Conference breakdown: Baylor rolls; Arkansas continues to recover
After landing WR Vequan Jones, Baylor is in position to land other touted targets
Illinois could add a number of top recruits following the pledge of QB Aaron Bailey
Arkansas secured its first 2013 commitment since the firing of coach Bobby Petrino
After another week of 2013 recruiting happenings, Rivals recaps the top storylines from each BCS conference.
It's shaping up to be another big haul for Clemson, with seven prospects already committed in the 2013 class. That number could soon be growing. Offensive lineman Brandon Kublanow lists the Tigers among his top three (with Georgia and Florida), while defensive tackle Greg Gilmore and running back Tyshon Dye include the program among their top four. Clemson is also making a push for No. 1 overall recruit Robert Nkemdiche, and seems to be in great position with several receiving targets, including Demarcus Robinson out of Fort Valley (Ga.) Peach County.
Across the conference, North Carolina is doing an excellent job at becoming relevant in its home state. After a major disappointment last year -- almost every touted local prospect left for an out-of-state program -- the Tar Heels have already secured six in-state pledges for the 2013 cycle. That crop is headlined by Charlotte (N.C.) Mallard Creek four-star cornerback Brian Walker and could become even stronger with the addition of a quarterback: Connor Mitch, Anthony Jennings and John O'Korn are among those being pursued by Larry Fedora and Co.
While Louisville has clearly taken the Big East recruiting lead, landing seven prospects to date, no school in the conference has landed a four-star commit. Two schools (Syracuse and Temple) are still without a verbal. Can anyone land an elusive prized prospect?
The program to keep an eye on moving forward is Pittsburgh. The Panthers plan to host an invite-only regional event for offensive lineman Dorian Johnson, quarterback Chavas Rawlins and linebacker Hodari Christian, among other players. New coach Paul Chryst already boasts two offensive line commitments, but the position is a major area of need. Johnson is also a highly sought after local product: He visited Penn State's spring game and is heavily considering the Nittany Lions.
With Rivals250 quarterback Aaron Bailey firmly in the fold, Illinois now has the marquee name around which to build its class. The importance of his verbal can't be overstated. In fact, it's already paying dividends: Crete (Ill.) Monee wideout Laquon Treadwell is paying increased attention to the Illini, while Belleville (Ill.) Althoff Catholic defensive tackle Merrick Jackson, Trotwood (Ohio) Madison defensive end Jarrod Clements and Galena (Ohio) Olentangy offensive lineman Austin Schmidt all decided to pledge last week.
In the Legends Division, Nebraska recently offered Sioux Falls (S.D.) Washington athlete Nathan Gerry. After his breakout performance at the All-Nebraska Combine, Gerry is being heavily recruited by Iowa, Iowa State and Minnesota, among others.
Baylor pulled off a major coup in March, landing Wylie (Texas) East wide receiver Vequan Jones. Now, the Bears are looking to add to their seven-player class. Art Briles and Co. are in good shape with several top targets, and could also benefit from the transfer of former Nebraska running back Aaron Green, who has several family ties to Baylor.
Texas doesn't have many outstanding offers, as 14 prospects (11 rated four-stars or higher) have already pledged in its class. But the Longhorns are in the market for an all-purpose back, and, in turn, are making a push for Desoto (Texas) speedster Dontre Wilson. Wilson is currently enamored with Chip Kelly and Oregon, making his recruitment especially intriguing as his senior season approaches.
Arizona State first-year coach Todd Graham has done a terrific job of targeting 2013 in-state prospects, an approach that could certainly pay off come National Signing Day. But another trend to keep an eye on is his pursuit of 2014 prospects. Tucson (Ariz.) Sabino offensive lineman Andrew Mike just received an offer from the Sun Devils, while Casey Tucker and Jordan Poland also hold early offers.
Oregon has been relatively quiet so far this year, but that's not uncommon for a program that prefers to offer recruits later in the cycle. Five-star running back Thomas Tyner remains a huge get, and defensive end Eddie Vanderdoes had a great time during his visit. But keep in mind: Washington is making a run at some top names and recruiting competition is building throughout the conference.
With backup Phillip Sims transferring to Virginia, the quarterback situation at Alabama is suddenly more appealing to recruits. One signal-caller to watch is Raleigh (N.C.) Wakefield's Connor Mitch. He seems to be SEC-bound (he's also heavily weighing offers to South Carolina and LSU) and, depending on how the next few months unfold, could provide Nick Saban with his eventual quarterback of the future.
In Arkansas, doom and gloom have finally given way to tepid optimism. Not long after Bobby Petrino's firing, both of the program's 2013 verbals promptly decommitted. But two weeks ago, the Razorbacks locked up three-star running back Kaleb Blanchard and wowed many other prospects with their record-breaking attendance (45,000 fans) at the team's annual spring game. Arkansas also appears to be in excellent shape with a pair of Fayetteville products: quarterback Austin Allen and outside linebacker Brooks Ellis.
For more recruiting coverage, visit the Rivals.com football recruiting hub.
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