Oklahoma Sooners: Alex Dalton

Top position classes: OL 

February, 20, 2014
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With national signing day in the books, RecruitingNation is looking at the top position classes. For the full series, click here.

Nationally (and SEC)
Not only did Alabama put together the best offensive line class in the 2014 cycle, but it's also one of the best in recent memory. The Crimson Tide inked early enrollee and five-star offensive tackle Cameron Robinson (Monroe, La./West Monroe) and also got top-ranked junior college offensive tackle Dominick Jackson (San Mateo, Calif./College of San Mateo). On the interior, the nation's top two centers, No. 168 overall Josh Casher (Mobile, Ala./Saint Paul’s Episcopal) and No. 190 J.C. Hassenauer (Woodbury, Minn./East Ridge) signed, as did No. 3 guard Ross Pierschbacher (Cedar Falls, Iowa/Cedar Falls). A second guard in the class is three-star Montel McBride (Plant City, Fla./Plant City), who could also play nose tackle at the next level.

The Crimson Tide had the nation’s best offensive line class; here’s which schools had the best in each of the remaining power conferences:


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Spring football could be a critical time for several Oklahoma football players.

Some Sooners will prove they are ready to make a major impact in 2014, while others could show they might need more seasoning before they earn a permanent place in OU’s plans for the future. This week we will look at five players to keep an eye on during spring football, continuing with No. 4.

[+] EnlargeTy Darlington
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesTy Darlington has the unenviable task of stepping into the shoes of Gabe Ikard.
No. 4: Center Ty Darlington

Why: For the past two seasons, OU has enjoyed the security of having All-Big 12 center Gabe Ikard in the middle of its offensive line. The Sooners need someone to step up to fill that void, and Darlington could be the guy. He did it as a freshman against Baylor, so there’s no reason to think it won’t be a seamless transition.

Yet if Darlington falters, the future at the position becomes less secure. With strong line play set to be the foundation of OU’s offensive success, Darlington’s spring is worth keeping tabs on.

Best-case scenario: Darlington takes control of the position while proving he is ready to handle and command the offensive line the way Ikard did. He brings similar traits with his intelligence, mental focus and maturity. The Florida native played in spot duty as a freshman and sophomore and appears ready for a bigger role in the offense. This spring is his chance to show he has the potential to give OU an All-Big 12 center for the third consecutive season.

Worst-case scenario: Darlington looks like he was regressed since his freshman season. Recent signee Alex Dalton provides depth. and junior Nila Kasitati has the versatility to play the center spot. But Darlington is the ideal candidate to step right in for Ikard with minimal drop-off. Thus, if he doesn’t take command of the position in the spring, seeds of doubt could be planted, adding one more concern for the coaching staff heading into the summer months.

No. 5: Tight end Blake Bell
Did the Sugar Bowl never end?

It sure seems like it as Oklahoma rode the momentum from its 45-31 win over Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl to a stellar finish in its recruiting class. Nine Sooners signees committed during the month following the Sugar Bowl including ESPN 300 running back Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif./Freedom), ESPN 300 athlete Michiah Quick (Fresno, Calif./Central East) and ESPN300 safety Steven Parker II (Jenks, Okla/Jenks).

OU finished as strong as any program in the nation, landing Quick, Parker, offensive tackles Kenyon Frison (West Valley City, Utah/Granger) and Orlando Brown Jr. (Duluth, Ga./Peachtree Ridge), along with cementing the commitment of Courtney Garnett (New Orleans/St. Augustine) in the final two days.


Here are some news and notes from signing day including my take on what it could mean for the program:

[+] EnlargeBlake Bell
AP Photo/Darron CummingsBlake Bell will move to tight end, as Trevor Knight is entrenched as Oklahoma's starting quarterback.
In case you missed it, quarterback Blake Bell is moving to tight end and former Texas Tech signal caller Baker Mayfield has enrolled and is walking on to the Sooners’ squad. OU coach Bob Stoops confirmed both bits of news during his press conference on Wednesday.

Chatmon’s take: Both things were expected but it leaves a void behind Trevor Knight heading into 2014. Normally it wouldn’t seem like a big deal to have two freshmen, Cody Thomas and Justice Hansen, battling to back up Knight, but Knight got knocked out of two different games as a redshirt freshman and he only started five total games during the year. Thomas and Hansen are talented but inexperienced, meaning OU could be one play from seeing its national title hopes derailed by an injury to a quarterback who got knocked out of 40 percent of the games he started in 2013. Uh, oh.


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Bill Bedenbaugh needs a raise.

