Big 12 team recruiting needs for Class of 2009
Running back: In his five-year tenure at Houston, new Baylor coach Art Briles spread the field, and the Bears should do the same this year, but don't be fooled by the formations. Briles' scheme is a balanced attack. And if the Bears are going to have success running the ball, they will need to address depth at running back. Projected starter Jay Finley is just a sophomore, but both of his backups -- Jacoby Jones and Ray Sims -- are entering their final seasons. Exacerbating the problem, Finley lacks elite size for the position, so Baylor should be in the market for a big back who can grind out the tough yards between the tackles.
Safety: Second-team All-Big 12 selection Jordan Lake is a field general and should team up with junior Jeremy Williams to give Baylor a quality starting tandem. Problem is they are both juniors and backups Marlon Price and Jake La Mar are seniors. As a result, it's crucial the Bears target safeties on the recruiting trail.
Offensive tackle: LOT Jason Smith, arguably the player with the most pro potential on this roster, and ROT Dan Gay are entering their final seasons. Additionally, Smith's backup, Jordan Hearvey, is entering his junior season. The Bears have some young talent at quarterback, but they will struggle if they don't get sound pass protection on the edge. Baylor needs to make sure it gets the cornerstones it needs along the offensive line.
Defensive tackle: All-conference-caliber player George Hypolite is tough in the middle, and backups Taj Kaynor and Tyler Sale provide depth. In addition, Big 12 honorable mention Brandon Nicolas is an excellent complement. However, Hypolite and Nicolas are seniors and Kaynor and Sale are juniors. And although there is admittedly some young depth here, redshirt freshman Eugene Goree is the only one who has the size to hold his ground when teams run right up the middle. With that in mind, Colorado should be in the market for a couple of wide-bodied run stuffers.
Tight end: The Buffaloes signed two solid prospects in Ryan Deehan from Poway High School (Calif.) and Ryan Wallace from Bowling Green HS (Ky.) last year. So why is tight end still a need? The current top three here, Patrick Devenny, Luke Walters and Devin Shanahan are all juniors.
Punter: Matt DiLallo has been solid the past two seasons and will look to build on that success this year. However, DiLallo is a junior and backup Tom Suazo a senior. Adding a punter with the range and accuracy to take over the reins when DiLallo graduates makes sense.
Running back: Sophomore Alexander Robinson, who came on strong late last year, is explosive and can make defenders miss, but his lack of prototypical size cannot be overlooked. Jason Scales and Jason Harris are better suited to grind out the yards between the tackles. Only problem is they are both seniors, and it is worth pointing out that productive reserve J.J. Bass is also a senior. So the Cyclones need to find a big or "thunder" back to complement their "lightning" back Robinson and bolster the depth here.
Wide receiver: The good news is the Cyclones did well to land Texan true freshmen Sedrick Johnson from Arp HS and Darius Darks from Connally HS. The bad news is they have more work to do here because three seniors and one junior constitute the top four on the depth chart.
Inside linebacker: Iowa State did a good job of addressing the outside linebacker position by signing two freshmen last year who can line up there. Now the Cyclones need to turn their attention to inside linebacker because starter Jesse Smith and Derec Schmidgall are both juniors. In addition, Iowa State must find ways to improve a run defense that finished 11th in the Big 12 last year.
Running back: There is some young talent here, but the top three -- Jake Sharp, Angus Quigley and Jocques Crawford -- are juniors. In addition, true freshman Sean Ransburg from Harrison HS (Mo.), a player who is expected to line up at running back rather than safety, lacks ideal size, so addressing the offensive backfield this year makes a whole lot of sense. Look for the Jayhawks to target backs with the quickness, vision and especially size to excel in this scheme, much as big back Brandon McAnderson did in 2007.
Offensive tackle: After losing both starting offensive tackles -- including All-American Anthony Collins, who left as a junior for the draft -- the Jayhawks will turn to senior Matt Darton and promising redshirt freshman Jeff Spikes. Adding depth to the position will be junior college transfer Nathan D'Cunha. Kansas also added true freshman Ben Lueken out of Chaminade Prep (Mo.), but with a senior and junior on the roster, look for it to add at least one more offensive tackle this year.
Safety: Justin Thornton and All-Big 12 honorable mention Darrell Stuckey should give the Jayhawks a quality starting tandem, but they are juniors. In addition, reserve Patrick Resby is a senior and Kansas signed just one true freshman safety (Lubbock Smith from Dallas-Carter) last year.
