With National Signing Day inching closer by the minute, it is time for conferences to look back and appreciate the value of some of the players they already have landed.
The Big 12, for example, has done a great job of bringing in elite prospects during the 2013 class. Indeed, nearly every team in this conference has picked up at least one game-changing player.
While some players are, of course, better than others, each team in the conference has that one can't-miss recruit, who is considered the most important player out of the entire group. Everybody expects big things from him the moment he steps onto the field. I'm talking about that one guy that will change the entire outlook of the team moving forward.
Here is a list of those recruits.
What He Brings to the Table: In a conference that isn't quite known for defense, you need guys that can make plays on offense and spread things out. That is exactly what Robbie Rhodes does at the wide receiver position. With a 4.40 40-yard dash time, Rhodes can absolutely fly down the field and has terrific hands. You wish he was a bit taller than his 6'1" frame, but this is someone who will get open quite often once he steps on-campus.
Why He Is the Most Important: We are not talking about the best player as far as Baylor standards are concerned. Rhodes is one of the top players in the entire 2013 class. According to 247Sports, he is the second-best wide receiver in this class and he will be an impact player immediately. When you land somebody this talented, it can turn your entire program around.
What He Brings to the Table: The first thing that you notice about Jake Campos is that he is extremely physical at the point of attack. He explodes out of his stance and really dominates the guy in front of him with incredible physicality and strength. Campos displays quick feet and appears to have all of the tools to be a great run blocker at the next level. You would like to see him grow into his 6'7", 250-pound frame a bit more, but this is an underrated pickup for the Cyclones.
Why He Is the Most Important: Anytime you are a program on the rise like Iowa State, acquiring the best available prospect becomes a priority. Campos should be able to contribute rather quickly and will help add depth to an offensive line that returns three starters from a year ago.
What He Brings to the Table: Marquel Combs is that big boy in the middle of a defensive line who is just going to eat up blockers at 6'3", 305 pounds. He is a strong guy, who gets off the ball surprisingly quick for somebody with his size. Combs has a great motor and has relentless pursuit when chasing down quarterbacks. He immediately becomes the anchor of a defensive line and will make everybody's job on the defense that much easier.
Why He Is the Most Important: Seriously, there aren't many top prospects that are lining up to play for Kansas at the moment. Combs may not have reached elite status yet, but he did have a few offers on the table from some powerhouse BCS programs. The Jayhawks will take all the help they can get at the moment and it starts with this defensive tackle.
What He Brings to the Table: Jake Waters is not nearly as flashy as the last quarterback that Kansas State had, but he is effective. He throws an accurate football and his footwork is as polished as you would like to see at this stage of his career. He has enough arm strength to get by and, while Wildcats fans won't see any huge runs from Waters anytime soon, he does move around the pocket well and buys himself extra time.
Why He Is the Most Important: Collin Klein is no longer an option at quarterback, meaning that Kansas State may be handed a dose of reality in 2013. With the position up for grabs and possibly the entire season in jeopardy, Waters could be the answer. He will be given every opportunity to start from day one once he arrives on campus and his JUCO experience helps give him a leg up on the competition.
What He Brings to the Table: Keith Ford is a complete running back. He can bounce off to the outside and break off a long touchdown run or he can run between the tackles and display a great deal of power by running over defenders. His combination of acceleration and strength makes him a dangerous runner in the open field and he can also help contribute with his above-average ball skills.
Why He Is the Most Important: Ford has the right build (5'11", 200 pounds) to become the workhorse running back for the Sooners. He can step onto the field and contribute right away for an offense that finished seventh in the Big 12 last year in rushing yards. Oklahoma needed to find that go-to player on the offensive side of the ball and Ford is just that.
What He Brings to the Table: What jumps out in Vincent Taylor's game is the quickness he possesses for a 6'3" 277 pound defensive tackle. Not only does he get off the ball well, but he covers a lot of ground and shows great pursuit on the ball carrier. He clogs up running lanes by demanding double teams and he also does a solid job of rushing the passer. Taylor is an active, relentless defender and should fare well at the next level.
Why He Is the Most Important: Oklahoma State has all of the offensive weapons a school will ever need. As long as Mike Gundy is coaching the team, the Cowboys will continue to score a boatload of points. What the team needs is to load up on defense and stop finishing towards the bottom in defensive performance. Taylor is a good centerpiece to build around to improve the numbers on defense.
What He Brings to the Table: Kyle Hicks began his high school career on the defensive side of the ball and then switched to running back. He is a shifty runner and, at 5'10", he can really be hard to find behind offensive linemen. He doesn't seem to be a burner, but has good acceleration and he can really put the moves on a defender in the open field. Hicks is very quick in and out of his cuts and he is also comfortable catching the ball out of the backfield.
Why He Is the Most Important: TCU finished eighth in the Big 12 last season in rushing yards. Due to injuries and inconsistent performances, the Horned Frogs have major concerns at the running back position. Hicks brings some stability to the backfield and adds a much-needed playmaker to the TCU offense.
What He Brings to the Table: As you can see in the video, Tyrone Swoopes has been drawing a lot of comparisons to former-Texas great Vince Young. He is a big kid at 6'4", 220 pounds and has those wide lengthy strides similar to Young. As a quarterback, his projected position at Texas, he has a strong arm and a great overall feel for the game. However, due to his overall athleticism and playmaking ability, Swoopes could play multiple positions on either side of the ball.
Why He Is the Most Important: Texas consistently recruits well defensively, but it has been a while since a dynamic offensive player has suited up for the Longhorns. Swoopes could become the starter for this program as early as 2014 and add a much-needed spark to the offense. Just remember what happened the last time this school had a dual-threat quarterback (2005 BCS Championship) leading the way.
What He Brings to the Table: Gary Moore is an intriguing prospect. Listed as a wide receiver, he will likely shift to the tight end spot due to his 6'6"-220 pound frame. He catches nearly everything in sight and shows above-average athleticism for somebody with his frame. Moore also appears to be the total package, really imposing his will in the blocking department and getting physical with opposing defenders downfield.
Why He Is the Most Important: There is a lot of potential with Moore and he has the ability to develop into the No. 1 option either at wide receiver or tight end. He may not be the highest-rated player for Texas Tech but, for a Red Raiders team that wasn't consistent offensively, he is the most valuable.
What He Brings to the Table: It may be way too early to compare Shelton Gibson to Tavon Austin, but that is who he reminds me of when watching him on tape. He has a small frame at 5'11", quick feet and is a nightmare trying to keep up with. He can line up anywhere on the field and make plays in the running game as well. Gibson shows potential in his route running and is a playmaker that you want to give the ball as many times as possible.
Why He Is the Most Important: West Virginia just lost every big name on the offensive side of the ball and will need guys that can step up and contribute immediately. Gibson is lightning in a bottle and should be able to help out the Mountaineers offensively and on special teams.