Oklahoma Sooners: Recruiting

Grading the class: 2011

February, 5, 2014
Oklahoma is poised to add several recruits into the fold on Wednesday with an eye on creating the foundation of a future championship squad. Yet, recruiting is an inexact science as some projected stars rise to meet those high expectations while others struggle to make a difference in the Big 12. Thus, it’s the perfect time to look back at OU’s past five recruiting classes. On Wednesday, we begin with a review of the Class of 2011 including recruits who exceeded expectations, recruits who were solid signees and ones who were complete busts.

There was a lot of hope for this class when these players signed in February 2011, but the class as a whole has let down the Sooners. The class was ranked No. 11 nationally by ESPN.com.

Transcendent figures

Linebacker Franklin Shannon: The No. 48 safety in the nation, Shannon made an immediate impact after a redshirt season. He forced his way onto the field as a redshirt freshman in 2012 and led OU in tackles as a sophomore in 2013. Shannon started in 15 games in his first two seasons and has 132 tackles, including 10.5 tackles for loss, heading into his junior year.


[+] EnlargeOklahoma
Jackson Laizure/Getty ImagesDefensive tackle Jordan Phillips is one of the few players who has panned out from Oklahoma's 2011 recruiting class.
Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips: Phillips was emerging as a major force in the middle of the Sooners defense before a back injury this season. The No. 119 player in the ESPN 150 in 2011, Phillips has the talent to exceed expectations if he returns to full health.

Defensive tackle Jordan Wade: He replaced the other Jordan after a grayshirt season, and then redshirted in 2012. As a redshirt freshman in 2013, Wade was one of the heroes of OU’s 11-win season as he stepped in for Phillips and held his own in the middle of OU’s defense. The No. 103 player in the ESPN 150, Wade has a bright future ahead of him.

Completely missed the mark

Offensive lineman Nathan Hughes: The No. 101 player in the ESPN 150, Hughes played several positions before leaving the program before the 2013 season.

Running back Brandon Williams: The No. 35 player in the ESPN 150, Williams made an impact as a freshman but elected to transfer to Texas A&M after his first season.

Running back Danzel Williams: The No. 64 player in the ESPN 150, Williams redshirted in 2011, then left the program before the 2013 season. He never made an impact for the Sooners.

Overall grade: D-

More than half of this class is no longer in the program, including both Williams, Hughes, receiver Trey Metoyer, receiver Kameel Jackson, quarterback Kendal Thompson, linebacker Kellen Jones and defensive back Bennett Okotcha. Only Shannon and a pair of Jordans kept this class from being an F in one of the worst classes of the Bob Stoops era.
As football season nears, most of the Big 12 sits in good position with their 2014 recruiting classes. But there is still plenty of room for improvement.

Here is a must-have recruit for each team. These prospects would go a long way toward improving their particular class.

S John Bonney (Houston/Lamar)
6-0, 182
ESPN 300 rank: N/A
Three-star defensive tackle D.J. Williams (Lufkin, Texas/Lufkin) expected big things to come out of his visit to the Texas Stampede on Saturday. He truly thought he was going to get an offer.

But Williams (6-foot-3, 270 pounds) never made it to Austin due to some last-minute scheduling issues. So now what?

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There was no reason to wait any longer. His household is filled with Oklahoma fans, his teammate’s name already sits upon the Sooners' commitment list and the Oklahoma offense is a good fit for any 6-foot-5 receiver with terrific athleticism.

Tulsa (Okla.) Union receiver Jeffery Mead committed to Oklahoma on Saturday, picking the Sooners over offers from LSU, Clemson, Texas A&M, California and others. Mead joins teammate Carson Meier on OU’s commitment list as he becomes the school’s 10th commitment for the Class of 2014.

“All the pieces of the puzzle were there,” Mead said. “So I completed the puzzle by committing.”

Mead’s family has always been OU fans and the opportunity to play for the Sooners proved too intriguing for the tall receiver to ignore any longer. Mead is close friends with Meier and plans to be roommates with the Sooners’ tight end commitment in Norman. It turns out that the Sooners went a long way to securing Mead’s commitment on May 22, the day Meier pledged to OU. Asked when he knew OU was the place for him, Mead’s response was telling.

“My friend committed and having someone there that you know you can trust played a big part in it,” Mead said. “I already liked everything else about it. Great fans, great players.”

Mead joins Dallis Todd (La Mirada, Calif./La Mirada) as receivers on OU’s commitment list. The opportunity to play for Sooners receivers coach Jay Norvell, who’s seen three of his receivers selected in the past two NFL drafts, was another key factor.

“You get vibes about people when you talk to them,” Mead said of Norvell. “You know who you’d like to play under. You have to trust your reasons and I feel like I can trust him.”

