Oklahoma Sooners: Brandon Williams

Grading the class: 2011

February, 5, 2014
Oklahoma is poised to add several recruits into the fold on Wednesday with an eye on creating the foundation of a future championship squad. Yet, recruiting is an inexact science as some projected stars rise to meet those high expectations while others struggle to make a difference in the Big 12. Thus, it’s the perfect time to look back at OU’s past five recruiting classes. On Wednesday, we begin with a review of the Class of 2011 including recruits who exceeded expectations, recruits who were solid signees and ones who were complete busts.

There was a lot of hope for this class when these players signed in February 2011, but the class as a whole has let down the Sooners. The class was ranked No. 11 nationally by ESPN.com.

Transcendent figures

Linebacker Franklin Shannon: The No. 48 safety in the nation, Shannon made an immediate impact after a redshirt season. He forced his way onto the field as a redshirt freshman in 2012 and led OU in tackles as a sophomore in 2013. Shannon started in 15 games in his first two seasons and has 132 tackles, including 10.5 tackles for loss, heading into his junior year.


[+] EnlargeOklahoma
Jackson Laizure/Getty ImagesDefensive tackle Jordan Phillips is one of the few players who has panned out from Oklahoma's 2011 recruiting class.
Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips: Phillips was emerging as a major force in the middle of the Sooners defense before a back injury this season. The No. 119 player in the ESPN 150 in 2011, Phillips has the talent to exceed expectations if he returns to full health.

Defensive tackle Jordan Wade: He replaced the other Jordan after a grayshirt season, and then redshirted in 2012. As a redshirt freshman in 2013, Wade was one of the heroes of OU’s 11-win season as he stepped in for Phillips and held his own in the middle of OU’s defense. The No. 103 player in the ESPN 150, Wade has a bright future ahead of him.

Completely missed the mark

Offensive lineman Nathan Hughes: The No. 101 player in the ESPN 150, Hughes played several positions before leaving the program before the 2013 season.

Running back Brandon Williams: The No. 35 player in the ESPN 150, Williams made an impact as a freshman but elected to transfer to Texas A&M after his first season.

Running back Danzel Williams: The No. 64 player in the ESPN 150, Williams redshirted in 2011, then left the program before the 2013 season. He never made an impact for the Sooners.

Overall grade: D-

More than half of this class is no longer in the program, including both Williams, Hughes, receiver Trey Metoyer, receiver Kameel Jackson, quarterback Kendal Thompson, linebacker Kellen Jones and defensive back Bennett Okotcha. Only Shannon and a pair of Jordans kept this class from being an F in one of the worst classes of the Bob Stoops era.
A glimpse at the attrition rate at the University of Oklahoma removes the fog hovering over some of the major question marks the Sooners face heading into 2013. OU has had some ill-timed departures, forcing the Sooners to rework their recruiting game plan with the hope of having a balanced roster heading into the upcoming season.

Wide receiver Kameel Jackson, who started for the Sooners in the Insight Bowl, says he's transferring to Texas A&M. Jackson broke the news via Twitter Sunday evening.

"Embracing my last week as a Sooner; as I've chose to transfer and further my education and football career at Texas A&M," he tweeted.

Jackson is the second Sooner to transfer to A&M. In December, running back Brandon Williams also left OU to play for first-year A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin, who was once the Sooners' wide receivers coach.

Jackson played in 11 games last season as a true freshmen and started late in the season against Baylor and in the Insight Bowl against Iowa. On the season, Jackson caught 12 passes for 165 yards, playing well down the stretch after the Sooners lost Ryan Broyles to a season-ending knee injury.

But Jackson faded into the background this spring, in part due to the emergence of true freshman Trey Metoyer, and did not participate in the Red-White spring game.

ESPN rated Jackson the No. 39 wide receiver in the country coming out of Arlington (Texas) Sam Houston High School.

Loss impact: RB Brandon Williams 

March, 1, 2012
“Loss Impact” analyzes each outgoing starter or rotation player to assess how much his departure will impact Oklahoma next season.

What Oklahoma loses: Its top prospect from the class of 2011. Brandon Williams, a former 5-star running back from Brookshire, Texas, elected to transfer to Texas A&M after last season to be closer to his infant daughter.

After working through some fumble issues, Williams emerged late last season, rushing for 116 yards in OU’s final three games.

