The recruiting cycle for the class of 2014 has begun.
With spring practice having already begun for some and just around the corner for most, coaches will begin to see where their recruiting efforts need to be focused, and the press on rising seniors will accelerate.
Rivals.com's team of local writers combined with our recruiting analysts to compile what are believed to be each team's needs and the chances that each program can fill them with this class.
Over six days, Rivals.com is breaking down the major conferences, as well as select schools who do not play in conferences that automatically qualify for the BCS.
This will be our first nationwide look at recruiting involving the recent conference realignment. Today features programs in the Big 12.
What it needs in '14: Baylor always looks for the most explosive offensive players possible. That's a yearly philosophy, and it does not figure to change this season. The needs will be quarterback, running back and potentially an offensive lineman or two. On defense, the line will be targeted in this class and, per the norm, there will be a couple of players for defensive back and linebacker who will be more extras than needs. Can it be done? It is kind of a down year for quarterbacks in Texas but it is a good crop in Oklahoma, so there is a likelihood that Baylor goes north for that position. The team has secured a commitment at running back with Terence Williams of Ennis (Texas) pledging to the program, but he will not be the lone back taken. The defensive line is strong in Texas this year, and that should be an easy spot to fill. Offensive line may be more difficult because the position is down versus the last few years. While it wasn't a position of need, it is a nice bonus to have landed four-star cornerback Davion Hall already. The 6-foot-3 defensive back hails from Texarkana (Texas) Liberty-Eylau and committed before signing day. Keeping him will be the challenge.
What it needs in '14: The Cyclones have become competitive on the field under Paul Rhoads, and the team is starting to make moves on the recruiting trail. This cycle, the team needs a wide receiver or two, defensive tackles and cornerbacks. The push to be stronger in the middle of the defense and to be more aggressive requires an improvement at the latter two spots. The desire to be more vertical makes receiver a need. Can it be done? If Iowa State can hold onto four-star receiver Allen Lazard from Urbandale (Iowa) High for another year, that will be a major box checked for this class. Lazard committed to Iowa State in December -- more than a year before he can sign -- and there will be plenty of teams coming in on him. Cornerback is deep in the region but maybe not as top heavy as previous years. That is a good thing for Iowa State because the quality level is on the rise and some guys who wouldn't have been on the radar in previous years may now be in play.
What it needs in '14: The Jayhawks didn't land a running back in the last class because the team returns two of the top rushers in the league. With that said, look for the staff to target at least one running back in this class, if not two. Last year, the program did a good job of finding junior college linemen but signed only one at the high school level. The thought is that this class will have at least three high school linemen. There have been whispers that the Jayhawks and Charlie Weis will shoot high on the quarterbacks this year. Weis signed two solid kids in the 2013 class, but look for the program to go hunting at the national level this year. Can it be done? The running back spot could be filled by four-star player Traevohn Wrench of Gardner (Kan.) Gardner Edgerton. The 6-foot, 180-pound back recently named Kansas his leader, and securing his commitment would be a major victory. The quarterback spot will have to be filled nationally because there isn't the big draw in-state. A dip into Oklahoma could land a player, but most likely the answer to that position of need will come from farther south.
What it needs in '14: Defensive tackle has to be a priority for this team, and based on Bill Snyder's history, it could be a standout junior college player ready to step right in. Offensive line is probably next in line, specifically offensive tackle. Following those two positions, it may be time to start reloading skill positions for depth reasons. Running back and receiver would be the first needs, possibly cornerback, and tight end if one opens up. Can it be done? There is little doubt that Kansas State will dip into the junior college market for a defensive tackle. The surrounding area just doesn't hold the talent that would fit into the system, so that is one that will be crossed off the list. The best offensive lineman in the immediate area is Braden Smith from Olathe (Kan.) South, but it seems like a pipe dream to get him to Kansas State and the search will continue. Secondary needs at the skill positions are easier to fill locally and regionally, and they all could be done on the high school level. If Kansas State is serious about getting a good cornerback, it may need to go into Texas.
