Texas did not have a flashy signing day, but it was a good one. The Longhorns just continue to reload, and did a great job filling their needs at offensive line and running back. They got after it early with this class and, as usual, stayed at home and signed just a handful of prospects from outside the state. No. 1 center Mason Walters (Wolfforth, Texas/Frenship) and No. 2 offensive tackle Paden Kelley (Austin, Texas/Lake Travis) headline a talented group of offensive-line prospects. Overall, this class has nine top-10 positional prospects, including major offensive firepower with ESPN's No. 2 quarterback Garrett Gilbert (Austin, Texas/Lake Travis), well-rounded tight end Barrett Matthews (Houston/North Shore) and 6-foot-3 running back Chris Whaley (Madisonville, Texas). Of all the prospects in this group, Gilbert has the talent to be a special player in Austin and help the Longhorns continue being an annual national title contender. Adding talented youth on the defensive perimeter was important, and Texas has a great one in top-10 corner Marcus Davis (League City, Texas/Clear Creek).
No significant news out of Norman on signing day. It was just business as usual for the Sooners as they signed a top-10 class. This class should make defensive coordinator Brent Venables smile as it's loaded on his side of the ball, with their top six prospects all defensive players. Interior additions Jamarkus McFarland (Lufkin, Texas), the sixth-ranked DT, and fellow top-10 defensive lineman Justin Chaisson (Las Vegas/Bishop Gorman) and safeties Kevin Brent (Dallas/South Oak Cliff) and Gabe Lynn (Jenks, Okla.) bolster OU's defensive class. The linebacker group of Tom Wort (New Braunfels, Texas), Ronnell Lewis (Dewar, Okla.), Gus Jones (Wagoner, Okla.) and Jaydan Bird (Conway Springs, Kan.) is one of the better units in the country. Lewis could be this year's biggest sleeper, as the athletic linebacker's background is 8-on-8 football. There was some bad news, as losing receiver Eric Ward (Rider, Texas) down the stretch to Texas Tech definitely still stings -- wideout was a position of need for the Sooners -- but it's still an impressive haul.
For the Aggies, last fall was a disappointment on the gridiron, to say the least. But in his first full recruiting season at the helm, Mike Sherman has put together a quality group bound for College Station. A&M signed one of the best running backs in the country: the explosive Christine Michael (Beaumont, Texas), ESPN's No. 4-rated back. Although Michael is the Aggies' only ESPNU 150 prospect, they signed four other prospects with top-30 positional rankings, led by disruptive defensive tackle Chris Henderson (Dallas/Carter). We thought A&M needed some young talent at the corner position to develop, and it could have a future stud in Steven Terrell (Allen, Texas). Terrell brings a good blend of size, speed and athleticism to the perimeter. Sherman went into Louisiana to snag agile guard Patrick Lewis (Reserve, La./East Saint John). Receiver Uzoma Nwachukwu (Allen, Texas) is a great land; he could quickly give the Aggies a much-needed playmaker who can stretch the field vertically and create mismatches in space.
Tech's national success and increased exposure is definitely reflected in this Red Raiders' class, arguably one of the better ones in Mike Leach's tenure. The class lacks an elite prospect -- currently no ESPNU 150 prospects are committed -- but it has its fair share of difference-makers and is very solid top to bottom. Plucking receiver Eric Ward (Wichita Falls, Texas/Rider) and OLB Brandon Mahoney away from Oklahoma down the stretch makes a big statement about where the program is headed both on and off the field. Ward will have ESPN's No. 17-rated signal-caller throwing him balls: Quick-release gunslinger Jacob Karam (Friendswood, Texas) has the look of an ideal player for Tech's system. The Red Raiders added some needed youth upfront with a pair of top-20 tackles in LaAdrian Waddle (Columbus, Texas) and Kyle Clark (Denton, Texas/John H. Guyer). The majority of this class still comes out of the Longhorn State, but Tech is not just picking up residual talent passed over by Texas and Oklahoma anymore.
Despite signing top-15 running back Dexter Pratt (Navasota, Texas), OSU has simply not seen a 2009 recruiting class reflective of its national success last fall. The Cowboys did ink seven prospects rated at a solid 77 or higher on the Scouts Inc. grading scale. The upper tier of this class is comprised of homegrown talent, and it is led by the state's No. 2 running back Jeremy Smith (Tulsa, Okla./Tulsa Union). The 206-pounder has a good blend of size, speed, balance and quickness, and he could become a featured runner for the Cowboys down the road. They also needed an infusion of young talent at the defensive back positions, particularly safety, and signed a solid high-point defender in Daytawion Lowe (Midwest City, Okla./Carl Albert). The Cowboys also landed a top-20 inside linebacker in Jordan Barnes (Fort Wayne, Ind.), a Michigan decommitment.
Missouri concluded the 2008 season atop the Big 12 North, but places in the middle of the conference on signing day, similar to last February. The state of Missouri is not a hotbed of recruiting talent, but for the second consecutive year Gary Pinkel did manage to retain his state's top prospect in much-needed ESPNU 150 defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson (St. Louis/Gateway Institute of Technology). Mizzou loaded up on receivers last year, but we still felt they needed an additional playmaker in this class, particularly with the early departure of Jeremy Maclin to the NFL. The Tigers stole one from Penn State in 6-foot-4 Jaleel Clark (Allentown, Pa./Parkland). The Tigers added talented youth up front with the state's top-ranked offensive tackle Jack Meiners (St. Louis/Chaminade). A top-30 positional prospect, Meiners has great size and power and deceptive agility.
