In this week's Big 12 roundtable, we break down the influx of graduate transfers who will be joining the league.
Which grad transfer makes the biggest impact in 2017?
Max Olson: Since Zach Smith is still holding onto the Baylor QB job at the moment ahead of Arizona grad transfer Anu Solomon, I'll go with Oklahoma State landing Adrian Baker from Clemson. The Cowboys' staff moved Ramon Richards to free safety because they have confidence in their young trio of corners, but those guys are still rather unproven. Getting a senior in that room who's played in a big-time program could be a huge boost.
Mitch Sherman: Aaron Cochran to Oklahoma State. And I didn’t have to think long about that. Cochran is a proven left tackle with 16 games of starting experience at Cal. He’s huge -- listed at 6-foot-8 and 350 pounds, and he considered a departure to the NFL before picking the Cowboys this week over numerous suitors. Oklahoma State lost left tackle Victor Salako and was auditioning candidates this spring to fill his spot. In Cochran, it gets an immediate solution to protect the valuable blindside of QB Mason Rudolph.
Jake Trotter: I think it’s going to be Cal offensive tackle Cochran. Left tackle was really the only question mark this Oklahoma State offense had. The Cowboys are loaded everywhere else. Getting an experienced left tackle like Cochran to protect Rudolph's blindside pretty much solidifies what could be the best offense in college football next season.
Who's the biggest grad transfer still at-large for a Big 12 team?
Olson: For a while there, it looks like Oklahoma was out of the running for Clemson DT transfer Scott Pagano when he canceled his visit. Credit the OU coaching staff for staying persistent with this one and convincing Pagano to take that official visit and see all they have to offer. Oregon looks like a fun place to play, but the Ducks aren't playing for titles in Willie Taggart's first year. I'm liking OU's chances in this recruitment now.
Sherman: Texas Tech has built a nice, if perhaps unusual, pipeline from Iowa, landing QB Nic Shimonek and receiver Derrick Willies. The latest former Hawkeye to look at the Red Raiders is running back Derrick Mitchell, who would work nicely in the Tech offense. Mitchell transitioned from wide receiver two years ago in the spring and flashed skills as a multi-talented weapon that, quite honestly, fit better at Tech than his former school.
Trotter: Pagano could be a potential game-changer for Oklahoma. If he chooses the Sooners, he would probably be their best defensive lineman the moment he steps on campus. That would be a huge addition for a team that will be gunning for its third straight Big 12 title.
What do Cochran and Baker do for Oklahoma State's outlook?
Olson: Look, there's a very simple reason why Baker and Cochran chose Oklahoma State over all their other options. These guys want to play for a national championship, and they realize they can do so this season in Stillwater. I'm sure the sell from Mike Gundy was just as simple: You're the missing pieces in our lineup. If Baker can solidify that cornerback situation, they're a top-10 team for sure with a legit shot at winning the Big 12.
Sherman: It’s huge. The Cowboys weren’t far off before this spring from ranking as a College Football Playoff contender. The addition of Baker and Cochran push them over the top, I think. Despite their limited eligibility, the graduate transfers rate as the Pokes’ most important newcomers in August.
Trotter: The Cowboys basically had two questions marks going into this offseason: left tackle and cornerback, especially with Ramon Richards moving from corner to free safety this spring. So there's no doubt that the Cowboys are closer to contending for a Big 12 title and spot in the playoff than they were last week. These were big-time additions for a team that has -- and should have -- lofty aspirations for this season.