Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Breaking down the board: Linebacker
By Brandon Chatmon
Each week, "Breaking down the board" will take a deeper, position-by-position look at the prospects Oklahoma is target. SoonerNation will rank five players at each position 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's simply our ranking list compiled of the recruits at the position who have expressed legitimate interest in the Sooners and who could be the best fits for OU’s system. Today we look at Oklahoma's linebacker board:
ESPN 150 linebacker Mike Mitchell would be a good fit for the Sooners.
Rankings: No. 28 linebacker, No. 54 in Midlands, No. 17 in Texas
ESPN.com grade: 81, four-star recruit.
How he’d fit: Davis is a very good fit for the Sooners defense. He’s very similar to current Sooner linebackers Corey Nelson and Frank Shannon in terms of body type and skill set. He’s comfortable in space yet willing to play with aggression and physicality. He’s the type of versatile linebacker the Sooners should be aiming to sign.
Why he’s No. 1: He’s versatile and comfortable in space. He can excel in the running game and passing game which is an unique skill set and makes him extremely valuable, particularly with the different offenses the Sooners face each season. He’s been solid to Baylor throughout his senior season but OU needs to keep making him say “No.” until signing day.
Bob Przybylo's take: Forty-eight hours. That’s all it was. Davis committed to Baylor 48 hours before OU offered Davis. So far, that’s all it’s taken. Davis has not given one indication he is backing down from his Bears commitment despite the fact Tim Kish will not stop talking with Davis. He understands it’s a part of Kish’s job, but Davis has also made it clear Waco, Texas, should be his future home.
Rankings: No. 121 in the ESPN150, No. 10 linebacker, No. 19 in Midlands, No. 17 in Texas
ESPN.com grade: 84, four-star recruit.
How he’d fit: He’d be a terrific fit for what the Sooners would like to do. His combination of size, speed and physicality would help the Sooners defense handle the various offenses in the Big 12. He can make plays sideline to sideline and is very aggressive and physical. He’s very versatile in an era when versatility is critical, particularly at the linebacker position.
Why he’s No. 2: He’s a very good fit for what OU needs at linebacker. He has size, speed and versatility and would be able to help the Sooners immediately if he decided to play college football in Norman. Even though the Sooners appear to be a long shot at this point, they need to put the full-court press on Mitchell.
Bob Przybylo's take: OU feels like it’s on the outside looking in at this point. After an unofficial visit to campus in July, the Mitchell family has not made another trip to Norman and didn’t make an expected trip to Dallas for the Red River Rivalry. The leader in the clubhouse appears to be Ohio State, especially coming off a positive in-home visit. If Mitchell visits Columbus, Ohio, anytime soon, that could wrap it up.
How he’d fit: Evans might eventually be a better fit at defensive end but he’s an versatile, athletic playmaker. He has the size to make plays in the running game and the athleticism to make plays in the passing game while being very comfortable in space. He’d could be a good fit at linebacker.
Why he’s No. 3: Even though he recently committed to the Sooners, he remains on the list because he may or may not end up at linebacker. Thus, if OU can land Mitchell or Davis, it could open up the possibility of moving Evans to a different position. If not, he could be the best available option to fill a need at the linebacker position in Norman. Regardless, Evans can play linebacker at OU because comfortable in space and versatile as a defender. Both attributes can be difficult to find in linebackers yet are critical attributes to have success in the Big 12. He’s not higher because Mitchell and Davis are a little more aggressive and physical while bringing similar versatility.
Bob Przybylo's take: Evans played his way into an offer with an outstanding senior season. He has seen every OU home game and has been in constant contact with Tim Kish throughout this season. All that everybody was waiting for was the offer, which came last weekend. And the commitment didn’t take that much longer as Evans officially pulled the trigger Tuesday night. He wanted to wait, but in the end, he knew he couldn’t. His dad is a Sooner, and he wants to be one, too.
Stay up to date on Oklahoma's 2013 commits, targets and offers. Tracker: Defense | Offense
Rankings: No. 29 linebacker, No. 55 in Midlands, No. 47 in Texas
ESPN.com grade: 81, four-star recruit.
How he’d fit: Even though he doesn’t even boast an OU offer, Whitmill is a good fit for the Sooners defense. He’s comfortable in space, versatile and can tackle in the open field. Those are traits that have become high priorities for OU linebacker prospects.
Why he’s No. 4: He doesn’t have an offer yet and he could be solidly locked into becoming a Horned Frog. Nonetheless, he brings versatility, toughness and athleticism to the table, making him a prospect the Sooners should pursue in the final months.
Bob Przybylo's take: Whitmill was somebody OU showed initial interest in before backing off. A solid prospect, the Sooners haven’t tried to make any progress with Whitmill in the last several months. No reason to think OU can come in late and make him switch from the Horned Frogs.
Rankings: No. 291 in the ESPN300, No. 12 linebacker, No. 37 in Southeast, No. 13 in Virginia
ESPN.com grade: 82, four-star recruit.
How he’d fit: Levenberry would fit as a good middle linebacker in OU’s system. He would bring good size, strength and the ability to make plays in the running game. Pass coverage isn’t his forte so he’d have to improve in that area to be an every-down linebacker for the Sooners but he has the skills and physical nature to be a impact player.
Why he’s No. 5: He’s not the ideal fit for what the Sooners are trying to do defensively and he’ll have to improve as a pass defender to excel in the Big 12. Nonetheless, he is very talented and should be a impact linebacker in college.
Bob Przybylo's take: And the plot thickens. With Mark Stoops leaving Florida State to become the head coach at Kentucky, what does that mean for Levenberry, an ESPN 300 recruit committed to the Seminoles? Levenberry had a good time on his OU official visit, but it didn’t look like the Sooners had made a huge dent. With the coaching change, the possibility is a lot more real than it was before.
Overall summary: The Sooners already have three potential linebacker commitments in Evans, Jordan Mastrogiovanni (Dallas/Jesuit) and Dominique Alexander (Tulsa, Okla./Booker T. Washington) but they could add another linebacker prospect to the fold, particularly if Evans or Alexander ends up at a different position. Versatility has become critical at the linebacker position so OU needs to be very diligent in its evaluation of linebacker prospects in this class. Landing Davis or Mitchell would be a terrific finish to OU’s linebacker class and give the Sooners options if they believe Evans or Alexander (defensive back) could excel at a different position.