Got talent? Here is a breakdown of where your favorite college football team stands going into National Signing Day on Wednesday, according to CollegeFootballNews.com (Rankings based on CFN’s preseason team rankings within the conference):
1. Oklahoma (10-3)
What’s needed now: Oklahoma isn’t slipping under Bob Stoops, but it’s having to work a bit harder lately to bring in the four and five-star types and keep everyone happy. The Sooners need running back help, and now. Jermie Calhoun, Jonathon Miller, and Brandon Williams all bolted, and Dominique Whaley is coming off an injury. The receivers are flocking to Norman, and the biggest boost will come when Trey Metoyer, a top recruit last year, is ready to roll after spending a year at the Hargrave Military Academy.
Team concerns: Defensive back. The inconsistencies against Baylor and Texas Tech were costly, and while the secondary only loses corner Jamell Fleming, the pass D has to be tighter. With Landry Jones coming back and a few terrific recruiting classes about to mature, Oklahoma doesn’t have any major worries.
2. Texas (8-5)
What’s needed now: Production. Mack Brown opens the door and gets any in-state, five-star talent he wants, but considering the top five-caliber recruiting classes year after year, the wins have to start coming. This year’s haul has no shortage of can’t-miss prospects with the secondary getting the most talent. The safeties will be strong, but the corners will be even better after a slew of prospects coming in that would be instant starters for anyone else.
Team concerns: Linebacker. The recruiting class is bringing in the normal allotment of killers, but the linebacking corps needs to be replenished. Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho are done, meaning Tevin Jackson, Steve Edmond, and Kendall Thompson — three top gets from 2011 — have to step up. Overall, this was a young team that needed a year to rebuild and reload. Now everything should be in place.
3. TCU (11-2)
What’s needed now: Time to develop. The big question around TCU is whether or not it can continue to win with top talent, after years of cranking out big seasons by developing prospects no one else wanted. TCU isn’t getting a Texas-like class of players, but it’s getting more four-star types than normal, and it’s paying off in the passing game. This year, Gary Patterson is able to look toward the future rather than fill in holes, and he gets to sell the idea of playing in the Big 12.
Team concerns: Safety. The passing game will be as effective as any in the Big 12, and the backfield is loaded with terrific rushing options to help keep pace in shootouts. However, a linebacker has to step up in place of Tank Carder, and safeties need to emerge to replace Johnny Fobbs and Tekerrein Cuba. Finding another good corner to replace Greg McCoy is a must.
4. Oklahoma State (12-1)
What’s needed now: Pass catchers. Oklahoma State is becoming known for developing top-shelf receivers, and the recruits are noticing with several good ones signing along with junior college transfer Blake Jackson and some excellent tight ends. Last year’s class brought in a ton of top skill prospects, and this year’s class looks even stronger in the receiving corps. The defense went strong on pass rushers a few years ago, and this year’s haul will be for the next cycle once the 2009 group is done.
Team concerns: A pitch-catch combination that can make up for the loss of Brandon Weeden to Justin Blackmon. The Cowboys have top receiver prospects to spare, but all eyes will be on Clint Chelf to see if he can get everyone the ball. The pass rush that was so terrific last year has to replace both ends, and strong safety Markelle Martin will be missed on the defensive side more than Blackmon will on offense.
5. Kansas State (10-3)
What’s needed now: The focus is on bringing in as many ready-made junior college players as possible to win now. This isn’t going to be a huge signing class, and there won’t be as many JUCO signees as normal, but Bill Snyder will try to gets instant starters for both lines while hoping to find the right fit at quarterback in Tay Bender for down the road. However, Snyder is 72, and it’s questionable whether he’ll still be coaching by the time the freshmen are done.
Team concerns: Three starters are needed for an offensive line that did a great job throughout last year. There’s been some good developing going on, so there might not be as much of a learning curve as it might seem, but Snyder will come up with a few junior college prospects just in case. The secondary gets back ball-hawking corner Nigel Malone, but loses playmaking free safety Tysyn Hartman and corner David Garnett.
6. Texas Tech (5-7)
What’s needed now: Instant help for the defense. Will Texas Tech be patient enough to let last year’s terrific recruiting class mature? Tommy Tuberville is on the hot seat after the 2011 collapse, but he came up with a whopper of a recruiting season and is doing another good job this year. However, he needs the defense to improve in a hurry, and that means the 2009 and 2010 classes of defenders have to start producing, and this year’s group of prospects must fill in the gaps.
Team concerns: Offensive consistency. Defense, schmefense. No one in the Big 12 outside of Texas, and occasionally Oklahoma, can stop anyone, and Texas Tech will always need to win by bringing more firepower to the field. The pieces are there, but everyone has to be better. The O line could use a little retooling, and more pop would be nice from the receivers, but with 10 starters back on defense, it’s time to start winning.
7.Iowa State (6-7) What’s needed now: Receivers. Iowa State won’t get the four and five-star prospects the other Big 12 teams bring in, so it’s all about strength in numbers. The Cyclones will sign several receivers to try to improve a mediocre passing game, while the defense will concentrate mostly on the line. The last few classes have been working on the skill players, and soon it all has to start paying off. It might take one more year, though.
Team concerns: The defensive line loses three starters. Top corner Leonard Johnson will be sorely missed, but most of the key parts are back. The offense has to replace an NFL talent in tackle Kelechi Osemele and right guard Hayward Hicks, and the receiving corps needs help with Darius Reynolds and Darius Darks gone.
8. Baylor (10-3)
What’s needed now: Defensive backs. Maybe it’s time Baylor started playing a little defense. You can’t win in the Big 12 if you can’t score, and as the Bears figured out last year, you can’t win big unless you can come up with a few stops. After years of keying on offensive firepower, with wildly successful results, head coach Art Briles is going hard after defensive prospects with the line getting a little bit of attention and the secondary getting a host of speedy options.
Team concerns: The loss of Robert Griffin III might not be as devastating as it seems. Nick Florence can play, and even with Kendall Wright gone and without Terrance Ganaway to hand off to, the offense should be explosive. The defense that didn’t stop anyone last year has to get by without Tracy Robertson and Nicolas Jean-Baptiste on the interior, but most of the back seven is back and all the pass rushers on the outside return.
9.Kansas (2-10) What’s needed now: Firepower. The biggest recruit was new head coach Charlie Weis, but he doesn’t have the pieces in place to start firing away with the better Big 12 offenses. Weis has already improved the passing game with Dayne Crist transferring from Notre Dame and former No. 1 quarterback recruit Jake Heaps coming from BYU. This year, though, he’ll be doing whatever he can to bring in a few junior college targets and start to use the short time he’s had to bring in enough talent to salvage some sort of a class.
Team concerns: Weis is starting to clean house with a few players being booted. 2012 isn’t looking like an improvement from 2011, and it might take at least two years to get the offense where it needs to be. Defensively, though, most of the key starters are back, including linebacker Darius Willis. Crist has to stay healthy on creaky knees, and the running game has to work from Day One.