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Juco RB Damien Williams signs with OU 

February, 1, 2012
For all the star ratings and target boards, recruiting can simply be a matter of timing, and the timing couldn’t have worked out better for Oklahoma and junior college running back Damien Williams (San Diego/Arizona Western College).

Williams became yet another California native to sign with Oklahoma, sending in his national letter of intent to the Sooners on Wednesday.

Damien Williams
Courtesy Williams FamilyJunior college running back Damien Williams chose Oklahoma over Texas Tech and Arizona State.
Williams was set, committed to Arizona State until the Sun Devils underwent coaching changes. OU was set at running back, had good depth at the spot until Jermie Calhoun and Jonathon Miller left the team in the middle of the season.

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2013 WR Ricky Seals-Jones 'wide open' 

January, 25, 2012
Ricky Seals-Jones (Sealy, Texas/Sealy) is a special talent.

The Class of 2013 prospect already has earned offers from LSU, Baylor, Texas Tech and SMU while several other schools including Texas, Texas A&M and Notre Dame.

One school not on the list? Oklahoma.

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Oklahoma position grades: Running back 

January, 24, 2012
Before the Sooners' 31-14 win over Iowa in the Insight Bowl, Jake Trotter and Brandon Chatmon analyzed each Oklahoma position group. Now, the SoonerNation staff is giving each position a grade for its performance in 2011.

Grade: B+
No group experienced as much turmoil over the course of the season as the running backs did. Jonathon Miller and Jermie Calhoun transferred early in the year, Brennan Clay was hampered by injuries most of the season, and starter Dominique Whaley suffered a season-ending ankle injury. Still, this was a unit that managed to perform to expectations as a whole. Whaley was spectacular the first half of the season, then Roy Finch carried the load late. The grade probably would have been lower had it not been for all-conference fullback Trey Millard and Belldozer specialist Aaron Ripkowski, who were both solid all season.
- Jake Trotter

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It is easy to get lost in the shuffle at a junior college. Recruits can go about their business and not be bothered at school.

But if you’re coming to Oklahoma, you better be ready to be the center of attention. For juco running back Damien Williams (San Diego/Arizona Western College), he learned all about the OU experience last weekend on his official visit.

“The fans, wow, I love the fans out there,” Williams said. “Everybody knew who I was. In San Diego and Yuma [Ariz.], it’s not like that at all. I can tell that Sooner fans really take their football seriously.

“I’ve never experienced something where everywhere I went, people knew who I was and what my story was. It surprised me.”

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Running back depth was not a concern for Oklahoma entering the 2011 season. Because of that, recruiting running backs wasn’t a top priority for the Sooners coaching staff.

[+] EnlargeDavid Smith
Tom Hauck for ESPN.comThree-star Illinois running back David Smith chose the Sooners over West Virginia.
The Sooners landed their top target early in the process, when fourth-ranked back Alex Ross (Jenks, Okla./Jenks) committed, and three-star prospect Daniel Brooks (Port Lavaca, Texas/Calhoun) came on board before the spring game. No other backs were necessary.

That all changed as the 2011 season progressed, and it gave three-star running back David Smith (Midlothian, Ill./Bremen) a chance to realize a dream as he committed to OU in a special ceremony Tuesday afternoon at Bremen High.

The Sooners entered the 2011 season with six quality running backs but finished with just two healthy backs in Roy Finch and Brennan Clay.

Three backs (Jonathon Miller, Jermie Calhoun and Brandon Williams) have transferred, while walk-on star Dominique Whaley is still recovering from breaking his ankle in October.

Miller and Calhoun transferred early in the season, but the loss of Williams is what made OU running backs coach Cale Gundy try to land OU’s first Illinois product in eight years. Williams wanted to be closer to his daughter and transferred to Texas A&M, and Gundy was back to work. From the start, Smith and Gundy hit it off well, and the relationship just got better in the last month.

And Oklahoma is not done at running back yet. The goal for the Sooners is to find one quality high school running back and hopefully one ready-to-go junior college prospect.

The high school running back can be checked off with Smith. At 6-foot and 197 pounds, Smith said OU has been one of his dream schools for a long time, and he narrowed his choices down to OU and West Virginia early last week despite having never visited Oklahoma until last weekend.