During his first full recruiting cycle as the offensive line coach at OU, Bedenbaugh landed an exceptional group of offensive lineman including a pair of four-star prospects in center Alex Dalton (Troy, Ohio/Troy) and guard Natrell Curtis (Phoenix/Mountain Pointe). And Bedenbaugh did work down the stretch landing Brown, who flipped from Tennessee in the surprise of signing day, and Frison, who was committed to Utah before inking with OU.

“The more I watch them, the more excited I get about these kids,” Bedenbaugh said.

While he signed a large group of talented guys, Bedenbaugh is most pleased by the toughness of this group.

“You can’t overlook toughness,” Bedenbaugh said. “There are a lot of big, athletic guys out there that may not have the toughness you’re looking for and a lot of those guys don’t pan out.”
Chatmon’s take: A terrific group at a need position. It’s hard to imagine a better class in Bedenbaugh’s first recruiting cycle, and it’s a group with several players who have the versatility to play multiple positions. OU doesn’t need immediate help along the offensive line, but don’t be surprised if one or two of these guys show up on the depth chart in 2014.

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Along with offensive line, the Sooners needed to address the secondary in this year’s class. Parker is the headliner of a group of versatile secondary players. With the range of a safety and the cover skills of a cornerback, Parker should be able to play immediately for Mike Stoops’ defense.

“He brings a different element to the safety position that a lot of players just can’t,” Mike Stoops said. “His mobility, skill level and cover ability, he fits perfect in our system.”

Stoops feels like OU secured two cover cornerbacks in Tito Windham (Gulfport, Miss./Harrison Central) and Jordan Thomas (Klein, Texas/Klein Collins) along with a versatile prospect in Cedar Hill (Texas) cornerback Marcus Green and a physical presence in DeSoto (Texas) safety Vontre McQuinnie.

Chatmon’s take: Parker is an ideal fit and should make an immediate impact. He’s too talented to remain on the sidelines. The overall versatility of these five defensive backs really stands out, with McQuinnie as the lone guy who likely wouldn’t be a good fit at cornerback in OU’s system. In the Big 12 that versatility is critical because the Sooners will have the ability to put its safeties on the Big 12’s top slot receivers and have the confidence they can hold their own in coverage without being exposed.

State of the position: Center

January, 21, 2014
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In the next few weeks leading into signing day it’s a great time to take a position-by-position glance at Oklahoma’s returning roster. State of the position will look at the playmakers, up-and-comers and current commitments or targets at each position as recruiting really heats up during these final weeks before signing day on Feb. 5. On Tuesday, we take a closer look at the center position.

Starter/contributors: None

Gabe Ikard started 25 games at center as a junior and senior after beginning his career at guard. He’s headed to the NFL after anchoring one of the best offensive lines in the Big 12 in 2013.

On the cusp: Ty Darlington (So.)

Darlington should be able to slide right in to replace Ikard. He did it against Baylor as a true freshman so there’s no reason to think he’s gone backward since that November 2012 game. He’s smart, dependable and mature and, in a lot of ways, he’s the ideal replacement for Ikard.

Nila Kasitati, who started several games at guard in 2013, can slide inside to this position at a moment’s notice if Darlington were to get injured or if offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh tries to make sure everyone has to compete to earn their spot.

On the recruiting trail: Alex Dalton (Troy, Ohio/Troy)

A four-star prospect, Dalton brings terrific size and athleticism to the center position. It wouldn’t be shocking to see him have a similar impact as Darlington during his true freshman season.

Overall Grade: B-

Darlington earned player of the game honors in the only start of his Sooners’ career, so the position appears to be in good hands despite losing Ikard, a four-year starter who rarely missed a game. Dalton and Kasitati should provide solid depth behind him.
When the Red River Rivalry is played, records are thrown out the window. When the game’s over, some love looking into the future to play “what if” with the next batch of talented college players.

While both teams have some room to land uncommitted recruits, both are pretty happy with where they are currently. Texas has 24 commits, and Oklahoma has 14, and when comparing ESPN 300 athletes, Texas only has a 7-5 lead.

Which team has the Red River Rivalry recruiting edge this year? Here’s a breakdown of eight positions and which team holds the edge for now.

Quarterback

Perhaps the most competitive comparison between the schools is at quarterback. ESPN 300s Justice Hansen (Edmond, Okla./Santa Fe) and Jerrod Heard (Denton, Texas/Guyer) are the nation’s No. 4 and No. 5 dual-threat quarterbacks. Hansen is the Sooners’ top-ranked commit and has proven himself a first-class leader of the class. Heard already has one state championship ring, and he’s hoping for a repeat performance in December before arriving at the Forty Acres.

