It was such a topsy-turvy, uncharacteristic year in Big 12 recruiting.
Consider that it was Baylor, not Texas or Oklahoma or even Texas A&M, which landed the top player in the Lone Star state.
That Kansas’ Charlie Weis mirrored Kansas State’s tried-and-true recruiting strategy and signed 18 junior college players. Wildcat coach Bill Snyder only got six.
That Iowa State turned to Florida to restock the Cyclones.
And that new Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury, a former star quarterback for the Red Raiders, spent most of his time wooing linemen.
Here’s a look at how we graded the recruiting classes of the Big 12.
RISING STAR: Robbie Rhodes, wide receiver. The Bears are one of the it national schools for wideouts and Rhodes is a future star. The web site 247sports.com ranked him as the second-best wideout in the country. He was the top-ranked recruit on the American-Statesman’s Fab 55.
THE BUZZ: Brian Nance is hoping the second signing is a charm. When Nance signed with the Bears in 2012, the linebacker was ranked as the 84th best prospect in the country by 247sports.com. He spent the fall semester at prep school and is now enrolled for the spring.
THE NEEDS: Think the Bears want to improve upon their defense? Of the 23 signees, two-thirds should play on the defensive side of the ball. And there is quality in the quantity. Taylor Young, a compact 5-9, 215-pound linebacker, was the Associated Press Texas 5A defensive player of the year in 2012. Andrew Billings is a four-star defensive tackle.
GRADE B plus
IMMEDIATE STAR: Keith Ford, RB
Ford earned a five-star grade from 247sports.com after rushing for more than 1,800 yards. He’ll probably start the season as the No. 3 tailback for an offense that rotates its runners.
THE BUZZ: OU needs a star quarterback and is hoping Cody Thomas of Colleyville Herigate eventually will be the guy. But Thomas is one of two Texas prep quarterbacks (Texas A&M signee Kohl Stewart is the other) who could go high in the Major League Baseball draft. Here’s another name for Sooner fans. Norman quarterback Zach Long is walk on. He’s the son of former OU offensive coordinator Chuck Long, who is now with the Kansas Jayhawks.
THE NEEDS: Oklahoma wasn’t up to its usual defensive standards and now there is buzz coming out of Norman that OU will switch to a 3-4 in order to best slow the explosive offenses the Sooners face in the Big 12. The two linebackers OU signed — Jordan Evans and Dominique Alexander — are former defensive backs. OU also concentrated on defensive linemen, signing seven players.
GRADE: B minus
RISING STAR: Sheldon Gibson, WR
Gibson picked the Mountaineers over Ohio State and Tennessee. He is one of the fastest sprinters in his home state of Ohio and should play inside receiver for the Mountaineers.
THE BUZZ: Karma found its way to Morgantown. Dana Holgorsen’s staff was able to lure away two commitments from Arizona — receiver Mario Alford and outside linebacker Brandon Golson. Arizona is led by Rich Rodriguez, the former coach of the Mountaineers. The Wildcats snatched a WVU commitment on national signing day last year.
NEEDS: The Mountaineers have a ton of wants, particularly on defense. WVU signed nine junior college players as a quick fix. One player to watch is JUCO All-American defensive tackle Dontrill Hyman, who had offers from LSU and Mississippi State. West Virginia tried to get an experienced quarterback, but couldn’t land former South Carolina Gamecock Tanner McEvoy (Wisconsin) or ex-Florida Gator Jacoby Brissett (North Carolina State).
GRADE: C plus
RISING STAR: Desmond Harrison, OL
Harrison is expected to start at left tackle this season. He was rated as the best offensive tackle in the junior college ranks.
THE BUZZ: With only 15 players, the class tied as the smallest recruiting group in the Mack Brown era. But Mack Brown didn’t intend for the class to be so small — five top prospects decommitted and signed elsewhere.
THE NEEDS: The Longhorns wanted defensive tackles, but failed to land a single defensive lineman. But they did load up on offensive linemen and signed three receivers, which fills a need at the skill position.
RISING STAR: Aaron Wimberly, RB
Wimberly was a star for Iowa Western Community College, rushing for 7.6 yards per carry. He turned down Penn State and Boise State.
