If a conference’s national football recruiting ranking were an absolute predictor of the quality of play and the overall strength and competitive level of the teams within the league, you would be led to believe that the Big 12’s purported strength in football is mostly hyperbole and more perception than reality.
No matter which recruiting service you follow, the Southeastern Conference was the clear winner on National Signing Day in college football on Wednesday. With six of the top-10 teams in the ESPN.com team recruiting rankings and eight of the top 13 from the SEC, it wasn’t even close.
The Atlantic Coast Conference, which not coincidentally overlaps much of the same recruiting geography as the SEC schools, was the SEC’s nearest competitor in terms of the quality of the recruiting classes of the teams in that conference. The ACC placed four school’s in the ESPN.com top 25.
The Big 12 is used to having Texas and Oklahoma in or near the top 10 in football recruiting virtually every year since Mack Brown and Bob Stoops, respectively, have had the coaching reigns at those two schools. Texas was No. 2 in the team rankings last year and No. 3 in 2011, according to Rivals.com. Rivals rated OU as having the 11th best recruiting class in the country a year ago, and the 14th best in 2011. But that was not the case this year.
No Big 12 school ranked higher than 15th in this year’s team rankings. ESPN had Texas’ 2013 recruiting class at No, 15 in the national rankings and rated the Sooners as having the 20th best class nationally, their lowest class ranking in more than a decade. Rivals.com had a slightly different positioning for Oklahoma (18) and the Longhorns (23), just to show you how subjective and variable the recruiting evaluations can be.
Following Texas and Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor. West Virginia and TCU were the next in line, based on the ratings of their 2013 recruiting classes. Their order differs slighlty based on which recruting service to which you are reffering, but generally falls in between 24 and 34.
Kansas, which has won just two Big 12 games in the past two seasons, surprisingly had the seventh best recruting class in the conference (48th nationally), according to Rivals.com, and just as surprising, Kansas State, the co-conference champion last season was at the bottom of the conference (62nd by Rivals and 67th by Scout.com). Anyone who knows Wildcat head coach Bill Snyder, though, knows he has an uncanny record of finding diamonds in the rough when it comes to the recruiting process.
The 2013 recruiting classes of the Pac-12 and the Big Ten schools also ranked ahead of the Big 12, but it wasn’t as if the teams in the Big 12 came away empty handed. Oklahoma nabbed the No. 7 pro-style quarterback, based on the rankings of Rivals.com, in Cody Thomas of Coffeyville, Texas, who also is a Major League Baseball prospect. The Sooners also signed the seventh-best running back in Keith Ford, also out of Texas.
Texas filled major needs on the offensive line with the No. 3 offensive tackle (Kent Perkins, out of Highlnd Lakes Texas), the No, 10 offensive guard (Rami Hammad, of Irving, Texas) and the No. 1-rated center prospect (Darius James, Killeen, Texas). Baylor picked up the No. 7 all-purpose running back, Johnny Jefferson of Killeen, Texas, as well as the country’s eighth-best wide receiver in Robbie Rhodes, from Ft. Worth.
On the defensive side of the ball, OU’s class included the No. 11-rated defensive tackle (Kerrick Huggins out of Dallas) and the No. 6-ranked weakside defensive end (D.J. Ward from Moore, Okla.). Texas did well on the defensive, as well, with the No. 11-rated strongside defensive end (Jake Raulerson from Celina, Texas) and the No. 6 outside linebacker prospect (Deoundrei Davis, Cyrpress, Texas).
West Virginia and Kansas State also brought in top inside linebacker prospects in Darrien Howard (rated as the 11th best at the position, out of Dayton, Ohio), who is headed to Morgantown to be a West Virginia Mountaineer, and Nick Ramirez (ranked 10th at the position, from Lee’s Summit, Mo.), one of the top college prospects out of the Kansas City area.
One thing to keep in mind about the annual rite called National Signing Day is that the college recruiting process is all about filling team needs – both of an immediate nature as well as for the future. It also is a hit and miss process.
Not all top-rated prospects are able to duplicate their high school success at the college level, falling short of their performance expectations. Conversely, there are newcomers to the college game who step up and standout well beyond their original recruiting projections as a result of personal development and good coaching that is able to get the most out of an individual player’s talent level and ability.
This may not have been the best of recruting years for schools in the Big 12, but it was far from a bust. Outside of the slight slippage by traditional Big 12 football powerhouses Oklahoma and Texas, the remainder of the league held relatively close to form in where their recruiting classes placed on a national scale.
And besides, when was the last time the Big 12 Conference did not find itself among the country’s elite in terms of actual performance on the field, which is were the real score is kept.
Check out all of the 2013 Big 12 recruiting classes and news and insights on each of the schools’ recruiting efforts at Big12 Sports.com.