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Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Sooners have uphill climb for Texas DBs

By Bob Przybylo

NORMAN, Okla. -- Is it possible that Oklahoma could be shut out from all of the elite defensive backs in the state of Texas for the Class of 2014?

It didn’t seem likely last year. But now, in the middle of spring, it’s getting a lot tougher to gauge where the Sooners fit in with some of the best the Lone Star State has to offer.

There were only four defensive backs in Texas that finished in the ESPN 300 for the Class of 2013, so it wasn’t that big of a deal for OU to not get one of them.

The first ESPN 300 hasn’t been released, but star ratings have been assigned. So far, 16 defensive back prospects from Texas (cornerback, safety or athlete that could be classified as a corner or safety) have received a rating of at least four stars -- six cornerbacks, seven safeties and three athletes. Of those 16, three corners, four safeties and two of those athletes are in the initial ESPN 150.

Eight of the 16 are committed, none to OU. And none have the Sooners as a clear-cut favorite.

Scouring the list, it’s tough to see that changing. The depressing part for Sooners fans isn’t that OU has a goose egg right now in the commitment department at defensive back. It’s that some of its biggest regional recruiting rivals don’t.

Texas A&M is leading the pack right now with four commits. Dallas Skyline cornerback Cedric Collins, West Mesquite safety Dylan Sumner-Gardner, and athletes Nick Harvey (Richmond Travis) and North Forney’s Armani Watts all have OU offers and all have pledged to the Aggies.

Then it’s LSU. The Tigers continue to do major damage in Texas and have reeled off two big pledges from the state. No. 4 safety Edward Paris Jr. (Arlington Timberview) and Houston Alief Taylor’s four-star cornerback Chris Hardeman will join coach Les Miles in Baton Rouge, La. And yep, both have OU offers.

It’s not great, but OU fans can understand losing head-to-head battles with SEC schools such as Texas A&M and LSU.

But Arlington Timberview’s four-star safety Brandon Simmons recruitment hurt in multiple ways. OU was gaining ground in the hunt and Simmons had set up a visit to campus for spring practice.

Less than 72 hours before the trip, Simmons committed to Stanford. He never made the visit to OU, and it’s likely he never will.

ESPN 150 athlete Davion Hall (Texarkana Liberty-Eylau) was at OU’s camp for all three days last summer. He doesn’t have an offer and is committed to Baylor, although Arkansas is breathing down the Bears’ necks to flip his commitment.

Eight top prospects remain, but there’s no reason to feel overly optimistic about any of them if you’re an OU fan.

The Sooners appear to have been passed over by ESPN 150 cornerbacks Tony Brown (Beaumont Ozen) and Arrion Springs (San Antonio Roosevelt).

Springs had OU among his top choices in February and March. But that was long ago, as childhood favorites Oregon and Miami (Fla.) are the top choices and rival Texas is a clear third option right now.

Brown made a trip to OU last summer and was told by OU coach Bob Stoops he could play cornerback right now. Even a statement like that hasn’t really done much as LSU and Texas appear to be the leaders for the ultra-talented Brown.

Things are a tad brighter at safety as ESPN 150 prospects Jamal Adams (Lewisville Hebron) and Edwin Freeman (Arlington Bowie) are high on OU. But being high on OU hasn’t guaranteed a commitment lately.

For OU to stay competitive and in the conversation for a national championship, that has to change. Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops and cornerbacks coach Bobby Jack Wright are going to have to find the recipe for success with the secondary.

This is too good a group of prospects, and no school can have a monopoly because of the number of quality recruits.

One of the reasons it’s so disturbing is because of what OU can offer top recruits right now. All recruits talk about tradition and the prestige of coach Bob Stoops. That won’t change, but something OU gives right now is the possibility of early playing time at each spot.

The depth chart isn’t all that intimidating at either position. True freshman safeties Ahmad Thomas and Hatari Byrd are likely to get significant playing time in the fall.

The opportunity is there. But OU still appears to be on the outside looking in. That has to change. How? Only Stoops and Wright and the rest of the OU coaches can find the answers. We’ll find out in the upcoming months if OU can get back some of that swagger in Texas.

If the Sooners don’t, there is no "could" about it -- it will be a long, frustrating road on the trail heading to national signing day.