What it needs in '14: Offensive line is probably the primary focus because Oklahoma will graduate eight of its top 12 linemen in the next two seasons. Going into the 2014 season, it will have only two players who are sophomores or freshmen. Linebacker would be next because Oklahoma signed two in the 2013 class and both are hybrid-type players. The Sooners seem to be toying with the idea of using three-DL formations. Safety, another spot where Oklahoma has incredibly limited numbers with just three on scholarship this spring and one more coming in during the fall, will require attention. Can it be done? There are slim pickings on the offensive line in the region, and the program may have to expand its footprint and go after players it typically wouldn't pursue. Linebacker and safety are strong in the region, so those should be easy requirements to fill. While it is third on the list, safety may be one of the bright spots if Oklahoma can close on a four-star prospect.
What it needs in '14: Oklahoma State's top needs are remarkably similar to 2013's. At the top is the safety position, where the breakdown this fall will include five seniors, no juniors and no sophomores. The Cowboys addressed that need in 2013 with three signees but will likely need that many again in '14. A junior college transfer -- or two -- could make sense to balance OSU's classes at the position. There is a similar story at defensive tackle, where OSU will have three seniors, two juniors and no sophomores or redshirt freshmen. The Cowboys signed a pair of high school DTs and a JUCO transfer in the '13 class, and they will likely need similar numbers in the next class. Can it be done? If the needs are the same and the class last year was able to address them, then the odds are that it can be done again. In Arkansas, there are a couple of solid defensive tackles for Oklahoma State to make a run at. As is the case for many teams in the Big 12, there will be a move into Texas because the defensive backfield could be a gold mine this year. The junior college route is always a crap shoot, but a player or two would gladly come to showcase their talents at either position.
What it needs in '14: The big needs for TCU are similar to much of the conference's: linebacker and the defensive line. The program brought in three linebackers in the last class, but the staff is targeting big-time guys like Gyasi Akem of Broken Arrow (Okla.) High. The team is not thin at defensive line now, but it signed only one guy in 2013 and missed out on Justin Manning, Andrew Billings and Daeshon Hall. Can it be done? The linebacker position is much more likely to be completed than the defensive line. The position group is fairly strong in the region, and TCU has had success recruiting and developing talent at the position. With so many teams in the conference needing defensive tackles and so few available, it will make those players hot commodities and harder for TCU to land. Look for a stretch prospect who has raw tools but obvious flaws to fill the need.
What it needs in '14: For Texas, it's pretty much every position on defense, but defensive tackle and defensive end would be the priorities after not signing a single guy at either position last year. The class of 2013 dwindled down the stretch as players were poached and elected not to go to Texas. Can it be done? It's Texas, so most likely anything can be done. The problem is that the crop of defensive linemen in the state is down and even if the program fills the need it may not be with elite players. As is the norm with the program, it already has secured a handful of commitments but only one is on the defensive line. Four-star Derick Roberson of San Antonio (Texas) Brennan has given his verbal commitment. The program has landed four-star players at running back, quarterback, wide receiver and offensive tackle, so recruiting has gotten off to a good start -- just not where the needs seem most obvious.
What it needs in '14: Stop if you have read this before, but Texas Tech needs defensive linemen and beef on the offensive line. The 2013 class was scuffling with Tommy Tuberville but had a strong close under new coach Kliff Kingsbury, and the momentum must continue while the program transitions into a more familiar look for fans. Can it be done? Again, it is a broken record, but there really are not as many defensive linemen or offensive linemen in Texas this year as there have been in the past. Teams will have to stretch on kids or leave the traditional circles to get players. Tech already has gone to Florida to get its quarterback. Four-star D.J. Gillins from Jacksonville (Fla.) Eagle's View Academy pledged in 2012 and has stuck it out so far. Getting players who will keep his uniform clean will be harder than protecting his commitment.
What it needs in 14: This is a bit of a rebuilding year in Morgantown, and the needs are mounting as quality players are leaving. Quarterback is of prime importance, while defensive line, safety, offensive line and running back need to be addressed. Being totally out of the Texas area for defensive line may make it better on the program, but there is so much that it needs that missing out on any particular place will be noticed. Can it be done? This is a great spot for WVU to be in for recruiting. There have been seasons when a shopping list this long would be daunting, but with the talent in the region at most all of those positions, it is doable. The staff should feel confident about its chances of landing Rivals250 quarterback William Crest out of Baltimore (Md.) Dunbar because there has been a bit of a pipeline built into the school. The offensive line group in nearby Pittsburgh is strong, so the short drive could produce results. The junior college route may be needed to get quality on the defensive line and maybe a safety, but that is an acceptable direction to go. There are a lot of under-the-radar running backs who will emerge, and West Virginia has had plenty of success finding those guys at the position.