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Trotter's Mailbag: Mike Stoops' impact

January, 13, 2012
Jake Trotter answers readers' questions about Oklahoma football in his mailbag every Friday. Got a question for Jake? Submit it here.

Matt in Soonerville, U.S.A., writes: Would [defensive backs coach Willie] Martinez have been cut even if he didn't accept another job? Were they unhappy with his job performance? Am I right in thinking he did a much better job in 2010 than 2011?

Jake Trotter: Probably. Once Bob Stoops made the decision to bring his brother back that was it for Martinez. I agree that Martinez was solid in ’10. But his unit was nowhere good enough in ’11 to persuade Stoops from hiring Mike back.

Tosh in Dallas writes: Could the Mike Stoops hiring cause big-time defensive recruits to second guess their original commitments and put OU on the radar?

Jake Trotter: This late in the process I doubt it. OU fans hold Mike Stoops in much higher regard than 17-year-old kids do. Mike could make an impact on uncommitted recruits. And he certainly will make an impact in 2013. But I would be surprised if he got a big-time committed prospect to flip this close to signing day.

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Chat Leftovers: OU secondary in 2012

January, 3, 2012
SoonerNation writer Jake Trotter chatted with readers Monday. Here's the full transcript. If you didn't get your question answered, send it to Jake's mailbag to be published on Friday.

Here are a few highlights from his chat:

Jack (Dallas): How do you see the secondary shaping up next year? The secondary seemed to be much more consistent with Tony Jefferson at safety above Javon Harris and Sam Proctor.

Jake Trotter: OU would love to put Jefferson back at nickelback, but I'm not so sure they can afford to. If I had to predict, the start DBs next year would be Everett/Hurst at CB, Jefferson/Colvin at safety, Ibiloye at NB. But don't write off Harris yet. I see him getting another chance down the line.

Ben (Iowa): Do you think Mike Stoops will be back? How soon if so?

Jake Trotter: Nothing new on the Mike Stoops front, and I don't think we'll hear much until if/when an OU assistant leaves. That will be the sign that something is about to happen. I will say Mike was pretty chummy with the OU coaches/players/admins during the Insight Bowl. Nothing I saw in Phoenix made me believe Mike to OU wouldn't happen.

OUFlyer (Denver): Can you give us your take on Mario Edwards' comments from his visit?

Jake Trotter: I think it reflected poorly on OU. It's a very bad sign when players on your own team are doing the negative recruiting. Better believe, coaches from other schools are going to be using Edwards' comments against the Sooners with other players.

Scott (Austin): Do you think if Landry Jones goes pro that Blake Bell will beat out Drew Allen for the starter?

Jake Trotter: Not necessarily. I got the impression this week there are many people on this team who believe Drew Allen would win the competition if it were held now. Bell is a special runner, but Allen has a firmer grasp of the offense and is the better passer right now. The upside to starting Allen is that you could still play Bell with the Belldozer, too. Bell is capable of winning the job. But right now, Allen might have the edge.

Drake Plotter (Oklahoma): What person transferring away impacts the team most next season?

Jake Trotter: Assuming no one else transfers, Brandon Williams. There was a reason why OU tried to talk him out of transferring. Austin Haywood is a big loss, too, because OU has no one else returning at tight end.

Trotter's Mailbag: O-Line will improve

December, 23, 2011
Jake Trotter answers readers' questions about Oklahoma football in his mailbag every Friday. Got a question for Jake? Submit it here.

Michael in Long Beach, Calif., writes: Was Brandon Williams’ departure a two-way thing? Was he not what OU thought he was going to be? Or would the Sooners have liked to keep him?

Jake Trotter: No, the Sooners didn’t want him to leave and actually tried to talk him into staying. Ultimately, Williams wanted to be closer to his family in Brookshire, Texas. That’s why leaving OU and going to Texas A&M made sense.

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Analysis: Life without Brandon Williams 

December, 20, 2011
Oklahoma entered the 2011 season with so many running backs some wondered if the Sooners had enough carries to go around.

Suffice to say, that’s no longer an issue.

Bob Stoops confirmed Monday that Brandon Williams, the gem of OU's 2011 recruiting class, will transfer (to Texas A&M, sources say), making him the third running back to leave the program since August.

