Come in out of the cold and grab some piping hot information from the Big 12-pack this week. Here’s the best of a compendium of news, information and opinion about the conference. 1. As Big 12 officials scanned the recruiting rankings after National Signing Day, they can’t be happy about the final reports. The conference was left sniffing the exhaust of the other major conferences after recruits announced their decision. The state of Texas has traditionally been the backbone of recruiting for all Big 12 teams. But of the 12 Texas players who made Rivals.com’s Top 100 players, only three are going to Big 12 schools. Baylor wide receiver KD Cannon, Texas quarterback Jerrod Heard and UT defensive end Derick Roberson of Brennan High School were the only Texas top 100 players to end up at Texas Big 12 schools. Oklahoma at No. 15 led the Big 12 and UT was 20th. It marked the first time in the history of the conference that a Big 12 school didn’t rank in the top 12 in Rivals’ final team rankings. The fact is that the Big 12 should be stronger next season. Every program will return a quarterback with substantial starting experience. That alone should make for entertaining games and likely a better national perception. But it will be hard to shake the prevailing theory that resonated through National Signing Day that the Big 12 wasn’t very hip compared to the nation’s other power conferences. 2. Are we seeing a thaw that might eventually lead to the resumption of the UT-Texas A&M rivalry? I can only hope so. Steve Patterson’s answer to the question last week was very political when he told the Austin American-Statesman’s Kirk Bohls that he’s “not focused” on it. But as new defensive coordinator Vance Bedford tweeted out his support for the resumption of the rivalry and Charlie Strong making A&M coach Kevin Sumlin’s transportation habits a prime piece of discussion during one of his rare media sessions, it’s clear that they haven’t forgotten about the Aggies in Austin. Sumlin joked to Yahoo! Sports Radio that the Aggies might need more tools at their disposal than merely the celebrated “Swagcopter” he occasionally uses for transportation on recruiting trips. The Aggies finished sixth nationally according to the Rivals’ rankings, but only third in the SEC West behind Alabama and LSU who went 1-2 nationally. “I guess based on today we better get some more gadgets at our place then,” Sumlin said with a laugh. “I’m not going to get caught up in that. It’s working for us. We’re not going to change. And if anything, maybe we just need to step it up a notch in that area.” One element that would boost recruiting for both schools would be the resumption of the rivalry. It’s too much a part of the basic fiber of life in the state of Texas to let it die. 3. If the name of UT recruit John Bonney sounds familiar, it should. Bonney’s name surfaced in reports that former UT coach Mack Brown told him and other recruits to consider other options after Brown resigned. Bonney stuck with the Longhorns and was one of the Strong’s recruits announced on Wednesday. Bonney’s father, Jerry, was a defensive-oriented basketball guard back when Houston was the basketball program of note during the early 1970s. Bonney was known as “The Judge” back in those days. So it’s not a surprise that he eventually started a legal career as a successful career as a lawyer in the Houston area. And it’s also not a shock that his son turned out to be a talented athlete who shares his father’s defensive instincts — even if it’s a different sport. 4. The NFL has released its list of players who have been invited to its scouting combine in Indianapolis Feb. 22-25 on the NFL Network . Among its list are 25 Big 12 players. With it being so close to National Signing Day, The Big 12-Pack thought it might be interesting to go back and check on these players and their original ratings from Rivals.com when they arrived at college. Here’s the list. Baylor: SS Ahmad Dixon (four stars), CB Demetri Goodson (basketball recruit), TE Jordan Navjar (three stars), G Cyril Richardson (three stars), RB Lache Seastrunk (five stars), WR Tevin Reese (two stars). Iowa State: ILB Jeremiah George (three stars). Kansas: None. Kansas State: LS Marcus Heit (no rating), T Cornelius Lucas (two stars). Oklahoma: CB Aaron Colvin (injured/three stars), C Gabe Ikard (three stars), FB Trey Millard (four stars), WR Jalen Saunders (three stars), RB Damien Williams (three stars). Oklahoma State: CB Justin Gilbert (four stars), WR Josh Stewart (three stars). Texas: WR Mike Davis (four stars), K Anthony Fera (three stars), DE Jackson Jeffcoat (five stars), DT Chris Whaley (four stars). TCU: CB Jason Verrett (three stars). Texas Tech: TE Jace Amaro (four stars), DT Kerry Hyder (three stars). West Virginia: DE Will Clarke (two stars), RB Charles Sims (three stars). 