Big 12 North recruiting breakdown
Unlike their counterparts in the South, the Big 12 North does not have a top-20 representative in our current class rankings heading into signing day. It's a difficult task for Big 12 North programs to recruit in their own backyard, which is the exact opposite of teams in the Big 12 South that have the benefit of combing through the state of Texas, one of the top recruiting states in the country. Nebraska and Missouri finished at the top of the Big 12 North and will likely do the same come national signing day.
While the Cornhuskers do not boast a flashy class on paper, don't be fooled. Bo Pelini is building his roster with blue-collar, quality football players who fit the culture of his program, and this year's class embodies that. Missouri has recruited in a similar fashion when you look at where it has concentrated: quarterback and offensive playmakers. However, things are looking bleak in Boulder, Colo.
Head coach Dan Hawkins is returning for a fifth season and could use all the help he can get this coming signing day to aid his bleak future in Boulder. It wasn't too long ago that the Buffaloes made some noise on the recruiting trail, but a lot of the promising recruits have not panned out yet, including blue-chip running back Darrell Scott and top in-state linebacker Jon Major. Some of the uncertainty surrounding the program has led to a lackluster recruiting class in 2010. The Buffaloes will likely not sign a four-star prospect for the first time in a couple of years, but did fill an area of need at quarterback with top-25 quarterback Nick Hirschman (Los Gatos, Calif./Los Gatos).
Top prospect: Hirschman may be the guy to help revitalize the offense. He's a very well-rounded and groomed quarterback who works efficiently from behind center in a pro-style offense. He will get a chance to show it off this spring in Boulder because he's already on campus as an early enrollee.
Don't be surprised if: Hirschman picks up the Buffaloes' offense quickly this spring with his high football IQ and polish -- and subsequently makes a push for early playing time next fall as a true freshman.
Under the direction of first-year head coach Paul Rhoads, the Cyclones rose out of the Big 12 cellar on the field and have also made vast improvements on the recruiting trail. Iowa State is headed in the right direction, and prospects outside of the Midwest have taken notice. The Cyclones have stretched into Florida for the Sunshine State's No. 7-ranked outside linebacker Jeremiah George (Clearwater, Fla./Clearwater) and No. 13 ranked running back Shontrelle Johnson (De Land, Fla./De Land). They made inroads with one of the better high school programs in Florida in De Land High School with Johnson. Iowa State needed a lot of help in this class and we feel it did a good job addressing needs at linebacker as well as offensive line with Texas native Shaban Dika (San Antonio, Texas/Warren) and fellow three-star tackle Bo Graham (Jenks, Okla./Jenks) out of Oklahoma.
Top prospect: The Cyclones are not in position yet to pull in headline names with ideal size and speed measurables, but we feel they plucked an under-the-radar linebacker out of Florida in George. He's undersized but a fast, mobile pursuer who fits the scheme and style of Iowa State's revamped defense. He's a very good football player who knows how to play the position from a technical standpoint and also with good instincts and savvy.
Don't be surprised if: Last year's success has more of an impact on the Cyclones' 2011 class than on the 2010 group. There will be a great buzz surrounding the program during spring recruiting.
The Turner Gill era begins for the Jayhawks and he will inherit a solid amount of talent in a smaller Kansas class. Inside linebacker is a position of need and the Jayhawks have one of the best and more underrated run-stoppers in Trayvon Henry (Oklahoma City, Okla./Millwood). Receiver was a position we felt needed an infusion of young depth and the Jayhawks' first commit of 2010 was a good one. Ricki Herod (Mesquite, Texas/North) is a tall, elusive receiver with the height, athleticism and route-running skills needed to see early playing time. Defensive tackle Jeremiah Edwards (Garland, Texas/Garland) is a disruptive sleeper out of Texas.
Top prospect: The talented Henry was originally considered an Oklahoma lean. Things did not work out in Norman and the Jayhawks are getting a great linebacker in return. Henry is a machine between the tackles, beating blockers to the hole with quickness or great power at the point of attack. With Kansas' lack of great depth on the inside, this is a significant pickup.
Don't be surprised if: Kansas makes a strong push to sign high-upside running back Andre Dawson (Cedar Rapids, Iowa/Washington) out of Iowa. The productive back can carry the load and his top-25 positional ranking is warranted.
Just seven high school commits are littered throughout this class, which is a staple of Bill Snyder's philosophy at least to get this program jump-started again. QB Billy Cosh (Gambrills, Md./Arundel) is a coach's kid and that coach happens to be on K-State's staff. Cosh can sling it and has a nice feel for the game. OT Kason Hostrop (Sachse, Texas/Sachse) headlines the interior group.
Top prospect: RB DeMarcus Robinson (Wichita, Kan./Northwest) is one of the bigger sleepers in the entire Big 12 and could be a Darren Sproles-type guy. He's a sharp and decisive cutter as a zone back.
Don't be surprised if: Kansas State continues to get more and more competitive in the Big 12 North, but must be careful not to rely too much on the juco level to build its program.
More playmakers on the offensive side of the football are on the way for the Tigers, led by WR Marcus Lucas (Liberty, Mo./Liberty) and WR Bud Sasser (Denton, Texas/Billy Ryan). The interior of the defensive front added some beef with DT Lucas Vincent (Olathe, Kan./North) who is quick, but needs to add some weight. Missouri has also retooled at QB by adding both Tyler Gabbert (Ballwin, Mo./Parkway West) and James Franklin (Lake Dallas, Texas/Lake Dallas). They both will really benefit from redshirting and developing, but fit the spread nicely. Franklin is the bigger of the two, but Gabbert is more college-ready.
Top prospect: Two offensive tackles headline this class: Nick Demien (Wentzville, Mo./Timberland) and Mitch Morse (Austin, Texas/Saint Michaels Academy) possess almost identical tools and measurables. In-state Demien has coveted strength and toughness needed to provide immediate depth up front.
This Nebraska class is heavy on the interior fronts, which is an indication the program is back on the rise. Of the 18 verbal commitments, eight of them are on the offensive and defensive line from the high school level, led by DT Chase Rome (Columbia, Mo./Rock Bridge) and DT Jay Guy (Houston/Eisenhower). RB Braylon Heard (Youngstown, Ohio/Cardinal Mooney) could play either safety or running back at the next level. If there is a concern with this class it's that there are still no difference-makers at the offensive skill positions. Plus, three of the top four rated players in this class at some point switched their commitment to the Huskers.
Top prospect: OG Andrew Rodriguez (Aurora, Neb./Aurora) is a massive offensive guard prospect who fits the mold Nebraska has carved out for its offensive linemen for decades. He is fundamentally sound in the trenches and one of the more powerful run-blockers in the 2010 class.
Don't be surprised if: Nebraska somehow hauls in a WR like playmaker Willis Wright (Miami/Miami Springs) from Florida.
Tom Luginbill is the National Recruiting Director for ESPN's Scouts Inc. Billy Tucker is a recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. and has close to a decade of coaching experience at the college and high school levels.
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