A single recruiting class can have a major impact on a team’s success over the course of four or five years, as both well-known and lesser known recruits affect how a college football team performs in the course of their time on campus.
In that spirit, it’s worthwhile to revisit the initial perception of recruiting classes and measure that against how those players developed once they got to the next level. That can speak to whether or not, for example, certain recruits were under-hyped (or over-hyped) coming out of high school.
In a larger sense, looking back at those rankings can tell us something about the development of those players under a certain coach, and here the ranking is based on the performances of players in in order to try to gauge how programs are able to maximize talent.
The ranking below takes into consideration the on-the-field contributions that each Big 12 team was able to get from a crop of recruits. Since basically all of the recruits from the 2014 recruiting classes have recently moved on from the college game (save, of course, for one or two medical redshirts), that is the only class examined here.
For context, we’ve drawn from the work over at 247 Sports and Rivals.com to get rankings and information on 2014 recruits. It should be noted that only the contribution of a scholarship player to the team they signed with in 2014 is accounted for here. Transfers from other schools aren’t a part of the rankings.
Commits: 28 247 Ranking: 1st Rivals Ranking: 1st
Given the success the Sooners have had in the Big 12 over the past decade, this shouldn’t really be a surprise. Oklahoma was thought to have the best recruiting class in the conference at the time, and in hindsight, it’s nigh impossible to disagree with that assessment. This class for the Sooners included future NFL Draft picks Joe Mixon, Mark Andrews, Samaje Perine, and Orlando Brown.
Six of the players from this signing class went on to have All-Big 12 careers, including fullback Dimitri Flowers and defensive back Jordan Thomas. As one would imagine, most of the players who panned out in a big way for Oklahoma play offense. Like other teams in the Big 12, the Sooners suffered their share of attrition from this class, with players having been dismissed or decided to transfer.
When a team signs as many highly touted players as the Sooners do, however, the ceiling for the overall performance of the class is going to be as high as any school in the country.
2. Oklahoma State
Commits: 28 247 Ranking: 4th Rivals Ranking: 3rd
The Pokes are the runners-up from 2014, and it’s really not even close. There were three draft picks in this class, and they ended up bringing out-of-this-world talent to Stillwater. Three of the players from this group eventually got drafted, including the duo of Mason Rudolph and James Washington. Both Rudolph and Washington were elite players in college, and were the best wide receiver-quarterback combination out of all these classes.
The production wasn’t all on the offensive side of the ball, though. Defenders like Jordan Brailford, Ramon Richards, Justin Phillips, and Trey Carter all became key starters for Gundy. Even special teams got a major boost from this class in punter Zach Sinor, who would become a key asset for the Pokes during his time.
Of course, this class also included Tyreek Hill, who was the highest rated recruit to sign for Mike Gundy. By now, however, Hill’s off-the-field activities have overshadowed much of the playmaking he exhibited at Oklahoma State.
Commits: 26 247 Ranking: 7th Rivals Ranking: 8th
If the higher ranked recruits would have panned out like many of the lower ranked prospects in this group, there very well might be a Big 12 championship trophy in Fort Worth right now. None of the players that developed into NFL Draft picks – Travin Howard, Ty Summers, and L.J. Collier – under Gary Patterson were ranked in the top ten of this recruiting class.
Not surprisingly, they were all defensive players. Indeed, the defensive acumen of Patterson is all over this class, which saw a two star Summers become one of the most heralded performers in the bunch. Despite their projected status, fourteen of these signees became starting-caliber college football players.
Many of those players, like offensive tackle Austin Schlottman and defensive back Nick Orr, were key to many of the wins the Horned Frogs racked up in those players’ time on campus.
4. Texas Tech
Commits: 28 247 Ranking: 6th Rivals Ranking: 5th
One name helps to elevate this class above some of the others that got similar production from their non-star players: Patrick Mahomes II. Mahomes accounted for over 12,000 total yards while he was at Texas Tech, and would probably be discussed as the greatest quarterback in Red Raider history if the teams he was part of wouldn’t have hovered around .500 throughout his tenure.
Of course, the current Kansas City Chief isn’t the only notable from this group of recruits. Defensive players Ja’Shawn Johnson and Dakota Allen also signed in 2014, with Allen the only other NFL Draft pick to come out of this class. Most of the recruits in this class who ended up either starting or logging game time, however, were offensive weapons.
Given that this was considered a Top 40 recruiting class by 247 Sports, however, it’s surprising that more of the upper level of recruit didn’t work out for Texas Tech. Mahomes and running back Justin Stockton obviously made significant contributions, but the rest of the top ten in the 2014 class were never much of a factor for the Red Raiders, either because of attrition or inability to get on the field.
Commits: 23 247 Ranking: 2nd Rivals Ranking: 2nd
Charlie Strong scarcely had time to dig into recruiting when he became the head coach at Texas only a month before signing day. This was technically, however, the first class for the former Longhorn head coach. The prize players in this class ended up being running back D’Onta Foreman, who broke out in his junior year with 2,028 yards and went on to be drafted by the Houston Texans following that campaign.
Of the 23 players in this class, 15 ended up securing starting roles. Most of those standouts, like tight end Andrew Beck, and defensive lineman Chris Nelson and Poona Ford, were key to head coach Tom Herman pulling the Longhorns out of the bottom of the conference. Although they didn’t live up to what their recruiting stars probably would have indicated, many of the players on this list – particularly the wideouts and offensive lineman – ended up making significant contributions at the FBS level.
Given the results of Texas football under Strong, this class for the Longhorns did not – unsurprisingly – exactly live up to the lofty expectations set by its projection as the second-best class in the Big 12.
Commits: 28 247 Ranking: 3rd Rivals Ranking: 4th
The landscape of Big 12 football was certainly different when Baylor inked this class in February 2014, shortly after coming off an 8-1 conference record and a Big 12 championship. According to 247 Sports, this was the third ranked class in the conference, and Baylor got a lot of contributions from these signees.
The Bears had sixteen players earn starts in multiple seasons from this group, including lineman on both sides of the ball Blake Blackmar, Patrick Lawrence, Greg Roberts and Ira Lewis. The top recruit in this class, K.D. Cannon, by far turned out to be jewel of the class. Cannon was one of two All-Big 12 players and, in addition to being a Freshman All-American, averaged 1,000 yards receiving over the course of his three years playing at the FBS level.
This class is notable, however, because of the volume of contributions that the Bears were able to get. Not as many of these signees went on to become as elite as might have been expected, but many of the players in this class ended up playing under three different head coaches.
7. Iowa State
Commits: 25 247 Ranking: 10th Rivals Ranking: 10th
There was some substantial attrition from this class, which signed well before now coach Matt Campbell ever set foot in Ames. At the time, this was ranked as the worst class in the Big 12 by 247 Sports and Rivals, despite signing highly rated four star Allen Lazard. Lazard ended up being a tremendous asset for the Cyclones, and was a major contributor to Iowa State’s breakout 2017 campaign.
The Cyclones ended up with four All-Big 12 players from this recruiting class, which included Dale Pierson, Mike Warren, and Brian Peavy. Linebacker Willie Harvey, who had three sold seasons as a starter at Iowa State, was in hindsight underrated given what he did at the collegiate level. All in all, this ended up being a strong class for the Cyclones, and a group that certainly overachieved with regards to their initial billing.
8. Kansas State
Commits: 24 247 Ranking: 8th Rivals Ranking: 7th
Under Bill Snyder, the Wildcats made their reputation on being able to turn unheralded recruits into top players in the Big 12. This class definitely embodies that to some extent – they produced four All-Big 12 players in Winston Dimel, Dalton Risner, and Elijah Lee, and saw Risner emerge as the only member of this class to be selected in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Kansas State would also end up getting six other players out of this group to earn starting roles and be highly impactful for the Wildcats. Still, Kansas State didn’t get the level of production out of many of those players that stepped on the field as they did with other classes. Not to mention Dimel, one of the top performers in this group, ended up transferring to UTEP, where he finished his career.
9. West Virginia
Commits: 23 247 Ranking: 5th Rivals Ranking: 6th
This group of signees had a few standouts, but a number of recruits just didn’t work out for the Mountaineers from this bunch. Around a third of the members of the 2014 class (nine of them, to be exact) ended up transferring, and most of those were some of the better recruits that then-head coach Dana Holgorsen brought to Morgantown.
Three players stepped up to really shine in this class. Dravon Askew-Henry, the top rated recruit in this class, turned out to be one of the best defensive backs in the conference, and started 51 games for West Virginia before signing a UDFA contract in the NFL.
Skyler Howard, who was not a highly touted quarterback in this class, ended up throwing over 7,000 yards and leading West Virginia to an 18-8 record from 2015-2016. Lineman Yodny Cajuste, the lone All-Big 12 player here, was drafted in the third round to the New England Patriots in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Commits: 23 247 Ranking: 9th Rivals Ranking: 9th
Jayhawks fans might remember this as the last class signed by then-head coach Charlie Weiss. A good chunk of these signees were from the JUCO ranks, a part of Weiss’s ploy to patch immediate needs. Many of the players in this class did not, however, have the kind of impact a coach would like to see for a team to consistently improve – fourteen started at least a game for Kansas, but many of them of struggled to consistently hold down those jobs.
Incidentally, this was one of the few 2014 Big 12 recruiting classes to not produce a single NFL Draft pick. There were three players for the Jayhawks that were All-Big 12 selections, including Daniel Wise, Joe Dineen, and Fish Smithson, all defensive players.