Ten of the nation’s top-40 junior-college recruits have committed to Big 12 programs. Most of them signed letters of intent last week and will enroll in January to make an early impact with their new teams. Here are three you’ll definitely need to know as we start looking ahead to 2016.
1. Texas Tech WR Derrick Willies
Ranking: No. 3 in ESPN JC 50, No. 1 WR
Stats: 48 catches, 1,155 yards, 14 TDs this season at Trinity Valley C.C.
Impact: Day 1 starter for the Red Raiders. That’s how this Tech staff sees Willies, a big 6-foot-4 target who spent two seasons at Iowa. Kliff Kingsbury and his coaches fought hard to keep Willies after TCU and Oklahoma came after him because they know the NCJAA All-American fills a huge need at outside receiver. Dylan Cantrell missed the season with a back injury, and Devin Lauderdale just got suspended. Don’t be surprised if Willies is one of Patrick Mahomes’ favorite targets next fall.
Scouts take: Willies is a very good player that should have an early role, especially as a jump ball guy. He could be a guy that works out of the slot to work against zone coverage. His size is his greatest asset and he catches the ball very well in a crowd. May have some speed limitations against top level DBs.
2. TCU LB Tyree Horton
Ranking: No. 8 in ESPN JC 50, No. 1 OLB
Stats: 86 tackles, 9.5 sacks this season at Highland C.C.
Impact: Horton wasn’t an easy pull -- he’s from Homestead, Florida and had initially committed to Florida State -- but he should step in and immediately help a young group of linebackers. Ty Summers, Travin Howard and Montrel Wilson are all coming back for TCU and showed promise. They’ll be pushed this spring by the hard-hitting Horton, who also took visits to Oklahoma and Baylor. After a season of instability, linebacker depth shouldn’t be a problem for the Frogs in 2016.
Scouts take: Horton is an active and physical LB that can get around the football. Room to improve, but can be active versus run, disruptive as pass rusher and effective in coverage. Player that could come in and quickly contribute defensively and on special teams.
3. Baylor DT Jeremy Faulk
Ranking: No. 18 in ESPN JC 50, No. 2 DT
Stats: 87 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks this season at Garden City C.C.
Impact: Whether or not Andrew Billings elects to enter the NFL draft, Faulk should be a big piece to Baylor’s puzzle on defense in 2016. With Beau Blackshear graduating and not much proven depth behind him and Billings, Faulk steps into an ideal situation. He also happens to be the NJCAA Defensive Player of the Year and a block-shedding machine. He’s going to be a problem for the Big 12 if he can play up to the hype.
Scouts take: Faulk can be an active presence in the trenches. Moves around the DL and could continue to do so with a move to the FBS level, with best fit likely coming as a three-tech. Player with limited clock, but as a mid-semester, displays tools to be able to come in and be a productive contributor to a rotation if not compete for starting time depending on situation.