5. We’ve found out that ISU coach Paul Rhoads is one of the most passionate coaches around He also apparently gets a little worked up over winning a big recruiting battle, too. The Cyclones picked up a commitment from wide receiver Allen Lazard, who stuck with the Cyclones despite persistent late interest from Iowa and Notre Dame. Rhoads didn’t name those two schools, but left little doubt at his recruiting press conference he knew who was trying. “He’s (Lazard) not going to a school in Northern Indiana,” Rhoads told reporters at ISU’s signing-day press conference. “Boy, they wasted a lot of time and money. He’s not going to another school in this state who feverishly tried to call him about a half a dozen times in the last week. “Much to the dismay of people in this room who wasted a lot of space and time challenging his words of commitment, he’s going right here to Iowa State University.” Rhoads announced that Lazard will be off-limits to the media during his freshman season, saying he “earned” his chance “for what he’s been through the last 14 months.” It’s easy to see why Rhoads was so excited. Lazard is arguably the biggest recruit he’s ever attracted to the Cyclones, ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 7 receiver in the country in this recruiting class. It also marked the second straight season that ISU attracted the No. 1 recruit in the state of Iowa. A big-time recruiting victory for the Cyclones over the Hawkeyes and the Fighting Irish is a feat worthy of breaking out the finest meats and cheeses at the Rhoads household. 6. There was an interesting post at Athlon.com ranking the best modern recruiting classes of the BCS era. Among those that were ranked were a couple representing Big 12 schools as the UT 2002 recruiting class and the OU 2006 class were ranked among the best in the modern era by Athlon. Texas Longhorns (FIFTH), 2002 Rank: 1st (Rivals), 28 signees Key Players: Vince Young, Kasey Studdard, Rod Wright, Brian Robison, Aaron Ross, Chase Pittman, Justin Blalock, Aaron Harris, David Thomas, Selvin Young. This group was the core of the 2005 national championship run led by superstar quarterback and five-star recruit Vince Young. He was the gem of the nation’s No. 1 class that eventually featured numerous NFL Draft picks. Ross, Studdard, Wright, Robison, Pittman, Thomas and Blalock were all huge pieces to Mack Brown’s championship puzzle and most of them have gone on to excel in the NFL. Oklahoma Sooners (SEVENTH), 2006 Rank: 9th (Rivals), 28 signees. Key Players: Sam Bradford, Gerald McCoy, Jermaine Gresham, Trent Williams, Demarco Murray, Jeremy Beal, Quinton Carter, Chris Brown, Dominique Franks, Mossis Madu, Tim Johnson, Brandon Caleb, Malcolm Williams, Chase Beeler. All four Sooners who went in first round of the 2010 NFL Draft signed with Bob Stoops in this class and all four NFL draft picks from Oklahoma in the ’11 draft came from this class too. Sam Bradford set all types of records, won the Heisman Trophy and led this team to the 2008 BCS National Championship Game. Even a guy who ended up transferring (Beeler) went on to star at his second school (Stanford). Ranked among the best of the rest was the 2005 UT class featuring Colt McCoy that served as the backbone for the 2009 team that lost in the BCS title game to Alabama. Athlon’s top recruiting class of all time was the 2008 Alabama class featuring Julio Jones, Mark Barron, Dont’a Hightower, Mark Ingram and others. That group was responsible for five NFL first-round draft picks, two second-round picks and was a huge part of the teams that won three national championships during a four-year period. 