The 2024 recruiting cycle is all but complete. Only one team in the Big 12 finished in the top 25 (Texas Tech at No. 24), with two more checking in with top-40 classes (TCU at No. 34 and UCF at No. 35).
Antonio Morales, Max Olson and Justin Williams share their thoughts on some of the most intriguing storylines in the league.
Olson: We’ve got to give some love to UCF. The Knights just signed their highest-rated class in school history, a group that ranks No. 35 nationally and No. 3 in the Big 12. Gus Malzahn and his staff were able to lock up seven blue-chip signees, led by defensive back Jaylen Heyward, tight end Kylan Fox and wide receiver Bredell Richardson.
I’m not at all surprised the Knights were able to assemble a class like this during their first year in their new league. Malzahn was in his first year on the job when this program earned its Big 12 invite in 2021, and there’s no question Power 5 status has an impact on the way in-state and regional recruits look at the program. Getting these four-star commits on board and, more importantly, holding onto them through signing day is an impressive feat.
Williams: Texas Tech. On the heels of a darkhorse-to-disappointing season in 2023, Joey McGuire added a top-25 high school class, headlined by five-star receiver Micah Hudson and blue-chip quarterback Will Hammond. The Red Raiders have one of the most transparent and well-organized NIL situations in the country, which no doubt helps, but credit to McGuire and his staff for getting back to the program’s roots by prioritizing in-state recruiting and development: 20 of Tech’s 21 high school signees are from Texas.
Credit to BYU as well, which at No. 45 nationally has the best composite ranking of the Kalani Sitake era. Second-year defensive coordinator Jay Hill deserves credit as well. The Cougars jumped more than 20 spots in the national rankings, up from 66th for the 2023 class.
Morales: To me it came down to Texas Tech and UCF. Shocker as both teams were top three in the conference in the recruiting rankings, but I have to go with the Red Raiders. For the reasons that Justin just mentioned, but also what separates them from UCF is that they signed five players who were rated above the Knights’ top-ranked recruit.
Most surprising development
Olson: I know this is the portal era and everything is more transactional and we shouldn’t be surprised when these things occur, but Jedd Fisch taking 10 Arizona signees with him to Washington still stands out to me. That’s half of the signees the program announced in December. In fact, quarterback Demond Williams Jr., running back Adam Mohammed and wide receiver Audric Harris had already enrolled in school and still went ahead with transferring in January to join the Huskies. Sure, the timing of the late coaching change was a key factor, but you don’t often see a recruiting class splinter like that after they’ve already signed. For new coach Brent Brennan, those defections can get replaced by portal and junior college additions in the short term, but it’s something he and his staff will have to make up for with their first full recruiting cycle in Tucson.
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Williams: Colorado … but not in a good way. The transfer portal has obviously changed the way certain coaches and programs choose to roster-build, and head coach Deion Sanders has been very clear about his intention to improve via the portal in an effort to win right away. But to have only seven high school signees in the 2024 class is a shockingly low number and distressing number for the school’s first season back in the Big 12 — a move Sanders allegedly advocated for — even with five-star offensive lineman Jordan Seaton and three other top-300 prospects in that group. The Coach Prime Industrial Complex will point to the quality of transfers as a counterpoint, and the Buffs may very well be improved in 2024. But the unprecedented roster churn of the past two seasons and lack of young, developmental recruits is concerning for the intermediate future of the program, regardless of how long Sanders remains at the helm.
Morales: Kyle Whittingham deserves the benefit of the doubt because he is a great talent developer, but I expected more from Utah in the 2024 cycle. The Utes are 60th in the composite rankings and have just three players who rank in the top 600 nationally, one of whom is ranked No. 599. There will be some in the comment section who will write that Utah never has great recruiting classes and still wins. Yes, but those classes were still hovering around the 30s in the rankings. Utah landed its highest-ranked class ever in the 2023 cycle (20th) and was coming off back-to-back Pac-12 titles this cycle and didn’t build on that momentum on the trail. So we’ll see if Whittingham can work his magic again.
Offensive player who will make biggest impact in 2024
Olson: Micah Hudson at Texas Tech. It’s obviously him. Texas Tech coaches believe he’s one of the best players they’ve ever seen, a true game-changer with traits that remind them of guys like CeeDee Lamb and Jaxon Smith-Njigba. The five-star wideout from Temple, Texas, will have an opportunity to start right away and have a high-target role in Zach Kittley’s offense.
How Texas Tech landed 5-star receiver Micah Hudson
Williams: I agree with Max — it’s gotta be Hudson. But in the interest of variety, I’ll mention tight end Kylan Fox and wide receiver Bredell Richardson for UCF, both early enrollees. Fox, a four-star, top-300 recruit, is the Knights’ highest-ranked prospect, with tight-end size (6-foot-4, 200-plus pounds) and receiver skills. UCF coach Guz Malzahn has spoken highly of Richardson publicly, describing him as someone he recruited personally and “will play early.” With 2023 leading receiver Javon Baker off to the NFL, new quarterback KJ Jefferson will need some new options to step up.