Recruiting is the lifeblood of every program in the country, and every conference has its strengths and weaknesses when it comes to landing top prospects. In the start of a weeklong series, we'll examine the BCS conferences plus Notre Dame to find each's strength, the biggest obstacle each faces and the overall view of the conference. The Big 12 is up Thursday.

Biggest obstacle: Texas is one of the top states in the country for producing recruits, which is great considering it's in the heart of the Big 12. The problem is that Big 12 teams not only have to fight one another for those prospects, but programs from around the country recruit Texas hard as well. For the 2013 recruiting cycle, the conference signed roughly 170 high school prospects, and 102 were out of Texas. Think about that: One state supplied 60 percent of the prospects signed within the entire Big 12. If you take newest member West Virginia -- which is not only new to the conference but also not a part of that region -- out of the mix, then a staggering 66 percent of the prospects signed among nine of the teams in the conference came out of just one state. Four of the teams in the conference are based in Texas, and while the states that the other six programs in the conference call home produce some good prospects as well, none can rely heavily on just in-state talent to build their classes from year to year. As a result, almost the entire conference often depends heavily on the talent from one state.

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Joshua Wariboko (Oklahoma City/Casady) stepped onto the campus of the University of Oklahoma with one goal in mind -- to show the Sooners he meant business.

The 2015 offensive line prospect participated in the first two days of the Sooners’ three-day camp at the beginning of June. OU offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh clearly liked what they saw from the 6-foot-4, 290-pound prospect, offering Wariboko right after the camp concluded.

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NORMAN, Okla. -- It’s a no-win scenario that college coaches are finding themselves facing more and more in recent years. Scholarship offers are going out earlier than ever, forcing coaches to make decisions on who they’re going to offer with much less information than they have had in the past.

“With all these early offers it’s hard to really get a true feel for a kid,” Oklahoma offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh said last week.

Jalin Barnett
Bob Przybylo/ESPNJalin Barnett is one of two in-state linemen the Sooners have offered for the Class of 2015.
Waiting to offer, however, is not a viable option. Since Bedenbaugh joined the OU program in February, he has offered five offensive linemen in the Class of 2015 -- Jalin Barnett (Lawton, Okla./Lawton), Martez Ivey (Apopka, Fla/Apopka), Maea Teuhema (Keller, Texas/Keller), Zach Rogers (Carrollton, Texas/Hebron) and Josh Wariboko (Oklahoma City/Casady). Undoubtedly it has been tough to make a thorough evaluation of those recruits, who have only been in high school two years. But when deciding when to send out early offers to various prospects, Bedenbaugh leans on his core beliefs to point him in the right direction.

"You just have to do what you believe in,” said Bedenbaugh, who can't comment about prospective recruits until they sign their National Letters of Intent. “You have to do research and you have to feel comfortable when you offer a kid that you’re going to take him. It doesn’t matter who else has offered him; if he has 100 offers but you don’t feel like he fits in then I wouldn’t offer him."

As the early offers pile up and the accolades come in for a recruit, college coaches such as Bedenbaugh have to deal with those outside forces impacting their pursuit of a player. The recruit could get frustrated by the lack of an offer or expect more attention because he’s highly regarded by recruiting experts.

Thus, Bedenbaugh focuses on putting together a class of offensive linemen that fit his system.

“In the grand scheme of things it really doesn’t matter who goes somewhere else,” Bedenbaugh said. “It matters the three to five that you get. You’re not taking the 30 top guys in the country, you’re taking the top three to five guys you think can fit into your system, can handle your coaching, can fit in your university and understand the beliefs of your head coach and position coach and what he stands for."

And those answers tend to emerge during thorough evaluations. But with the NCAA bylaws limiting interaction coaches and recruits, what can coaches like Bedenbaugh do to improve their evaluations? This is where social media -- which can be a blessing and a curse -- comes in handy.

“You can tell a lot about their personality,” Bedenbaugh said of social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. “You can tell what’s important to them, you can tell the character he has, how he’s been brought up, what he’s thinking about, all those things. You can follow them and everything they post is there forever.”

Horror stories of recruits losing scholarships and opportunities due to their decisions on social media have become disturbingly common in recent years, yet those same sites can be a valuable asset to college coaches yearning for information about prospects with whom they’ve had minimal contact.

“That’s been the biggest change over the past few years,” Bedenbaugh said. “You can see what they’re tweeting about, what they’re putting on Facebook and get a feel for where their mind is.”

OU decision was no-brainer for Austin 

February, 12, 2013
Lancaster (Texas) High cornerback Dakota Austin was at a loss. Cornerbacks he felt he had outshined at summer camps were getting the offers.

Cornerbacks who were asking him for advice on the position were committing to one top-tier program after another.

