Oklahoma Sooners: Gerald McCoy

Ultimate 300: Big 12's top classes 

January, 30, 2014
Jan 30
10:30
AM ET

The Texas-Oklahoma rivalry is bigger than football, but it’s always a fun topic of discussion when the rivalry talk turns to past success. It’s a conversation starter with the release of the Ultimate ESPN 300 class rankings, which ranks every top recruit since 2006. Oklahoma has a dozen players in the Ultimate ESPN 300; Texas has nine.

Here is a look at the top five Big 12 programs that have consistently put together stellar recruiting classes since ESPN began ranking recruits:

1. Oklahoma

The Sooners might start slow some years, but each year they continue to put together top recruiting classes that produce talent that can compete with any team in the country. The 2006 class was one of Bob Stoops’ best, as it produced the No. 1 running back in DeMarco Murray, a future Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Sam Bradford and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft. With players such as offensive lineman Trent Williams, wide receiver Ryan Broyles and tight end Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma is one of the most consistent teams in college football. Stoops produces winners.


It’s always fun to think back to the former stars of college football recruiting. The Big 12 had a few players who made an impact during their respective recruiting processes.

Here are five players from the Big 12 who made the top 50 of the ESPN Ultimate 300.


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NORMAN, Okla. -- Well before an official announcement welcoming him to the Sooners’ coaching staff, Jerry Montgomery was stumping on the recruiting trail, pitching Oklahoma to some of the top defensive line prospects in the Class of 2014.

With his latest hire, which the school finally announced Tuesday, head coach Bob Stoops showed again he’s hoping to bring better players up front to Norman. And he’s hoping that Montgomery -- and new offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh -- will be the ones who can close the deal on blue-chip line prospects the Sooners have come up short on in recent years.

[+] EnlargeJerry Montgomery
Lon Horwedel/Icon SMINew Oklahoma assistant Jerry Montgomery wasted no time in recruiting for the Sooners.
Montgomery knows how to make a good first impression.

Not long after he accepted Stoops’ offer, Montgomery was on the phone with ESPN Watch List defensive ends Da'Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge) and Andrew Williams (McDonough, Ga./Eagles Landing Christian Academy) and talking to them about Oklahoma.

Landing players the caliber of Hand and Williams won’t come easy. They have impressive offer sheets, both holding offers from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Ohio State and USC. Yet to become nationally relevant past October once again, signing such line blue-chippers is almost a requirement.

The Sooners got by last year up front as they shared a Big 12 title. But against the likes of Notre Dame and Texas A&M, the Sooners were exposed for what they have been: a finesse team ill-equipped of playing dominant, championship-caliber football in the trenches.

That trend was going the wrong way, too, as OU whiffed on almost all of its top offensive and defensive tackle targets in the 2013 recruiting class.

Stoops is banking that Montgomery will help reverse the trend. At Michigan, he quickly gained a reputation as one of the Wolverines’ most prolific recruiters. Montgomery had a hand in Michigan landing all three of its 2014 commitments, and he had already developed relationships with some of the nation’s top rising high school seniors such as Hand and Williams.

Montgomery arrives in Norman not a day too soon, either. Over the weekend, OU already lost out on two of its top defensive tackle targets for 2014 as Zaycoven Henderson (Longview, Texas/Longview) committed to TCU while Tashon Smallwood (Fresno, Calif./Central) chose USC.

Sooners fans are clamoring for those days to be at an end. And that with Montgomery on board, the school of Lee Roy Selmon and Tony Casillas and Gerald McCoy will become a bastion of championship line play again.
NORMAN, Okla. -- After back-to-back three-loss seasons, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops is shaking things up again.

Jackie Shipp, Stoops’ longtime defensive tackles coach, will not be returning to Sooners’ staff in 2013, multiple sources confirmed to ESPN.com.

The Shipp news comes on the brink of Monday’s announced departure of offensive line coach James Patton, who exited the OU staff to take an assistant job with Indiana.

Shipp is OU’s fourth coaching change in the last two years. Last year, Mike Stoops replaced Willie Martinez as defensive backs coach, and then after defensive coordinator Brent Venables bolted for Clemson, Mike Stoops’ former Arizona assistant Tim Kish was brought in to coach linebackers.