Morales: Hudson without a doubt. But I’ll be keeping an eye on Jordan Seaton at Colorado. The Buffaloes offensive line was bad in 2023 so there should be a path toward immediate playing time. He certainly has the talent as a five-star prospect and the top interior offensive line recruit in the country. Now that the recruiting drama is over, can he help Colorado bolster its offensive line?
Defensive player who will make biggest impact in 2024
Olson: Kansas’ DJ Warner. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound edge defender from Arizona committed to Kansas in July over Oregon State, Texas and Washington. Back then, he was a three-star and not even a top-500 recruit. Warner put together a monster senior season with 16 sacks, earned four-star status after offers from Michigan and Ohio State and still stayed loyal to his pledge and signed. He’s the highest-rated signee in Jayhawks history, and it’ll be exciting to see what he can do as a pass rusher right away.
Williams: BYU’s Faletau Satuala. The four-star safety is the Cougars’ highest-ranked defensive recruit in the class in the 247Sports Composite and is ranked as a high as No. 131 nationally by On3. At 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, he already has good size for a first-year defensive back. He also joins a young defense that suffered injuries at safety in 2023. Satuala will likely get a chance to make an early impact.
Morales: Colorado signed just seven high school players this past season, so Deion Sanders likely brought in some of the higher-rated ones with the plan to give them every opportunity to earn playing time. I’ll go with four-star defensive lineman Brandon Davis-Swain, who joins a defense that ranked 96th nationally in tackles for loss and 63rd in sacks and needs more beef up front.
QB most likely to start a game in 2024
Olson: Utah’s Isaac Wilson. Eight different Big 12 teams had to turn to a redshirt freshman or true freshman backup QB to start a game last season, so there are a bunch of signees who could see the field this fall. Wilson is walking into a great situation. He’ll get to train and develop behind Cam Rising for a year before taking over as the QB of the future, and the Utes losing two QBs to the portal this offseason clears the way for Wilson to potentially be their No. 2 QB right away. It’s tough to pick out who has a shot at playing with so many teams bringing in new transfers, but Cincinnati’s Samaj Jones is another intriguing signee who could get a shot to play early.
Williams: TCU’s Hauss Hejny. Despite being a four-star, top-300 prospect, there’s a sense he was underrecruited and underrated due to his size. But he’s a dynamic athlete with legit speed and could very well be the best high school quarterback joining the conference this class. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Frogs try to get him on the field occasionally and use him as a runner to mix it up with returning starter Josh Hoover, but Hejny should also have a chance to earn the true back-up role. Aside from Hoover, the only other quarterback with any experience on the roster is fifth-year Vanderbilt transfer Ken Seals.
Morales: I like Hejny’s potential but have to agree with Max here considering the depth Utah lost at the position. It’s not that Wilson will beat out Rising, but he could be in line for playing time if Rising has to miss time for any reason.
Most intriguing non-blue-chipper
Olson: Iowa State running back Dylan Lee. One thing you can count on with the Cyclones is they’re going to find stud at running back. Three-star in-state signee Abu Sama III flashed big potential late in the 2023 season, and they’re bringing in another gem in Lee. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound back from Arizona rushed for more than 2,000 yards during his senior season and set a state record as a junior with 518 rushing yards in one game. Lee was the No. 81 ranked running back in this class and should be able to outperform that rating.
Williams: I’ll toss out a couple of possibilities. At Cincinnati, defensive back Jiquan Sanks has impressed as an early enrollee, and joining a Bearcats secondary was a glaring issue last season, he could have a chance to contribute early as a rotational player. The product of Central High School in Phenix City, Ala., likely projects best as a safety based on the schemes freshly hired defensive coordinator Tyson Veidt worked with at Iowa State. And at Colorado, running back isn’t a major question mark with the return of leading rusher Dylan Edwards, as well as Sy’veon Wilkerson and a healthier Alton McCaskill IV, but Micah Welch could join that rotation in 2024. The three-star Georgia product can fill some of the void left by second-leading rusher Anthony Hankerson, who transferred to Oregon State, and Sanders proved with Edwards last season that he’s not afraid to entrust a true freshman tailback.
Morales: BYU’s Naki Tuakoi. Tuakoi was a blue-chip prospect for much of the 2024 cycle before his rating dropped. The edge rusher was also committed to Stanford before re-opening his recruitment during the season. At 6-foot-4, 222 pounds, he has the size and frame to develop into a pretty good player down the road.
(Photos of Joey McGuire, Deion Sanders, Gus Malzahn: Michael C. Johnson, Kirby Lee, Kevin Jairaj / USA Today)