To start of the series we will be looking at the secondary as a whole rather than cornerbacks and safeties separately as many of the new players could wide up at corner or safety or see time at both. When it comes to recruits listed as athletes, I will list them with the position that it seems most likely they will try out first, though many may very well end up elsewhere on the field before their careers are over. All the rankings were taken from 247 Sports' composite rankings and all the measurements were obtained at 247 Sports as well. Also, unless the recruit as already been dismissed from the program or something along those lines, I am going to assume everyone that signed will make it through all the academic and other eligibility requirements and be playing in the fall. Without further ado, let's start talking about the 2014 recruits each team brought in and how West Virginia's recruiting efforts compare.
Three cornerbacks and a safety were brought in to help provide more depth to the secondary. Chris Sanders, a 6'1" JUCO corner from Arizona who originally played for UGA out of high school, is the highest rated of their commitments with a 0.8393 composite ranking on 247Sports and has ideal height measurements, however the rest of the recruiting class, while skilled, looks to be around or under 5'10". That certainly doesn't mean they can't play ball, but the height of some of the Big 12 receivers (DGB, when eligible, will have eight inches on most of these guys) could pose problems, particularly during jump balls and red-zone situations. I have a feeling that Davion Hall, a 0.9753 rated ATH, will end up on offense, but his size and skills could make him a force in the secondary if he was tried out on defense.
The Cyclones went heavy on DB's this year, raking in 7 players that could potentially see the field on there secondary. Mike Johnson is a taller CB recruit that looks like he could make some plays at ISU. Devron Moore is a good looking safety product that enrolled early giving him great odds to be on the field in some manner during the season. Depending on where he ends up, ATH Orion Salters could also see time at corner or safety and has great speed. Overall, ISU went for depth with their recruiting, something that you can definitely never have too much of in the Big 12.
With a few athletes that may surprise, the Kansas commit list for cornerbacks and safety could have some room to change but it looks like they brought in about 5 prospects that could help their secondary. Derrick Neal, a 3 star ATH, looks to be the best of the bunch on paper and could play safety or corner depending on where they wanted him, but corner is most likely it seems.
The theme for the recruiting class was quality over quantity, with Snyder locking down 4 four quality recruits, made up of 2 cornerbacks, one safety, and an athlete that could play either spot. Danzel McDaniel is the name to look out for in this bunch. The 6'2" junior college cornerback is a 3 star, 0.8560 rated, prospect who brings aggressive ball skills and tackling abilities along with rare size at the position.
The Sooners brought in three safeties and a two cornerbacks and on paper, it might just be the best of the Big 12. Headlining the group is Steven Parker, a four star safety prospect, who looks like an incredibly well-rounded player in his film and could see immediate playing time at the very least on special teams. The rest of the group is tall and fast and highly recruited, which could help make their secondary a force in the Big 12.
A very nice haul of two cornerbacks, two safeties, and an athlete, this group has a lot of balance to it. I also really do like Chris Hardeman, their highest rated commit of the five. He is a bit undersized at 5'8", but he plays the corner position very aggressively and isn't afraid to lower his shoulder. I think he will be a playmaker in college at some point, potentially sometime next season as he develops. Ramon Richards is listed as an ATH, but I think he could end up at S and his background as a QB could help him back there. All in all, this is a good group and has a couple players that could be immediate contributors in the fall.
Depth is important, and with three cornerbacks and three safeties coming in to bolster what they already have, TCU should have plenty of that. Kenny Iloka looks like a monster at safety and has a 0.8625 composite ranking to back that up. He also got on campus early and the extra time with the playbook and in a college weight room should be a real boon. TCU also has an decent ATH in Ty Summers, but it remains to be seen where he will finally end up.
With only 3 recruits, Texas went for quality over quantity this time around, and it certainly looks to have worked. John Bonney and Jermaine Roberts look like they could be real contributors on the next level, and Jason Hall is a good player as well. While I'm not sure how immediate their contributions will be aside from special teams plays, they all certainly have the talent to excel eventually while some more experienced current players keep an eye on things for now.
TTU is clearly looking for some immediate upgrades to their secondary and it showed when they signed four safeties and three cornerbacks in the 2014 recruiting cycle. One of those corners, and potentially the best of the bunch, Nigel Bethel has already enrolled early and subsequently been dismissed from the school after a physical altercation. Junior college cornerback Josh Keys has great size and may be able to make an early impact, but losing Bethel to his own actions still hurts this group a lot. There is enough players coming in that it should immediately increase the level of competition which will help, but it remains to be seen if that will translate to on the field results. EDIT: Nigel Bethel was subsequently reinstated by TTU and will serve a three game suspension for his role in the incident. This significantly improves TTU's secondary as Bethel could be a first year impact player.
Overall this is probably the area that WVU had the most success recruiting, largely due to the efforts of new DC Tony Gibson. Gibson convinced Dravon Henry, four star ATH, to choose WVU over a number of other programs and he will be an immediate contributor on special teams and likely see time at corner and safety until they find the best fit for him. Also keep your eye out for Jaylon Myers, listed a corner but with the ability to play safety as well. His film is pretty impressive, including an insane backwards jumping one-handed interception. One more safety and corner each round out the group, though West Virginia has a couple athletes that could end up trying out that part of the field at one point or another.
The Bottom Line
On paper, Oklahoma and West Virginia have the best groups in my opinion, though KSU and OSU brought in very strong classes as well. I think in the long run Oklahoma's group might have the most impact, but I think next fall the most immediate contributors will be found in WVU's class. Not only is the talent there, a lack of quality depth in the secondary combined with more of a move to the traditional 3-3-5 leaves the door open for a lot of guys to come in and try and make a real impact. It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out, but West Virginia stacks up very well to the rest of the Big 12 and hopefully the improved recruiting will help bring the Mountaineer secondary back being a feared force in their conference once again.