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Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Best Sooners evaluations since 2006

By Brandon Chatmon

Oklahoma has done a terrific job of evaluation since 2006. The 2010 NFL Draft proved the Sooners' ability to evaluate, recruit and develop players, as Sam Bradford, Gerald McCoy and Trent Williams, three of the top four selections, spent their college careers in crimson and cream. Some recruits are no-brainers, guys who any program would love to have on its roster, while others bring some level of uncertainty. Here are the top five evaluations by the Sooners since ESPN.com began thorough evaluation and ranking of recruits in 2006.

Sam Bradford
Oklahoma saw something in 2008 Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford early, recruiting him prior to his junior year of high school.
1. Quarterback Sam Bradford, Class of 2006: The former Oklahoma City (Okla.) Putnam City North standout wasn’t highly recruited out of high school. A multi-sport star, Bradford excelled at football, basketball and golf in high school before picking the Sooners over offers from Texas Tech, Iowa State and others.

OU career: Bradford won the 2008 Heisman Trophy during a record-setting season which included 4,720 passing yards and 50 touchdowns. He finished his career with 8.403 passing yards, 88 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Bradford was the No. 1 overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft.

ESPN.com scouts take out of HS: “Bradford is an intelligent passer with great field awareness. He is a proven winner and a leader. He is a tall, lanky player with excellent field vision. A very good prospect. He is very productive and makes plays with his arm.”

Bradford is No. 1 because.... the Sooners recognized his talent and upside early and strongly pursued him in the spring of his junior year. Other programs such as Michigan were starting to recognize his talent, but OU locked him up and secured the future star before other schools even had the chance to try to lure him out of state.

2. Safety Quinton Carter, Class of 2006: An athletic talent out of North Las Vegas (Nev.) Cheyenne, Carter could have played several positions in college. He picked the Sooners over Oregon State, Fresno State, UNLV and others.

OU career: Carter became OU’s 151st All-American as a senior in 2010 and finished his career with 221 tackles and eight interceptions. He started 29 of 44 games at safety before being selected in the fourth round of 2011 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos.

ESPN.com scouts take out of HS: “Carter is a sleek, fast athlete playing quarterback, but his skills lead us to believe that he will end up as a safety at the Division I level. As with most "athletes", projecting how they will perform at another position is not an exact science, but Carter is the type of player that you just want to get on campus.”

Carter is No. 2 because.... the Sooners projected him to develop into an elite safety and he did. He didn't have a lengthy list of offers out of high school yet he combined his ball skills and overall fluidity with toughness to become a multi-year starter and eventual NFL draft pick.

3. Center/guard Gabe Ikard, Class of 2009: The former Oklahoma City (Okla.) Bishop McGuinness standout was recruited as a tight end by some schools and as a defensive end by others. He picked OU over Stanford, Notre Dame and others.

OU career: A starter since his redshirt freshman year, Ikard was recently named All-Big 12 first team for the second straight year. He’s been an anchor along the offensive line for the past three seasons.

ESPN.com scouts take out of HS: “Ikard is a good football player and it is tough not to like him. He comes across as a smart, hard working, and productive player. Ikard is a good well-rounded prospect. He is a good athlete, but a better football player. He is a kid that can help make a team better.”

Ikard is No. 3 because.... he is a terrific example of the Sooners being able to project a player's upside. He showed several good traits as a recruit who played tight end and defensive end in high school, but didn't display the elite athleticism required to excel at either position. Yet the coaching staff recognized his intelligence, competitiveness, toughness and leadership abilities could translate perfectly to the offensive line.

4. Linebacker Travis Lewis, Class of 2007: Schools weren’t breaking down the door to get at Lewis, who was a raw athlete with various long-term projections out of San Antonio (Texas) Robert E. Lee. He picked OU over Nebraska and had offers from several schools, including Missouri, Oklahoma State, Arizona State, and others.

OU career: One of the most productive players in the Bob Stoops era, Lewis started all 54 games played during his OU career. He finished with 451 tackles, including 144 as a redshirt freshman in 2008. He is currently a member of the Detroit Lions.

ESPN.com scouts take out of HS (as a running back): “Lewis is a workhorse type with a galloping running style. He reminds us a little of Tennessee Titans RB Chris Brown. Overall, there are backs that are quicker and faster and certainly more explosive, but his blend of size, agility, power and elusiveness is very strong. Good prospect.”

Lewis is No. 4 because.... there were questions about his ability to gain some pounds and play linebacker at the collegiate level. ESPN.com scouts evaluated him as a running back, yet he put on 15 pounds and made a smooth transition to linebacker and recorded a record-breaking first season on the field in 2008. The Sooners decided to overlook any concerns about his size and focus on his playmaking and production. And it paid off.

5. Fullback Trey Millard, Class of 2010: Millard’s talent was never in question, but the best way to utilize him was unclear. He picked OU over Arkansas, Stanford, Missouri, Tennessee, and others.

OU career: It’s hard to recognize Millard’s impact as a player because his statistical numbers aren’t exceptional. Yet, he’s been one of the Sooners best players since he stepped on campus as a freshman, making major contributions on offense and special teams.

ESPN.com scouts take out of HS: “We would not be surprised if a program looking for an athletic H-back with good hands, strength after the catch and solid blocking skills recruits him on offense. Just a good overall football whose stock should begin to soar this spring.

Millard is No. 5 because.... OU recognized his unique skill set before he stepped on campus and came up with creative ways to take advantage of his versatility. He’s lined up at fullback and tight end at various points during his career and is one of the top special teams contributors on the squad. The Sooners deserve credit for recognizing his versatility would be an immediate asset.