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RB Brandon Williams to transfer from OU

December, 19, 2011
Freshman running back Brandon Williams, the gem of Oklahoma’s 2011 recruiting class, has been granted a release to transfer, coach Bob Stoops confirmed Monday.

Stoops said he didn’t know where Williams would transfer, but sources at OU have indicated Williams is likely to end up at Texas A&M, which is an hour drive away from his hometown of Brookshire, Texas.

Williams, who enrolled in the spring, was OU’s top-rated recruit according to ESPNU, which ranked him the No. 5 running back in the country. Because of fumbling issues in practice, Williams played sparingly at the beginning of season. But an injury to starter Dominique Whaley allowed Williams to become a bigger part of the offense late in the season. As a backup, Williams rushed for 116 yards in the Sooners’ final three games and averaged 5.5 yards per carry.

Williams suffered a neck injury in the season finale against Oklahoma State that required him to wear a brace, but he is expected to make a full recovery.

Williams is the third running back to leave OU this year alone. Earlier in the season, Jermie Calhoun and Jonathan Miller also were granted releases to transfer.

With Williams gone and Whaley still recovering from a fractured ankle, the Sooners will be down to just two running backs -- Roy Finch and Brennan Clay -- for the Dec. 30 Insight Bowl against Iowa.

Position Analysis: Running backs 

December, 13, 2011

Deep and talented.

Those two words perfectly describe Oklahoma’s running back corps at the beginning of preseason camp.

[+] EnlargeRoy Finch
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiRunning back Roy Finch rushed for 601 yards and three touchdowns this season.
True enough, the Sooners had to replace DeMarco Murray -- one of the most versatile and explosive runners in school history -- but OU had several talented youngsters on campus who appeared ready to fill the void, including preseason All-Big 12 selection Roy Finch and Brennan Clay.

Junior Jermie Calhoun was a highly regarded prospect, sophomore Jonathan Miller was battling for carries and junior Dominique Whaley was quietly making a statement on the practice field to make running back one of the team's deepest positions on the roster. And incoming freshman Brandon Williams was one of the top running back signees in the nation.

What a difference three months can make.

Heading into the Insight Bowl on Dec. 29, Finch and Clay will have to carry the load against Iowa with Calhoun and Miller electing to transfer in September and Whaley and Williams out for the bowl game due to injury.

While the Sooners did not have a 1,000-yard rusher and appeared to miss Murray badly, OU averaged more yards per carry this season (4.64 yards per carry) than in 2010 (3.36 ypc). And the Sooners leading rushers, Whaley (627 rushing yards) and Finch (601 rushing yards) each averaged more than five yards per carry.

Replacing Murray’s production wasn’t easy, but Oklahoma found a way by using multiple backs.

Whaley was the surprise of the season with 113 carries for 627 yards and nine touchdowns. The walk-on was on pace for a 1,000-yard season before a broken ankle ended his breakout campaign against Kansas State. His loss was critical because he combined excellent running skills with assignment-sound pass protection as the Sooners’ most complete running back, thus allowing the coaches to keep him on the field in various situations.

Few roller coaster rides could match the peaks and valleys of Finch’s season. The sophomore showed flashes of the explosiveness and talent which makes Sooner fans hold their breath with anticipation when he touches the ball. But he also struggled in pass protection at times and the Sooners’ experimentation of Finch at slot receiver was unsuccessful.

Clay went from opening day starter to afterthought, thanks in large part to another injury-filled season. Various injuries limited Clay’s impact on the offense after he had proven to be a solid red zone runner and pass catcher out of the backfield early in the year. He had 41 carries in September and 25 carries during the final two months of the season.

Whaley, Finch and Clay were the only Sooners who had more than 50 carries this season but freshman Brandon Williams showed flashes of his ability in limited action. He averaged six carries per game in OU’s final eight games to finish with 219 rushing yards and 4.76 yards per carry.

As productive as the Sooners running backs were in 2011, OU’s backfield seemed unsettled throughout much of the year. Whaley carried the load at times, Finch shouldered the burden after Whaley’s injury and Williams flashed game-breaking ability during his limited time.

This season, the coaches consistently referred to the situation as running back-by-committee, especially after Whaley’s injury. If any running back on campus wants that to change, clearly they’re going to have to prove to be complete running backs in practice first, then on game day. Otherwise, expect OU to continue to use multiple running backs in 2012.

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