Bo Pelini certainly did a commendable job bringing life back into a storied Nebraska program last fall. He also signed a solid class to continue the turnaround in his first full recruiting season in Lincoln. This year's class doesn't have many difference-makers, but it's hard not to like the quality and blue-collar feel the group collectively possesses. The Cornhuskers' top prospect is Texas native Cody Green (Dayton, Texas), a physically impressive quarterback who put up staggering stats as a senior. Pelini certainly went to his roots and upgraded the defensive side of ball, as well. We thought Nebraska needed to sign a well-rounded safety in this class, and it has one in Dijon Washington (Lawndale, Calif./Leuzinger), a top-30 positional prospect. The linebacker unit gets a boost from a stout run-supporter in Chris Williams (Abilene, Texas). Pelini has a keen eye for developing raw defensive talent, and he's got a gem in corner Lazarri Middleton (Long Beach, Calif./Polytechnic).
Colorado is coming off a stellar 2008 signing class but a rather disappointing season on the gridiron. For the most part, recruiting has been more marathon than sprint for the Buffaloes in '09, but Dan Hawkins and his staff went on a tear in January. The inking of DE Nick Kasa (Broomfield, Colo./Legacy) and DT Edward Nuckols (San Marcos, Calif./Mission Hills) has really bolstered this front four. Luring Kasa back from the grip of the Florida Gators was important for Colorado's stature within the state; if the Buffs had not gotten him back, they wouldn't have had a signee from any of the state's top five prospects. QB Clark Evans (Los Alamitos, Calif.) is a sleeper in this class, and he fits their scheme extremely well.
In his first full recruiting season at Baylor -- after resurrecting the Houston Cougars -- Art Briles focused much of his attention on protecting electrifying quarterback Robert Griffin. He has done so by cleaning up on some underrated up-front talent in Texas. Jeramie Roberts (Garland, Texas/South Garland) is Baylor's top-ranked prospect. The No. 18-rated guard has great upside and versatility; he could just as easily develop into a solid two-gapping nose guard. The Bears continued to address their lack of young depth on the offensive line, particularly on the edge, with solid tackle prospects like Ivory Wade (Dickinson, Texas) and Cyril Richardson (Fort Worth, Texas/North Crowley). The Bears' greatest victory in recruiting was luring athlete Darius Jones (Marshall, Texas) away from powerhouse Oklahoma. Jones is a fast, versatile athlete who could either make an impact as a cornerback or wide receiver. We thought Baylor needed to sign a featured running back; Chance Casey (Crosby, Texas) will be more of a change-of-pace runner for the Bears than a high-carry guy.
It might lack true difference-makers, but given the shortage of in-state talent to cash in on, Kansas has a solid class heading into signing day. In our eyes, the Jayhawks have addressed most of their needs. We feel that consistently good programs are often made up of prospects who fall into the 77-79 grading range, and the Jayhawks claim seven in that range. Safety was a position that needed to be emphasized in this class, and was with the signings of Darian Kelly (Girard, Kan.) and Prinz Kande (Euless, Texas/Trinity). Both are very active safeties with a good blend of range and physicality. We feel Kansas landed an in-state sleeper in Huldon Tharp (Mulvane, Kan.), an impressive all-around athlete with a good size-to-speed ratio. Another under-the-radar commit resides on the offensive side of the ball in the small but quick-footed Deshaun Sands (Coconut Creek, Fla./Monarch). Opening up holes for Sands in the future will be the state's top-rated offensive guard, Riley Spencer (Hesston, Kan.).
The Cyclones went winless in Big 12 play, and their disappointing season is reflected in this recruiting class. The hope is that former Auburn defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads can turn things around in Ames both on and off the field. Iowa State did add some youth at positions of need with the likes of James White (Dallas/Skyline) and Beau Blankenship (Norman, Okla.) at running back. A short but compact downhill runner, Blankenship could be a nice complement to Alexander Robinson. We feel White is an underrated scatback. Opening holes up front will be top-50 tackle Kyle Lichtenberg (Bettendorf, Iowa). Safety Deon Broomfield (Palm Bay, Fla./Bayside) was a nice land out of Florida. He is a prospect we think could develop into an all-Big 12 free safety. While Iowa State signed a few solid additions in this class, Rhoads needs to improve the overall talent on this roster to climb out of the Big 12 North cellar. Top recruit OT Aaron Moore (Frisco, Texas) has the potential to play a big role if he can add some bulk to his frame.
Although Bill Snyder, the legend of Manhattan, is back in the saddle for the Wildcats, there might not be a quick fix here. With an overflow of junior college prospects signed under the old regime, this program lacks both underclassman depth and the speed and athleticism Snyder is used to having. This '09 class has decent numbers, but there are no program-changing-type prospects. The good news is that this program is getting into some talent-rich states such as Florida, Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma. Two of Kansas State's top prospects, safeties Torrell Miller (New Orleans/O. Perry Walker) and Thomas Ferguson (Grand Prairie, Texas/South Grand Prairie), are from the Bayou and Lone Star states, respectively.