Advantage: Oklahoma

Dallis Todd
Erik McKinney/ESPNOklahoma will get 6-foot-5 playmaker Daliis Todd in its 2014 class.
Running back

There are high expectations for both ESPN 300 Samaje Perine (Pflugerville, Texas/Hendrickson) and Donald "Duke" Catalon (Houston/Eisenhower). Perine is a physical specimen with the combination of power and finesse at 6-foot and 213 pounds. Catalon, at 5-10 and 193 pounds, has the agility and overall balance to make him a potential every-down back. Texas also has three-star Kevin Shorter (Newton, Texas/Newton), a player who plays with a chip on his shoulder, looking to show that he should be mentioned with the elite talent.

Advantage: Texas

Wide receiver

Neither Texas nor Oklahoma will be complaining about their receiver crop. The Longhorns have an ESPN 300 player in Armanti Foreman (Texas City, Texas/Texas City), a rising star in Emanuel Porter (Dallas/Lincoln) and a player in Garrett Gray (Marble Falls, Texas/Marble Falls) who caught 13 passes for 293 yards and five touchdowns in a game last year. Oklahoma has size and athleticism in 6-5, 210-pound ESPN 300 receiver Dallis Todd (La Mirada, Calif./La Mirada) and a 6-7, 180-pound end zone threat in Jeffery Mead (Tulsa, Okla/Union)

Advantage: Texas

Tight end

Oklahoma has done well with recruiting tight ends and was able to land ESPN 300 players Carson Meier (Tulsa, Okla./Union) and Mark Andrews (Scottsdale, Ariz./Desert Mountain). Meier is the No. 5 Y-tight end in the country, while Andrews is the No. 8 H-tight end. Texas also has a good one in junior college pledge John Thomas (Bossier City, La./Trinity Valley Community College). At 6-6 and 255 pounds, Thomas can be used as both a reliable blocker and receiver.

Advantage: Oklahoma

Offensive line

It’s hard to believe that between the two schools, only three offensive linemen are committed.

Sooners commit Alex Dalton (Troy, Ohio/Troy) is considered one of the nation’s top centers, and guard Jonathan Alvarez (Mesquite, Texas/Horn), with his work ethic alone, will surprise a lot of people in a couple of years. Texas, like Oklahoma, has a four-star center committed in Terrell Cuney (Jasper, Texas/Jasper). Cuney is a player who might see immediate playing time as a freshman.

Advantage: Texas

Defensive line


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Weekend recruiting wrap: Big 12 

September, 16, 2013
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It continues to get worse in Austin, Texas, where the Longhorns lost to Ole Miss 44-23 on Saturday. We’ll look at that loss and what it means for Texas, as well as Oklahoma trying to capitalize on its rivals’ mishaps in this week’s Big 12 weekend recruiting wrapup.

Biggest commitment: This one goes to Oklahoma and the verbal pledge it received from 2014 offensive guard Jonathan Alvarez (Mesquite, Texas/Horn) on Tuesday. Alvarez isn’t the most well-known commitment for the Sooners, but he helps fill a big void.


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Sooners' recruiting roundup

August, 16, 2013
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NORMAN, Okla.--Reestablishing Oklahoma as one of the nation’s most talented squads was one of the priorities for Bob Stoops during the offseason. Don’t believe it? Stoops brought in three coaches known for their recruiting prowess in tight ends coach Jay Boulware, offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh and defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery.

The Sooners are off to a decent start as they look to put together a Top 25 group in the Class of 2014. OU, which currently sits at No. 20 in ESPN.com’s team class rankings, has 12 current commitments including five members of the ESPN300.

Here’s a closer look at the Sooners’ remaining needs, top current commits and key visit dates as the season approaches.

Remaining needs: Although the Sooners have commitments from Troy (Ohio) center Alex Dalton and Irving (Texas) Ranchview defensive tackle Brandon Glenn, the Sooners still have a lot of work to do to land some game changers in the trenches.

They’ve missed out on several offensive prospects, particularly TCU commit Ty Barrett (Dallas/Skyline), forcing the Sooners to go back to the drawing board at that position. But some key names remain on the wish list along the defensive front. OU would love to land Coppell (Texas) defensive end Solomon Thomas, No. 31 in the ESPN300, and the standout prospect has visited Norman several times.

Linebacker is also a position of need, despite the positive early signs from 2013 signees Dominique Alexander and Jordan Evans. A pair of ESPN300 linebackers from the West Coast, Gardena (Calif.) Junipero Serra’s Dwight Williams and Los Angeles Salesian’s Jamardre Cobb, would be a dream duo for OU.