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Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops addressed several potential recruiting changes on the horizon during his news conference on Wednesday for national signing day. From early signing day to relaxed recruiting rules, Stoops weighed in on the changing landscape in college football.

Like several of his peers around the country, Stoops is not a big fan of the changes in recruiting rules, particularly Proposal 13-3, which removes restrictions on numerical limitations and modes of recruiting communication. Proposal 13-3 will become a NCAA bylaw on Aug. 1.

Starting with the Class of 2014, college coaches can call, text and communicate privately by any methods available, without restrictions. If a coach wants to call a recruit 10 times a day, he can.

“You will be able to connect with them more, but can you imagine the recruit in school when there are fifty schools trying to get ahold of him and fifty schools texting him?” Stoops wondered. “His phone is going to blow up and his girlfriend is never going to be able to get through to him. It is going to be different; we will see how it goes. I am not in favor of all of it entirely.”

NCAA president Mark Emmert has been focused on streamlining the rules with less regulation with the goal of focusing on the "major" problems as the NCAA tries to enforce its rulebook. Yet, it could open Pandora’s box for recruits who will be inundated with calls, emails and texts as rival coaches strive to out-recruit and outwork each other.

(Read full post)

Sooner Intel: Recruiting news and notes 

February, 8, 2013
Every Thursday, SoonerNation releases the Sooner Intel, a sneak peek inside Oklahoma Sooners football recruiting with news and notes on the latest happenings around the program. Talk about it on our forum. A few things discussed in this week's update:

  • Why one OU coach 'saved the day' with a signee
  • OU's final signee reflects on why he chose the Sooners
  • There's still one more 2013 recruit in play for the Sooners
  • The Sooners' newest 2014 commit wanted a program that won consistently
  • Class of 2014 targets talk more about OU junior day
  • Is OU on top for a 2014 athlete?
  • What happens now at quarterback for 2014?

Read the Sooner Intel after the jump.

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NORMAN, Okla. -- Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops was talking about Johnny Manziel as his team prepared to face Texas A&M’s Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback in the Cotton Bowl. Yet his words revealed the driving force behind the Sooners’ change in recruiting strategy at the quarterback position.

[+] EnlargeBlake Bell
Michael C. Johnson/US PresswireIf Blake Bell wins OU's quarterback job, expect more designed runs for the signal-caller.
“Sometimes the worst thing you can do is cover everybody,” Stoops said in December.

It’s every defensive coordinator’s nightmare to play great defense, have all receiving options covered, then watch helplessly as the quarterback scrambles for a big gain. It happened time and time again during the Cotton Bowl as Manziel set a Cotton Bowl record with 516 total yards against OU.

The Sooners are hoping they’re on the positive side of that equation this fall and beyond. With Blake Bell, Trevor Knight and Kendal Thompson, the Sooners have quarterbacks who can make defenses pay with their feet if they’ve run out of options through the air.

A glimpse at the skill set of OU’s quarterbacks has led to speculation that the Sooners offense would undergo drastic changes with a shift towards an offense that features the quarterback run game.

There are several signs that will not be the case, however. The Sooners signed four receivers on Wednesday, a sign that receiver-heavy formations are here to stay.

Most importantly, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel is very diligent on the recruiting trail in his search for athletic quarterbacks who are passers first. Mental makeup, intangibles, accuracy and arm strength sit alongside mobility on the Sooners list of priorities when recruiting quarterbacks.

(Read full post)

Video: Oklahoma signing day recap

February, 7, 2013

Jake Trotter and Brandon Chatmon give their analysis on the 2013 Sooners recruiting class

Roundtable: Grading Oklahoma's class 

February, 7, 2013
Every Thursday, the SoonerNation staff will answer a roundtable question about OU football. Leave a comment or talk about it in our "There's Only One" forum.

How would you grade Oklahoma's 2013 recruiting class based on the Sooners filling their needs?

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Sooner Snapshot: CB L.J. Moore 

February, 7, 2013
Leading up to signing day, SoonerNation will take a closer look at the Class of 2013 prospects currently committed to Oklahoma. The in-depth analysis pieces will take a look at the ranking, estimated year of impact and potential role of each future Sooner.

Vitals: Cornerback L.J. Moore (Fresno, Calif./Central East) | 6-foot, 164 pounds

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Sooner Snapshot: OL Dionte Savage 

February, 7, 2013
SoonerNation takes a closer look at the Class of 2013 prospects committed to Oklahoma. The in-depth analysis pieces will take a look at the ranking, estimated year of impact and potential role of each future Sooner.

Vitals: Guard Dionte Savage (Flint, Mich./Arizona Western) | 6-foot-5, 340 pounds

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Stoops, Players Want To Effect Change
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops sits down with Gene Wojciechowski to discuss his team's stand against racism.