OSU's imminent signings of stud RB Herschel Sims and versatile QB J.W. Walsh mean that the Cowboy offense should keep putting numbers on the scoreboard for years to come. It's the rest of the class that Mike Gundy should focus his attention on; can he and his coaches mold the 10+ linemen in the class into the road graders necessary to compete against elite foes?
The Below-the-Radar Storyline You'll Need to Follow
With Nebraska and Colorado officially departing from the conference, the Big 12 really had no choice but to do away with its championship game and just go with a nine-game, round-robin football schedule. One indirect result of that decision is that the remaining four Big 12 North teams no longer have the luxury of telling high-profile recruits they could help turn the North into a two-team division. Now, there's no getting around anybody in the South, and that may be the reason that all four of those North teams turned in frankly lackluster classes. Turner Gill recruited reasonably well to a woeful Kansas squad, but "reasonably well" doesn't beat Texas much more than once or twice out of ten tries -- especially at KU. Who's going to be the school from up north that makes a serious run at the conference crown, and how many years will it take before that happens?