Big 12 champion Oklahoma adds pair of 4-star defenders

The Associated Press - February 5, 2020 7:26 pm

STEPHEN HAWKINS

AP Sports Writer (AP) – Big 12 champion Oklahoma got the signatures of a pair of four-star defenders, and new Baylor coach Dave Aranda signed a two-sport player that plans to throw and hit for the Bears.

While Big 12 teams were like most Power Five schools in securing most of their classes during the early signing period about seven weeks ago, there were still a few spots to fill Wednesday on what used to be the biggest recruiting day.

The Sooners, who in December signed 21 players after their fifth Big 12 title in a row and before their fourth College Football Playoff appearance, added defensive end Reggie Grimes from Tennessee and cornerback Joshua Eaton from Houston to their 2020 class.

“We’re very excited to add Josh and Reggie to an already outstanding group of signees,” Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said. “They’re two very talented defensive players. We can’t wait for them to join ‘Speed D’ and our championship program.”

Grimes, ranked by ESPN as the top player from Tennessee and 31st nationally, is the highest-rated signee in Oklahoma’s signing class. He had been verbally committed to the Sooners before the early signing period, but didn’t make it official until Wednesday.

Eaton, who was verbally committed to Texas until last October, was ranked by Rivals as the No. 44 prospect in the state of Texas.

Aranda has been on the job in Waco, Texas, for only three weeks after Matt Rhule’s departure from the Big 12 runner-up Bears for the NFL. The first-time head coach got an assist from Baylor baseball coach Steve Rodriguez for one of his five signees.

Quarterback Blake Shapen is also a top shortstop prospect from Evangel Christian Academy in Shreveport, Louisiana. The nephew of pro golfer Hal Sutton also plans to play baseball for the Bears.

“What I love about that, No. 1, is just the team effort in recruiting,” said Aranda, the defensive coordinator for national champion LSU before replacing Rhule. “No. 2, just the athletic potential for someone that plays two sports and just the dedication and pure athleticism it takes. So that’s a win-win for us. I’m so proud and happy with be associated with coach Rodriguez and his staff. They really hit it out of the park and were a big, big help in landing Blake.”

RANKING THE CLASSES

Even though Texas lost out Wednesday on a big instate cornerback recruit who picked Missouri, the Longhorns had the Big 12’s highest-ranked recruiting class by 247Sports. Texas was ninth nationally, and Oklahoma 11th.

TCU was listed third among Big 12 teams by 247Sports, followed by West Virginia, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Texas Tech, Kansas State, Baylor and Kansas.

West Virginia and Iowa State each added only one signee Wednesday, while Oklahoma State’s three included two junior college transfers.

SOUTHERN ROOTS

West Virginia coach Neal Brown was previously head coach at Troy for three seasons, after an earlier four-season stint as an assistant at the Alabama school and two years as an SEC assistant for Kentucky in his home state.

Both players signed by the Mountaineers on Wednesday came from the South. joining 18 earlier signees.

Eddie Watkins will fill a need in a hybrid linebacker position on defense that involves both pass rushing off the edge and dropping back in coverage. The 6-foot-4 Watkins had 66 tackles and 10 sacks playing outside linebacker and defensive end at Hillcrest High in Evergreen, Alabama.

Running back A’Varius Sparrow is a speedy 2,000-yard rusher from Orlando, Florida.

LONE STAR STATE

Aranda and his staff visited about 270 Texas high schools in a 10-day period, though none of the five players Baylor added Wednesday were from the Lone Star State.

“Having the opportunity to meet with coaches and see some of the top talent out in the state, see some of the kids coming up here in the years to come, was a benefit to us,” Aranda said.

Rhule had signed 12 players in December, and several of them were able to make an additional visit to campus to meet the new coaches.

MILES AHEAD

Second-year Kansas coach Les Miles announced the signing of 11 more players Wednesday, after 19 in the early signing period. All 30 players will arrive on campus as freshmen.

BIG WILDCATS

After 23 signees in December, Kansas State’s three signees Wednesday included two high school offensive linemen and a junior college transfer defensive end from California.

One of the offensive linemen is the son of a Kansas State deputy AD and had initially been expected to delay his enrollment and be part of a future signing class.

___

AP Sports Writer Jim Vertuno in Austin, Texas, and John Raby in Charleston, West Virginia, contributed to this report.

 

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