Offensive line: Experienced offensive lines generally play better than the sum of their parts because they know how to play together and what is expected of them. With that in mind, Kansas State fans should be excited about the 2008 season. After all, starting OTs Penisini Liu and Alesana Alesana are seniors. OC Jordan Bedore and OG Gerard Spexarth also are entering their final seasons of action. That said, Kansas State will have to rebuild its offensive front over the next two years, and OT Ethan Douglas from Basehor-Linwood HS (Kan.) is the only true freshman offensive lineman of note.
Tight end: Coaches are extremely impressed with the development of Jeron Mastrud, who had a strong 2007 season and a very impressive spring. However, Mastrud is a junior and backup Brett Alstatt is a senior who appeared in every game last season. Making matters worse, the Wildcats did not address this position last year. With all that in mind, they should be in the market for tight ends, especially ones who can make an impact as receivers.
Safety: Strong safety Gary Chandler earned the Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year after transferring from Coffeyville Community College before last season, and free safety Chris Carney returns opposite him. However, Chandler and reserve Andrew Erker are seniors and Carney and reserve Courtney Herndon are juniors.
Safety: The Tigers signed two safeties this year, but don't be surprised to see them follow up with a few more this year. After all, starters William Moore and Justin Garrett are seniors and both backups are juniors. In addition, reserve Mack Breed is also a senior.
Defensive tackle: The Tigers did a sound job of addressing defensive end and would be wise to do the same at defensive tackle this year. Although Ziggy Hood is the only senior listed on the depth chart, Jaron Baston, Andy Maples and Joe Schumacher are juniors.
Wide receiver: Missouri did an excellent job of starting to restock here by signing five receivers last year: Gahn McGaffie from Galena Park HS (Texas); Jerrell Jackson from Davis HS (Texas); Wes Kemp from DeSmet Jesuit (Mo.); Michael Egnew, who could line up at tight end, from Plainview HS (Texas); and Rolandis Woodland from Harmony Prep (Mo.). However, there are three seniors and three juniors on the roster at this point. In addition, dangerous sophomore Jeremy Maclin has the big-play ability NFL offensive coordinators crave, so Missouri has to be prepared for the possibility that he could leave school early.
Defensive tackle: After having the No. 3 defense the past three seasons at LSU, where he was the defensive coordinator, new head coach Bo Pelini should look to address the defensive front seven. And considering that Nebraska ranked 116th in run defense last year and four of the top five defensive tackles on the roster are seniors, expect him to start at defensive tackle. Look for Pelini to make a serious effort to try to return the swagger of the once-feared Blackshirts by bringing in a few big run stuffers in the middle.
Safety: Nebraska added John Levorson from Crete HS (Neb.), P.J. Smith from John Curtis Christian (La.) and Courtney Osborne from South Garland HS (Texas) last year. However Larry Asante, Rickey Thenarse and Major Culbert are juniors and Matt O'Hanlon a senior, so look for the Cornhuskers to target the safety position again this year.
Interior offensive linemen: With two seniors starting at guard and a junior starting at center, the Cornhuskers' failure to sign a true freshman interior offensive lineman last year could come back to haunt them. Sophomores Keith Williams and D.J. Jones add depth here. However, it will still be in Nebraska's best interest to bring in some fresh blood at these positions.
Tight end: Jermaine Gresham returns after setting a school record for tight ends with 11 touchdown catches last year, and versatile Brody Eldridge was used as a hybrid tight end/fullback last season. Together, these two have the potential to make up one of the best tight end tandems in the conference, but they are juniors. So although the Sooners did well to sign James Hanna out of Flower Mound, Texas, this past year, they should target tight ends again this year.
Fullback: Matt Clapp replaced Eldridge as the starter here in the offseason, and Eldridge could always slide back into this position if Clapp gets hurt. In addition, redshirt freshman Buck Buchanan is a promising talent. However, Clapp and Elridge are juniors, so adding depth in the form of a fullback capable of pushing Buchanan for playing time would be smart.
Guard: Starters Duke Robinson and Brandon Walker are both seniors. Junior Brian Simmons and redshirt freshman Alex Williams will add depth to this position, but the Sooners need to get younger here, especially as they failed to sign a guard last year.
Safety: After the Cowboys finished the 2007 season ranked 112th in pass defense, head coach Mike Gundy knew he had to address his secondary. And the Cowboys think they have helped remedy the problem by going out and signing Lucien Antoine, a juco transfer from Fort Scott CC. Antoine is slated to step in and help right away, but it's important to point out he has only two years of eligibility remaining. In addition, the other three players slated to see time at this position are all seniors. So even though Oklahoma State also signed true freshmen Markelle Martin from Rider HS (Texas) and Victor Johnson from Waco, Texas, last year, it needs to continue to find help at safety this year.