Headliners: Edmond (Okla.) Santa Fe quarterback Justice Hansen leads the way as the Sooners’ top ranked signee, ranked No. 97 in the ESPN300. He brings excellent size, intangibles and dual threat skills to the backfield. He’ll be surrounded by talented ESPN300 receiving targets when he arrives on campus with La Mirada (Calif.) receiver Dallis Todd, Tulsa (Okla.) Union tight end Carson Meier and Scottsdale (Ariz.) Desert Mountain receiver/tight end Mark Andrews sitting next to him on OU’s commitment list.

Key remaining targets: If the Sooners don’t land Jenks (Okla.) safety Steven Parker, it will be a major blow to OU’s recruiting efforts. Parker has visited Norman several times and has developed a solid relationship with defensive coordinator Mike Stoops.

Fresno (Calif.) Central East athlete Michiah Quick, No. 43 on the ESPN300, has two former teammates (Hatari Byrd, L.J. Moore) in the Sooners program and family living in Oklahoma. If the Sooners put on the full court press with him, and Oakley (Calif.) Freedom running back Joe Mixon, they could continue their California pipeline started in recent years.

Key date: Several top recruits, including Quick and Mixon, will be in Norman on Oct. 4 when the Sooners face TCU. It will be critical for the Sooners to knock their socks off during their visits and cap it off with a victory over the Horned Frogs if they hope to secure their signatures.
NORMAN, Okla. -- On the last Monday of every month, SoonerNation is going to examine Oklahoma's offensive recruiting situation by taking a look at the Sooners' commits and targets.

Here is an idea of where OU stands for the Class of 2014 heading into July. View the Sooners' full commitment list.

The number in parentheses after every position indicates the number of recruits we project OU to sign at the position.

Quarterback (1)


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NORMAN, Okla. -- As recruiting rivals Texas and Texas A&M continue to rack up commitments for the 2014 and 2015 classes, what about Oklahoma?

The Sooners entered the spring evaluation period with just three commits and enter the summer with eight pledges. The OU coaches are preaching patience and not trying to force recruits to commit before they're ready.

NEW COMMITS

Four-star WR Dallis Todd (La Mirada, Calif./La Mirada)
Committed: April 15


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Every Friday, SoonerNation releases the Sooner Intel, a sneak peek inside Oklahoma Sooners football recruiting with news and notes on the latest happenings around the program. Talk about it on our forum. A few things discussed in this week's update:

  • A recent defensive offer will be at the Sooners' summer camp.
  • A Houston wideout has Oklahoma on top of his list.
  • One Arizona ESPN 150 cornerback is planning to take an official visit to OU.
  • ESPN 150 athlete and his coach will be in Norman for OU's camp.
  • More on the Sooners' sleeper commit, cornerback Tito Windham.
  • Was OU's offensive line commit always destined to be a Sooner?
  • An in-state defensive tackle could be offered soon.
  • Why OU hasn't made up ground with four-star defensive end Deondre Clark.

Read the Sooner Intel after the jump.


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NORMAN, Okla. -- One look at Oklahoma’s offense in 2008, the year of the Sooners’ last BCS title game appearance, provides a revealing look at that squad’s success.

St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford triggered the offense with Pro Bowl tight end Jermaine Gresham of the Cincinnati Bengals and three NFL draft picks (Ryan Broyles, Juaquin Iglesias and Manuel Johnson) at receiver. Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray lined up alongside Bradford with Pro Bowl offensive lineman Trent Williams and Minnesota Vikings tackle Phil Loadholt up front. The defense, meanwhile, was led by Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy of Tampa Bay and Detroit Lions linebacker Travis Lewis.


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NORMAN, Okla. -- For Oklahoma fans sick of seeing the Sooners sit on the sidelines as schools like Texas and Texas A&M rack up one big commit after another, how was last week for you?

OU announced to the recruiting world it was making its run last week, as the Sooners doled out several offers and earned three commitments from a crazy six-day period.

Commitments

CB Marcus Green (Cedar Hill, Texas/Cedar Hill)


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Cornerback Tito Windham Jr. (Gulfport, Miss./Harrison Central) was getting accustomed to the day-to-day routine.

Major college coaches come for spring practice and give him attention, but the offer doesn’t come. Missouri, Auburn, Michigan State, Alabama and LSU were among the schools stopping by to watch Windham work.

Oklahoma came a week before his spring practice started. OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops came by again on Wednesday. After practice, he talked to Windham on the phone and offered, and Windham immediately committed. He went public with the commitment Friday.

[+] EnlargeTito Windham
Tom Hauck/Student SportsCornerback Tito Windham says he's done with recruiting after committing to Oklahoma.
“It has been real crazy,” Windham said. “So many people congratulating me. It has been a great day.”

