Texas hopes to keep five-star lineman A'Shawn Robinson in his home state. (247Sports)
These days, recruiting is a year-round enterprise fueled by its own vocabulary and online subculture, for whom every day is another chance to be driven to distraction by the whims of 17-year-olds. Even for the obsessed, though, the first Wednesday in February still looms over the rest of the year like the North Star, directing them to the day when informal, non-binding commitments are converted into irreversible signatures. Whatever you thought before, on Signing Day, anything can still happen.
Well, in theory, anyway. In the Big 12, the process hasn't left much drama for Wednesday's finish line, when most of the high-profile names are either in the fold already as early enrollees, or have left no doubt about where they intend to sign. With the possible exception of Texas -- the one Big 12 outfit still in hot pursuit of a handful of nationally ranked targets down to the wire -- the few doubts that remain aren't the type that figure to make or break a class or overturn expectations. With relative certainty, then (and a nod to the inevitable Signing Day surprise), here's an 11th-hour glimpse at what to expect across the conference.
247Sports Team Class Rank: 24
Needs: OL, QB, RB, S, WR
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On paper, anyway, no receiving corps in college football has been more productive over the last two years than Baylor's, which has produced back-to-back All-Americans at the position (Kendall Wright in 2011, Terrance Williams in 2012) in an offense that didn't miss a beat last year in the absence of Robert Griffin III. Given that emerging track record, it was only a matter of time before the once-lowly Bears caught the attention of an elite target like Robbie Rhodes, a five-star commitment from Fort Worth rated by 247Sports as the No. 1 incoming prospect in the state of Texas -- and who is expected to become Baylor's first five-star signee in the Internet era. In most of those years, fellow receivers Kyle Fulks and Quan Jones would have qualified as headliners in Waco, as would 6-foot-5 quarterback Chris Johnson, already on campus as an early enrollee. In this class, already featuring Rhodes, four-star commitments at linebacker (Brian Nance) and offensive tackle (Maurice Porter), and a four-star defensive tackle Andrew Billings) who's considering Baylor alongside Texas, they'll have to settle for being intriguing sleepers.
247Sports Team Class Rank: 63
Needs: DL, LB, WR
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Not much went right for Iowa State after a surprising 4-1 start, especially after a season-ending injury to All-Big 12 linebacker Jake Knott in late October. Before that, the front seven on defense was arguably the strength of the team, and it was also the hardest hit by graduation. In addition to Knott and fellow tackle machine A.J. Klein at linebacker, the Cyclones will also be replacing three senior starters on the defensive line. For immediate help, they hit the local junior college ranks for 6-foot-3, 275-pound defensive end Rodney Coe, and made a successful foray into Florida for linebacker Alton Meeks (an early enrollee) and a pair of three-star defensive ends, Justin Madison and Vernell Trent; another defensive end, J.D. Waggoner, is expected to sign out of Dallas. On the other side of the line of scrimmage, it should be a strictly local affair. Of the five projected offensive linemen in the fold, four are from Iowa or a neighboring state, most notably 6-foot-7 tackle Jake Campos out of Des Moines.
247Sports Team Class Rank: 48
Needs: CB, DE, OL, QB, S
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No Big 12 school needs more immediate help than Kansas, and no school anywhere hit the juco ranks harder: Of the Jayhawks' 25 commitments for 2013, a staggering 17 will arrive from junior colleges, nine of whom are already enrolled and ready for spring practice. Of those nine, seven are linemen with an opportunity to move into the starting lineup right away, headlined by a pair of 300-pound defensive tackles, Marquel Combs and Ty McKinney, and a defensive end, Chris Martin, who began his career as a five-star signee at California. (Martin later transferred to Florida, was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana -- and finally landed at the City College of San Francisco, where he's spent the last two years.) In the fall, Charlie Weis will welcome more juco help at cornerback (Cassius Sendish, Kevin Short, Dexter McDonald), linebacker (Marcus Jenkins-Moore, Samson Faifili) and wide receiver (Rodriguez Coleman, Mark Thomas), any of whom could find starting roles for the taking.
Jake Waters: K-State's heir apparent? (AP)
247Sports Team Class Rank: 49
Needs: DE, LB, QB, RB
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Hey, speaking of junior colleges: Winning the Big 12 title did nothing whatsoever to change Bill Snyder's juco-based philosophy, which has already yielded a signature from the nation's most coveted juco quarterback, Jake Waters, who was hotly pursued by Penn State (among others) after leading Iowa Western Community College to the NJCAA national championship. Waters is one of five juco signees already on campus, along with Iowa Western teammates Devon Nash, a four-star defensive end, and Travis Green, a two-star linebacker, and is the early favorite to replace Heisman finalist Collin Klein as the Wildcats' starter. Come fall, however, the class figures to look a little younger: Of the 14 commitments expected to sign with K-State on Wednesday, all but one, juco linebacker De'Vondre Campbell, will be making the transition directly from high school.