Defensive tackle: Jeray Chatham and Tonga Tea Jr. are seniors. Further complicating matters, juco transfer Swanson Miller is a junior and juco transfer Chris Donaldson is a sophomore. Keeping all that in mind, the Cowboys need to add some young talent here.
Quarterback: Zac Robinson is a dual-threat quarterback who set the school's single-season record for total offense (3,671 yards) despite not starting until the third game of the season last year, but he is a junior. Talented sophomore Alex Cate is the heir apparent, and No. 3 Brandon Weeden is a 24-year-old redshirt freshman who landed on campus after a stint in the New York Yankees' farm system. So adding a quarterback to improve the competition and depth here is a logical move.
Defensive end: Starters Brian Orakpo and Henry Melton are seniors. Although sophomores Eddie Jones and Sam Acho have some upside, Texas needs to add depth and competition because it failed to sign any defensive ends of note last year.
Tight end: There is a buzz surrounding sophomore tight end Blaine Irby, who saw limited action last fall, in Austin. Irby can stretch the field and catches the ball well. However, Peter Ullman, who is a better blocker than receiver, is a senior and sophomore Josh Marshall is a converted wide receiver. Look for the Horns to be in the market for a tight end with the size to be an effective in-line blocker and enough athletic ability to develop into an effective possession receiver.
Cornerback: Ryan Palmer is a senior, and junior Deon Beasley is expected to line up opposite him with a pair of promising sophomores providing depth. In addition, you might be surprised to learn that the Longhorns' pass defense was one of the most porous in the Big 12 last year, and true freshman D.J. Monroe out of Angleton, Texas, is expected to line up at receiver rather than corner. As a result, the Longhorns should continue to look for help at cornerback. The good news for Longhorns fans is the school has secured a verbal agreement from one of the top corner prospects in the nation, Marcus Davis of Clear Creek HS (Texas).
Fullback: Jorvorskie Lane, who moves from tailback to fullback this year, has the size, vision and athletic ability to be one of the best fullbacks in the conference. In addition, Nick LaMantia provides quality depth. Problem is Lane and Lamantia are seniors, and it doesn't help that the Aggies failed to bring in a fullback last year.
Wide receiver: Senior Pierre Brown and sophomore Roger Holland are penciled in as the starters. Behind them are juniors E.J. Shankle, who shows the most promise as a deep threat, and Howard Morrow. In addition, and of even greater importance, there is a lack of playmakers here. Signing Jeff Fuller out of McKinney, Texas, last year should help remedy that problem, but look for the Aggies to continue to address the receiver position.
Cornerback: Danny Gorrer and converted safety Jordan Pugh should give Texas A&M a quality starting tandem this year, but Gorrer is a senior, Pugh is a junior and reserve Arkeith Brown is a senior. The good news is the Aggies brought in two freshman corners this year. The bad news is neither was considered an upper-tier prospect, so Texas A&M would be wise to continue to address this position.
Quarterback: This is the final year of the Graham Harrell era, as the senior moves on at the end of the year. Behind Graham is sophomore Taylor Potts, who saw action in five games and produced promising numbers in those appearances. But after Graham and Taylor, there is a major drop-off, as walk-on sophomore Steven Sheffield and freshman Stefan Loucks don't project as future starters at this point. Taking this and the importance of having a quality quarterback in this scheme, don't be surprised to see the Red Raiders go after some quarterbacks this year -- right now, they have a verbal from top-20 QB Jacob Karam (Friendswood, Texas).
Safety: This past year, Texas Tech did well to land Cody Davis from Stephenville HS (Texas), but it still has plenty of work to do here. With seniors manning the four top spots on the depth chart, the Red Raiders need to inject youth and talent at the position.
Guard: Louis Vasquez is a senior, and Shawn Byrnes is a junior. Stephen Hamby initially had beaten out Byrnes this past spring, but an off-the-field incident has his future with the team up in the air, and he's a junior. The Red Raiders started to address this position when they signed Deveric Gallington from Richland HS (Texas). Now they need to finish the job by bringing in one or two quality guards this year.
Steve Muench played four years of Division I-AA football before joining Scouts Inc. in 2002. He has evaluated NFL and college players for Scouts Inc., but his current focus is on the NFL draft.
Kevin Weidl also focuses on college players and the NFL Draft for Scouts Inc.