Windham wasn’t shocked OU came by for practice, but said he was shocked by the offer. He said it wasn’t until Thursday it had him what had actually happened.

“My mind went blank,” Windham said.

Before this week, Windham, who is 5-foot-9 and 174 pounds, only had one other offer: Louisiana-Lafayette.

If other offers come around now, it simply won’t matter.

“No, my recruitment is done,” Windham said. “I’m not sure if I’m going to visit [OU] in the summer or the fall, but I’m definitely going to get there soon.”

Windham has talked to Stoops since his commitment and the message is simple: Keep working and getting stronger. Windham said that won’t be a problem because he has been as heavy as 185 pounds before so he said putting the weight back on will come easy.

Recruited as a corner, Windham didn’t mention anything about ball skills as why OU fans should be excited.

“I love to hit people,” Windham said. “I’m a hard hitter, and I’m really fast.”

The Windham commitment completes a crazy week for OU recruiting. The Sooners entered the week with four commits and leave with seven, including two on Friday.

Windham is the second cornerback to commit this week, joining Cedar Hill (Texas) High defensive back Marcus Green who committed Sunday.

Offensive lineman Alex Dalton (Troy, Ohio/Troy) committed Friday morning, hours before Windham went public with his announcement.

Windham is the second recruit from Mississippi to sign with OU in Bob Stoops' tenure as coach. Lacoltan Bester signed with the Sooners in 2012 after transferring from East Mississippi Community College.
After the first visit to Oklahoma in March, offensive lineman Alex Dalton (Troy, Ohio/Troy) was pretty sure he would wind up with the Sooners.

Following the second visit, he was sure OU was the place for him. But he still wasn’t going to rush his decision. He wanted to make the call when he felt ready.

On Friday morning, Dalton was ready. He called OU offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh to let him know he was pledging to the Sooners.

“I’ve been thinking about it a lot here lately,” Dalton said. “There was nothing that really made me feel like I had to do it today, but I knew I wasn’t looking for anything else.”

Bedenbaugh tweeted on Friday morning he was going to be in Ohio for the day, and Dalton said Bedenbaugh spoke with his high school coach during the morning and everybody involved sensed the commitment coming.

Dalton announced a top three of OU, Indiana and Stanford in March following a busy spring break with trips to OU and Stanford. But after the second OU visit, it was more of a top one list than anything else. The Sooners were making their case, and Stanford had backed off a bit.

As the spring evaluation period continued, though, other schools made their push. Arkansas started to get in contact with him. Offers from Nebraska, Louisville and Virginia Tech came and interest from schools like Northwestern or Tennessee started to see what the interest was.

“I was open to go look at them, but I knew what I wanted,” Dalton said. “There wasn’t anything else I was looking for.”

Dalton said he had been messaging with Bedenbaugh on Facebook and Twitter on a daily basis and the relationship was only getting better with each day.

Dalton first forged his relationship with Bedenbaugh when Bedenbaugh was coaching at West Virginia. When Bedenbaugh made the move to OU, one of his first offers was to Dalton.

Dalton was comfortable with Bedenbaugh, but he had to make sure he was 100 percent sure OU met all of his requirements.

“I looked at the school itself for football,” Dalton said. “I thought about where I had the best chance to play. Where I fit in as a player and a person. The distance.

“Oklahoma is not too far away but far away enough for me to make it on my own. My family can visit and watch me play. It all worked out.”

Dalton is being recruited at center by the Sooners although he can also play offensive guard. Dalton is OU’s sixth overall commitment for the Class of 2014 and the second this week.

This is what OU fans were hoping for in getting Bedenbaugh as coach. OU’s first offensive lineman commit for the Class of 2013 came in December. This time around it is seven months earlier. And there is no doubting his commitment.

“I’m excited to have this process over,” Dalton said. “I know that if I would have waited longer, my mind wouldn’t have changed.”
Every Wednesday, the SoonerNation staff will take a quick-hit look at some of the top recruits and storylines facing Oklahoma recruiting for the week.

This week’s targets: OU will never be hurting at wide receiver as long as Jay Norvell remains the wide receivers coach. OU already has the commitment of one four-star wideout in Dallis Todd (La Mirada, Calif./La Mirada), but Norvell is going after some big guns in Texas. He is visiting ESPN 150 receiver K.D. Cannon (Mount Pleasant, Texas/Mount Pleasant) and four-star WR Nick Alexander (Lancaster, Texas/Lancaster). Both have visited the campus multiple times, but both are going to be incredibly tough to land. Norvell, though, is never afraid to aim high, and OU is squarely in the mix for them.

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