247Sports Team Class Rank: 12
Needs: DT, LB, S
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Most years, Oklahoma can afford to be choosy on the recruiting trail, but most years don't involve filling a yawning void in the middle of the defensive line: The departure of last year's top four defensive tackles has created such a demand for viable bodies inside, coaches are reportedly considering a switch to a 3-4 scheme to mitigate the shortage. That should create an immediate opportunity this spring for juco transfer Quincy Russell, an early enrollee, as well as for the six other defensive linemen expected to sign with the Sooners on Wednesday, led by in-state DE D.J. Ward. The other position of glaring need is safety, where four-star commitments Hatari Byrd and Ahmad Thomas will have a chance to fill the void left by departing starters Tony Jefferson and Javon Harris – as will Oklahoma's top uncommitted target, L.J. Moore, if the Sooners can fend off Oregon State and Arizona State for his signature.
247Sports Team Class Rank: 30
Needs: DB, DT, OL, TE
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Given its track record on offense, it shouldn't come as any surprise that Oklahoma State's commitment class is headlined by a half-dozen running backs and receivers -- or more, if the Cowboys land Dallas WR Ra'Shaad Samples -- who all want in on the action. But even with the early departure of All-Big 12 tailback Joseph Randle, OSU hardly lacks for potential playmakers with the ball. It does lack for depth defensively, especially in the secondary, where commitments from Deric Robertson, Taylor Lewis, Tre Flowers and Darius Curry may carry more immediate weight than their uninspiring rankings suggest. Defensive line, another need, will get a heavy influx of new faces, too, none of them more highly touted than four-star tackle Vincent Taylor out of San Antonio.
247Sports Team Class Rank: 35
Needs: CB, OL, RB
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The most anticipated signature on Wednesday will come courtesy of four-star tailback Kyle Hicks, a former Texas commit who dropped the Longhorns in favor of TCU in December. But the Horned Frogs were most aggressive in pursuit of "tweener" types who can thrive in the hybrid safety/outside linebacker role that distinguishes TCU's 3-3-5 defensive scheme, boasting commitments from no fewer than eight players who fit that mold. Of that group, the most touted are a pair of slightly undersized Texans straddling the three-star/four-star border, Dac Shaw and Ty Slanina, who look exactly like the kind of guys Gary Patterson has been developing into solid starters for more than a decade.
Darius James headlines one of the strongest offensive line classes in the country. (247)
247Sports Team Class Rank: 20
Needs: CB, OL, QB, RB, TE
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Unlike for the rest of the conference, Signing Day arrives with a sense of unresolved drama for the Longhorns, who are very much in the mix for three of the top uncommitted players in the state: five-star offensive lineman A'Shawn Robinson, four-star running back Dontre Wilson and four-star defensive tackle Andrew Billings. Any of them could push the Longhorns past Oklahoma for the top-rated class in the conference. But the priorities for this class begin and end up front: Of the 15 commitments and early enrollees already in the fold going into Signing Day, five of them are offensive linemen with four-star credentials, giving Texas arguably the best O-line class in the country even if Robinson opts for Alabama instead. The best of the current commitments is 6-foot-6, 320-pound Darius James, who is widely regarded as the No. 1 guard prospect in the 2013 class. The only caveat: After Hicks' de-commitment, the Horns are still searching for a tailback to run behind the incoming behemoths once the current crop of blue-chip backs begins moving on.
247Sports Team Class Rank: 44
Needs: CB, DT, OL, S, WR
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No Big 12 team has faced a bigger obstacle ahead of Signing Day than Texas Tech in the wake of Tommy Tuberville's overnight departure for Cincinnati, which threatened to wreak havoc on the class Tuberville had assembled. Within a week of Tubs' exit, all six of Tech's junior college commitments had withdrawn their pledges, four of whom -- including the gem of the class, four-star tailback Rodriguez Moore -- went on to sign with Cincinnati instead during the juco signing period in December. Still, new coach Kliff Kingsbury has managed to limit some of the damage by winning over another high-profile de-commit, four-star wide receiver Devon Lauderdale, and adding a second in four-star WR/TE Gary Moore; he also found another all-purpose back from the juco ranks, Tyler Middleton, to fill the void left by Moore. He's been less successful when it comes to the trenches: In two key areas of concern, Tech boasts just three commitments from offensive linemen, and zero from a projected defensive tackle.
247Sports Team Class Rank: 33
Needs: DL, OL, QB
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To the surprise of no one who actually watched West Virginia's defense in 2012, the Mountaineers cast the widest possible net in pursuit of quality defenders, eventually reeling in defensive commitments from all corners of the country: Florida (safety Malik Greaves), Mississippi (juco defensive end Dontrill Hyman), Arizona (juco linebacker D'Vante Henry), New Jersey (linebacker Al-Rasheed Benton) and all points in between. Heading into signing day, WVU's top targets still include secondary help in Florida (Marquion Lane, Mackenro Alexander) and Georgia (Jeremy Tyler). But this is shaping up as another class alarmingly devoid of bodies on the interior defensive line.