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Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Solid DTs aren't always highly ranked

By Brandon Chatmon

Gerald McCoy and Tommie Harris are players who immediately come to mind when Oklahoma fans think of the tradition at defensive tackle. Both All-Americans were highly recruited high school prospects who stepped on campus with high expectations then fulfilled them.

But McCoy and Harris are the exception, not the norm.

While concern grows over the Sooners' inability to secure five-star defensive tackles, a little research shows that quality defensive tackles often step on college campuses as overlooked signees.

Star Lotulelei
Star Lotulelei. Utah's an All-America defensive tackle, was not a heralded recruit. That is a common thread among the top players at the position in recent years.
Associated Press All-Americans Star Lotulelei of Utah and Will Sutton of Arizona State each arrived on campus as largely overlooked recruits. Lotulelei was a unranked junior college defensive tackle who had offers from BYU, Oregon State and Utah State. Sutton was a three-star prospect who picked ASU over offers from Arizona, Boise State, Nebraska and others. Neither player was considered a “can’t miss” defensive tackle prospect.

The Big 12’s best aren’t much different.

Iowa State’s Jake McDonough, a first-team All-Big 12 defensive tackle this season, stepped on campus as a three-star defensive end. Oklahoma State’s Calvin Barnett was a four-star defensive tackle from Tulsa, Okla., who ended up in Stillwater after a stint at Navarro (Texas) College. Meanwhile, Texas has a roster loaded with elite defensive tackle signees, yet none of those players earned first-team honors.

And the trend continues nationwide in AQ or BCS conferences.

All-ACC first teamer Sylvester Williams was an unranked defensive tackle who picked North Carolina over Georgia, Baylor and West Virginia out of Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College. Fellow ACC first teamer Joe Vellano of Maryland was a two-star defensive tackle. Florida State has signed three defensive tackles ranked among the top 5 at the defensive tackle position by ESPN.com in the past four seasons, yet none of them beat out Williams or Vellano for all-conference honors.

Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald earned All-Big East first team honors after earning four-star prospect status in the Class of 2010. Fellow All-Big East first teamer Scott Vallone of Rutgers was a three-star recruit out of Melville, N.Y./St. Anthony’s High School.

Johnathan Hankins earned All-Big Ten honors at Ohio State after signing with the Buckeyes as a three-star defensive tackle. Same could be said of Jordan Hill, Penn State’s first-team defensive tackle. And Kawann Short, Purdue’s first-team defensive tackle, was a unranked defensive tackle prospect.

The SEC could be considered an exception as the lone defensive tackle earning first team all-conference honors was Florida’s Sharrif Floyd, the No. 25 player in the ESPN 150 in the Class of 2010. However, the SEC has signed seven defensive tackles who ranked in the top five at their position in the past four seasons. None of them earned first- or second-team AP All-American honors in 2012.

The common belief that securing five-star defensive tackle recruits is required to get quality play along the defensive interior is a faulty at best.

It should an eye-opener to OU fans who have watched with disgust as Justin Manning (Dallas/Kimball), Greg Gilmore (Hope Mills, N.C./South View) and others shunned the Sooners to commit elsewhere.

Meanwhile, all four Sooners defensive tackle commitments have earned a Scouts Inc. grade of 78 or above, earning high three-star recruit status. Quincy Russell (Athens, Texas/Trinity Valley) and Kerrick Huggins (Dallas/Skyline) are just one step below a four-star recruit with 79 ratings and Matthew Romar (Port Arthur, Texas/Memorial) and Charles Walker (Garland, Texas/South Garland) are one step below them with 78 ratings.

So while none of the names in OU’s defensive tackle commit list are “big” names, don’t be surprised if one or more of the Sooners’ defensive tackle signees outperform some of the top defensive tackle recruits in this year’s class during their careers in crimson and cream.