- Brandon Chatmon, ESPN Staff Writer
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The spring evaluation period is upon us.
Oklahoma has made a living out of evaluating and developing well, helping the Sooners go 51-15 during the past five seasons, including four straight seasons with double-digit wins. During Bob Stoops' tenure the Sooners have been able to consistently compete for championships thanks in part to their ability to land hidden gems such as Aaron Colvin and Dominique Alexander. This week we've counted down the top five, ending with the Sooners' No. 1 hidden gem in the past five years.
No. 1 Gabe Ikard, center, Class of 2009
Recruiting rank: 78 grade (out of 100) ESPN.com scouts ranking, No. 19 tight end, No. 66 in the Midlands region, No. 7 in Oklahoma
What we said: “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.” -- ESPN recruiting analysis.
Other reported offers: Stanford, Notre Dame, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State
Career production: Ikard finished his career with an All-American season as a senior and was a three-time All-Big 12 first-team selection. He started 50 games during his OU career and displayed unmatched intelligence, unique versatility and exceptional leadership during his time in crimson and cream. ... After a redshirt season in 2009, Ikard started 12 of 14 games at guard as a redshirt freshman, earning Freshman All-American honors. ... In 2011, he started six games at guard and seven games at center after Ben Habern’s injury before earning All-Big 12 first team honors as a sophomore. ... In 2012, Ikard moved to center full-time, starting all 12 games and earning All-Big 12 first team honors. ... In 2013, he started all 13 games at center, earning All-American and first team All-Big 12 honors.
Why Ikard is No. 1: He started 50 games while earning All-American and All-Big 12 honors at a position he wasn’t recruited to play. Once again, the Sooners' ability to put aside a player’s high school production and project how that player could fit in their program was stellar. Ikard starred as a tight end and defensive end in high school, but the Sooners recognized he could be an immediate impact player along the offensive interior with his intelligence and consistency. Ikard made a smooth move into the offensive line and became a foundation of OU’s offensive line for four seasons.
OU signed six ESPN 150 prospects in the Class of 2009, but none of them came close to matching Ikard’s production during their time in the program. Jamarkus McFarland, Gabe Lynn and Ronnell Lewis were the Sooners’ top signees, but their impact paled in comparison to Ikard's. Ikard was the perfect example of terrific evaluation and development by the Sooners.
The rest of the list: