- Brandon Chatmon, ESPN Staff Writer
Each week, Breaking down the board will take a deeper, position-by-position look at the prospects the Oklahoma football program is looking to land with the hope of filling its roster with elite playmakers. This week, SoonerNation ranks five players with offers in the Class of 2014, with No. 1 being the player who should be OU’s top priority of the five recruits listed.
To be clear, this ranking has nothing to do with the Sooners actual recruiting board/priority list. It simply is our ranking list compiled of the recruits at the position who have expressed legitimate interest in the Sooners (or vice versa) and who could be the best fits for OU’s system.
1. Defensive end Da’Shawn Hand, Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge
Measurables: 6-foot-4, 245 pounds, 4.81 in 40-yard dash
Rankings: ESPN Watch List member
Current offers: Oklahoma, Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Ohio State, USC and others.
He’s No. 1 because... Hand moves like a much smaller man. He has a athletic ability to play defensive end but could put on some weight and make the move inside to defensive tackle. He recently named the Sooners among his top 10, so OU is in the mix to land this elite prospect. It’s extremely difficult to find playmakers along the defensive line, so Hand should be priority No. 1.
Bob Przybylo's take: Hand is going to end up being one of the most sought-after prospects in the class. Already invited to The Opening, the Sooners have been able to make his top 10. Hand was also one of OU’s first 2014 offers, so he has definitely been on the radar. There hasn’t been any talk about a potential visit to Norman at this juncture, though.
2. Defensive end/linebacker Cameron Hampton, Dallas/Carter
Measurables: 6-foot-2, 215 pounds
Rankings: ESPN Watch List
Current offers: OU, LSU, Texas, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Texas A&M, Clemson and others.
He’s No. 2 because... he’s versatile. Hampton could play linebacker or defensive end at the next level and brings the size and athleticism to project to either position. Versatility is the most important asset in a player and Hampton would be able to make plays around the line of scrimmage while also being comfortable in space. While you wouldn’t want to ask him to overpower people, he should become a playmaker thanks to his acceleration and quickness for his size.
Bob Przybylo's take: OU fans have been skeptical about Tim Kish regarding 2013 linebackers, but Kish has made a big imprint on 2014 prospects. Kish’s biggest impact has been on Hampton, who openly admitted he wanted OU to beat Texas in October and lists the Sooners as his favorite. Linebacker has been an issue for OU and this would be a great start.
3. Cornerback Nick Watkins, Dallas/Bishop Dunne
Measurables: 6-foot-1, 180 pounds
Rankings: ESPN Watch List
Current offers: OU, Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Michigan, Texas, Ohio State, Texas A&M and others.
He’s No. 3 because... he’s a terrific athlete with superb ball skills. Watkins brings excellent size to the cornerback position and has the athleticism to become a quality coverage corner. In Mike Stoops’ defense, quality cornerbacks are critical, and Watkins fits the mold.
Bob Przybylo's take: Heck, you could put one of several Texas defensive backs here. The 2014 defensive back crop at Texas is incredible, but Watkins might be OU’s best bet. He visited OU for the Sooners' home game against Notre Dame and will definitely be one of the top prospects in Texas. The key will be for OU to stay persistent with Watkins, who is likely to see offer after offer roll in.
4. Defensive back Steven Parker, Jenks, Okla./Jenks
Measurables: 6-foot-2, 175 pounds
Current offers: OU, Oklahoma State, Alabama
He’s No. 4 because... he brings versatility with the size of a safety combined with the skills and competitiveness of a cornerback. His playmaking ability, athleticism and size combine to make a unique prospect. Additionally, he’s a local prospect who has shown a lot of interest in the Sooners. It’s important for OU to land in-state talents like Parker.
Bob Przybylo's take: Parker certainly feels like a "when he commits" and not an "if he commits." Two times Parker has considered giving his pledge to the Sooners. He is still waiting around, but with Jenks being a constant presence at OU and Parker’s developing relationship with Mike Stoops, OU is in the driver’s seat. And honestly, it’s not all that close right now.
5. Defensive lineman Deondre Clark, Oklahoma City, Okla./Douglass
Measurables: 6-foot-4, 235 pounds
Rankings: ESPN Watch List
Current offers: OU, LSU, Oklahoma State, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Baylor and others.
He’s No. 5 because... Clark is one of the most physically gifted players in the Class of 2014. He brings size, strength and explosiveness to the table. And it is important for the Sooners to keep SEC schools from coming into Oklahoma and stealing elite defensive line prospects. When those players come around locally, OU must find a way to land them.
Bob Przybylo's take: The Sooners couldn’t land his older brother, ESPN 100 point guard Stevie, but that shouldn’t play a role in the recruitment of Deondre. He has been a big LSU fan for a long time, but the Tigers are nowhere close to being called a big favorite. Deondre did see OU play two times this season and said he is slowly starting to develop a good relationship with the coaching staff.
Overall summary: The Sooners need playmakers along the defensive line and in the secondary. Those two groups have emerged as centerpiece positions in Mike Stoops' defense. There couldn’t be a better time for Clark and Parker to emerge as top prospects and the Sooners should have a better feel for the type of defense they are looking to run and the type of player who fits well in their system. Even if OU doesn’t land anyone on this list, there remain quality prospects at those positions if the Sooners act immediately. Unfortunately, they have to finish up their 2013 class, which could put them behind the eight ball heading into the next recruiting cycle.
9hMax Olson and Jake Trotter