7. KU coach Bill Self said earlier this week that having freshmen players like Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embid resulted in expectations like he’s never experienced. Especially for Wiggins, who came into the season ranked by many as the top college basketball player in the country. “This is different than anything that I’ve ever gone through,” Self said. “We’ve had some pretty good players, but we haven’t had anybody that they compare to putting on the Sports Illustrated cover with (KU icons Wilt) Chamberlain and (Danny) Manning. This kid should be a high-school senior.” Wiggins has showed some flashes this season, averaging a team-high 16.1 points per game heading into Saturday’s game against WVU. But he hasn’t been the dominant force that some might have expected considering his advance billing. Self has been pleased how Wiggins has played as a senior, even if it hasn’t matched the levels of some of the early predictions. “I don’t think that the hype has hurt him much from a mental-draining standpoint,” Self said. “I think he’s handled it all beautifully, but I also think that the hype has created a negative tone in peoples’ minds, because the hype made people believe he should get 22 (points) and 10 (rebounds) every night, and he can’t. He’s not (former Texas All-American and current NBA scoring leader Kevin) Durant, that’s not what he does.” “He’s not a scorer like that. He’s a slashing wing who’s figuring it out.” After struggling to 14 points against Baylor on Tuesday, Self had a strong endorsement for Wiggins’ skills. “I would say this, from my standpoint, even though he didn’t have his best game tonight, when you talk about upside and talent, there’s not many guys out there like him,” Self said. 8. You probably couldn’t get them to say it publicly, but the folks at San Antonio Sports (the former San Antonio Sports Foundation) probably aren’t too disappointed with UT’s fast start during the basketball season. If the Longhorns can continue their early surge in the Big 12, they have a great opportunity to get a top-four seed in the NCAA tournament. As such, that would mean they likely would be headed to San Antonio for the second and third round tournament games on March 21 and 23. That would be huge locally as there still has to be some trepidation about how these sub-regional games will draw. It will be the first time for this round in San Antonio after hosting exclusively men’s regionals or Final Fours in the past. There will be eight teams, but if they don’t resonate with local fans, there could be some trouble potentially brewing as SA Sports hopes to attract strong crowds to the AT&T Center. The closest team that came to second- and third-round games in Austin last year was Northwestern State of Natchitoches, La., 330 miles away. The rest of the seven teams at the sub-regional all were from at least 950 miles away. And even with attractive teams with strong followings like Illinois, Miami, Minnesota and UCLA, none of the sessions came within 2,000 patrons of selling out the Frank Erwin Center. San Antonio’s profile for future NCAA tournament events obviously would be boosted with a strong turnout next month. So you can see why having UT in the local pod would be such a huge help for the local organizers. 9. One of the biggest reasons for Baylor’s recent slump has been their inability to get much out of big players like Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson inside. Austin’s stumble has been the most precipitous. After averaging 13.0 points and 8.3 rebounds as a freshman last season, most scouts perceived him as a possible late first-round selection in what was considered to be a weak draft. But after a strong run in the NIT, Austin decided to return and attempt to play his way into the lottery with a big sophomore season. Instead, his recent slump has been one of the biggest reasons the Bears are clawing to stay out of the Big 12 basement. After starting the season 12-1, Baylor now assuredly ranks as one of college basketball’s biggest disappointments. In his last four games, Austin is averaging 6.8 points and 5.0 rebounds per game as he’s hitting 25.9 percent from the field. Unless he makes a big improvement, it would be hard to imagine him being picked much higher than the middle of the second round. And with the questions about his inside game, he might need to return for a junior season in 2015 if he has any hopes of becoming a first-round selection. 10. The Big 12 has proven to be difficult for traveling road teams with the recent round of weather-related problems. OU recently endured the mother of all roadtrips on their trip to WVU for Wednesday’s game. The Sooners left for their game in Morgantown after practice Tuesday, as day before like most teams in the conference like to do.
Are signing day struggles a sign of weakness for the Big 12?
San Antonio Express-News | Feb 8