THE BUZZ: The Cyclones signed nine players from Florida, the most of any school outside the Sunshine State after Kentucky’s 11. Their ties to Florida are thanks to defensive coordinator Wally Burnham, a former coach at South Florida, and Troy Douglas, the defensive backs coach who grew up in Jacksonville. There will be 17 Floridians on the roster this fall.
THE NEEDS: Iowa State went heavy on offensive linemen, signing five of them. But the Cyclones will be looking to new quarterback signee Joel Lanning, who was ranked as the second-best prospect in Iowa.
RISING STAR: Marquel Combs, DL
At least one recruiting service tabbed Combs as the top junior college prospect. He had scholarship offers from 50 schools.
THE BUZZ: Coach Charlie Weis has promised a “dramatic overhaul” of his defense. Combs added some gloss to the promise, using the hash tag #DreamTeam2013 on his twitter feed to promote the Jayhawks.
THE NEEDS: There are many needs for KU, which won only one game a year ago. Kansas signed 17 junior college players, plus a preferred walk-on. Weis concentrated on building up the offensive line, which lost three starters.
RISING STAR: Jerel Morrow, ATH
Morrow was the top prospect in Kansas. He can play either receiver or cornerback. But it looks like Morrow will start his career as a Cowboys cornerback.
BIGGEST BUZZ: Oklahoma State signed three defensive tackles, including Ofa Hautau of Snow College. Hautau’s family initially wouldn’t give their blessings for him to leave his home state of Utah. Hautau is one of three junior-college signees, all linemen.
NEEDS: The Cowboys filled one need post-signing day in the hiring of offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich from Division II Shippensburg University. The class gives Yurcich three receivers, including a pair of four-star prospects in Marcell Ateman and Ra’Shad Samples. Plus, the Cowboys signed two running backs to replace Joseph Randle, who declared early for the NFL.
RISING STAR: Kyle Hicks, RB
Hicks was TCU’s top-ranked recruit. But he will need to fight through the TCU tailback log jam. They’ll be seven at that position in August.
BIGGEST BUZZ: Receiver Jermaine Antoine from Loreauville, La. was named best all-around athlete at the U.S. Army National Combine. Last fall, he rushed for 1,399 yards and 26 touchdowns and caught passes for 538 yards and six scores.
THE NEEDS: The Horned Frogs needed some flashy offensive skill players and signed six, including two tight ends. Coach Gary Patterson went heavy on defense, with five linebackers. He didn’t need to go very far to sign his players since more than half the class was from the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
GRADE C minus
RISING STAR Jake Waters, QB
Waters, who led Iowa Western to the NJCAA national title, could be the Wildcats next signal caller, replacing Collin Klein, last year’s Heisman finalist. Waters was the top-ranked JUCO quarterback this recruiting season.
THE BUZZ: Including Waters, Coach Bill Snyder signed three players off the best JUCO team in the country. Two of them are already on campus in defensive end Devon Nash and defensive back Travis Green .
NEEDS: The Wildcats are in desperate need for defensive linemen with the loss of all four starters from last season. They signed six, including three from the junior colleges. Chris Brown, a massive 6-4, 345-pounder, certainly was the largest of the signees
GRADE C minus
IMMEDIATE STAR: Davis Webb, QB
Actually, it may take awhile for Webb to blossom. But Kingsbury’s last two quarterbacks (Case Keenum, Johnny Manziel) were All-Americans. Former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer, who ran an Elite 11 summer camp, likened Webb to Tom Brady at 17.
THE BUZZ: Quick, where is Lithonia, Georgia? Tech signed three players from the town outside of Atlanta. One is offensive tackle Josh Outlaw, who had scholarship offers from Florida, South Carolina and Oklahoma. Outlaw’s teammate D.J. Polite-Bray will play receiver, with Jacarthy Mack signed as a linebacker.
THE NEEDS: Tech lost three starters from its offensive line, so it restocked with five big bodies, three of whom committed to the Red Raiders after Kingsbury was hired. Tech also signed five defensive backs as Kingsbury looks to replace all four starters.