- 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 offensive 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. Offensive lineman Braden Smith, Olathe, Kan./Olathe
Measurables: 6-foot-6, 265 pounds
Rankings: ESPN Watch List member
Current offers: Oklahoma, Texas, Michigan, Ohio State, Stanford, Texas A&M, Notre Dame and others.
He’s No. 1 because... Smith has the physical ability to become a quality tackle and multi-year starter at any program he chooses. He has high upside, good athleticism and he could gain additional weight early in his career. The Sooners are always looking for quality offensive linemen, and Smith would be a terrific addition to the program.
Bob Przybylo’s take: Kansas isn’t exactly a hotbed of recruiting, but the Sooners were quick to notice how good Smith is. Smith was one of only two sophomores invited to OU’s junior day in February, and he was also in attendance for OU’s game against Notre Dame. Offensive tackle has been a pain for the 2013 class. Building such an early relationship with Smith might help the Sooners as they look toward 2014.
2. Offensive lineman Andy Bauer, St. Louis, Mo./DeSmet
Measurables: 6-foot-6, 304 pounds
Rankings: ESPN Watch List
Current offers: OU, Alabama, LSU, Ohio State, Florida, Florida State, Notre Dame, Michigan and others.
He’s No. 2 because... the Sooners might have a better case convincing Smith to stay in the Big 12 region than pulling Bauer out of SEC country. Talent-wise, the duo are similar. Much like Smith, Bauer could be an impact player early in his career. Although he has the ability to play tackle, he could project better at guard. Regardless, he could develop into a difference maker and anchor along the offensive line during his collegiate career.
Bob Przybylo’s take: So what role will Durron Neal play into things? Bauer and Neal were tight during their time together at St. Louis DeSmet Jesuit. Bauer took an unofficial to OU with Neal during Neal’s recruitment. A lot of top schools are going to be after Bauer, so it helps OU got in the door early. No matter what happens, though, it won’t be an easy one to win.
3. Tight end Koda Martin, Manvel, Texas/Manvel
Measurables: 6-foot-6, 245 pounds
Rankings: ESPN Watch List
Current offers: OU, UCLA, Baylor, Colorado State and others.
He’s No. 3 because... Martin has unusual athleticism for his size. He has the upside to develop into a balanced tight end at the collegiate level, which can be hard to find in this era of spread offenses. Martin’s versatility makes him a valuable prospect for a Sooners program in dire need of help at tight end.
Bob Przybylo’s take: Martin saw two OU games this season and hasn’t been turned off. Hey, that should be enough. All kidding aside, it does say something that he hasn’t been turned off by the Sooners despite the lack of tight end usage right now. Martin is also teammates with OU pledge Austin Bennett and the Bennett and Martin families are very good friends, having made one of those trips together during the fall.
4. Receiver K.D. Cannon, Mount Pleasant, Texas/Mount Pleasant
Measurables: 6-foot-1, 165 pounds
Current offers: OU, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor, TCU, West Virginia and others
He’s No. 4 because... He brings explosiveness and big play ability to the receiver position. He’s a playmaker who is just tapping his overall potential. He needs to gain weight and improve his route running, but his elite physical ability is undeniable. Cannon should be a high priority for receivers coach Jay Norvell based on his terrific long-term upside.
Bob Przybylo’s take: Cannon exploded onto the national scene following a spectacular showing at OU’s camp in June. Cannon saw OU against Texas and Notre Dame and said OU receivers coach Jay Norvell is one of the coaches he talks to the most. A case could be made for Nick Alexander (Lancaster, Texas/Lancaster) is also being a main priority. If the Sooners can land at least one of these Texas studs, they will be doing just fine.
5. Running back Nathan Starks, Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman
Measurables: 5-foot-11, 200 pounds
Rankings: ESPN Watch List
Current offers: OU, Notre Dame, Texas, UCLA, Utah, Nebraska
He’s No. 5 because... despite the Sooners depth at the running back position, it’s hard to pass on a talent like Starks, particularly when he has been candid about his interest in OU. He’s a balanced, three-down running back in the mold of Damien Williams and has big-play ability. Simply put, Starks has to be a priority for the Class of 2014. He’s just too talented not to be.
Bob Przybylo’s take: The Sooners cannot let this one get away. If ever there was a national prospect not in OU’s backyard that Sooners appear to have the lead for, it’s Starks. Las Vegas Bishop Gorman has been kind to OU in the past, and Starks has admitted to having OU as his favorite school for a long time. OU running backs coach Cale Gundy talks to him at least once a week. He is crucial because it would show the Sooners are taking care of business with recruits they should be.
Overall summary: The Sooners need to hit the offensive line heavily. While Bauer and Smith top the list, there are several other offensive linemen who should emerge as priorities. And offensive line should be the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 priority in the next recruiting cycle. After taking care of the trenches, OU is in position to pick and choose at the skill positions while hotly pursuing the elite prospects at quarterback, running back and receiver.
4dBrandon Chatmon and Jake Trotter