Unlike Patton, Shipp had been with the Sooners since Stoops’ first season in 1999. He recruited and developed two of the best defensive tackles in Big 12 history in Tommie Harris and Gerald McCoy, who both went on to be first-round draft picks.

But in the last few years, the level of performance at defensive tackle has dipped. The Sooners have had not had a first-team All-Big 12 defensive tackle since McCoy in 2009. And underscoring the defensive tackles’ lack of disruption this last season, the Sooners ranked 94th in run defense and 104th in tackles for loss.
Round one goes to Oklahoma. With the commitment of 2014 ESPN Watch List running back Devon Thomas (Broken Arrow, Okla./Broken Arrow) to OU on Saturday night, the Sooners have struck the first blow in potential Bedlam recruiting battles of in-state prospects for the 2014 class.

Who will be round two? Which school will win round two? Here is a look at five more potential in-state prospects that OU and OSU could target in the Class of 2014:

LB Gyasi Akem (Broken Arrow, Okla./Broken Arrow, 6-2, 210)

[+] EnlargeDeondre Clark
Bob Przybylo/ESPN.comClass of 2014 defensive end Deondre Clark was offered by both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State this summer.
Akem doesn’t have an offer from either Bedlam school but that will likely change when his junior film is released. Akem missed his entire sophomore season because of a torn ACL but was dynamic and explosive throughout this season.

Texas A&M has shown a strong interest in Akem, and he made an unofficial visit to College Station a few weeks ago.

Akem is friends with Thomas so he could be swayed by playing with a teammate if the Sooners start showing more interest. But he has also made it clear he grew up an OSU fan so if the Cowboys come in strong, they will be in great position.

ESPN Watch List DE Deondre Clark (Oklahoma City/Douglass, 6-4, 235)

By July, Clark had an offer from both the Sooners and Cowboys. He dominated at OU’s camp in June to earn an offer, while OSU had already liked what it had seen before its summer camp.

Clark’s childhood connection is with the Sooners because his cousin is former OU great Gerald McCoy. But his recent connection could be with OSU because of his brother.

Clark’s older brother, Stevie, is an ESPN 100 point guard prospect for 2013. OSU is considered the favorite to land Stevie Clark, who is tentatively set to sign in the spring.

If Stevie lands in Stillwater, it's not a stretch to see Deondre follow his brother. LSU is also going to be in the mix for the ESPN Watch List defensive end.

QB David Cornwell (Jones, Okla./Jones, 6-5, 215)

Cornwell was known by absolutely nobody coming into this season. That’s not the case anymore as he has developed a relationship with OU quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel and OSU quarterbacks coach Todd Monken.

He has already seen OSU in person this season and is hopeful he can attend Saturday’s Bedlam contest at OU.

Cornwell has offers from Auburn and Indiana, has visited Michigan and Alabama and is receiving numerous letters from LSU and Alabama. When it comes to Cornwell, it might not just be a Bedlam battle.

RB Lawrence Evitt (Wagoner, Okla./Wagoner, 5-8, 165)

Another prospect that has emerged this season is Evitt. An admitted huge OSU fan, it was OU and running backs coach Cale Gundy that made the first move.


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As Oklahoma begins to recruit more and more in the Midwest, the Sooners undoubtedly will end up going head-to-head for several recruits in the near future. It’s already happening in the Class of 2013.

But it’s not the first time.

The Sooners and Irish have gone head-to-head for recruits several times in the past decade. A closer look at some of those battles:

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Jason in Oklahoma City writes: Excluding the 2000 team that won the title, I would think that the 2004 team and the 2008 team were probably the best teams in the stoops era. So if you had Sam Bradford, Jermaine Gresham, DeMarco Murray, Chris Brown, Gerald McCoy, Duke Robinson, Phil Loadholt and Nic Harris go up against Jason White, Adrian Peterson, Mark Clayton, Jammal Brown, Brandon Jones, Dan Cody, Donte Nicholson and Antonio Perkins, who do you think would come out on top? I think it would be a good game, but I think the 2004 team had a little more talent. What’s your opinion?

Jake Trotter: We saw what happened with the ’04 Sooners when they were matched up against an offensive juggernaut in the Orange Bowl against USC. Sure, there were some turnovers that helped ignite the rout. But OU was overmatched.

Not once were the ’08 Sooners ever overmatched. They lost in a shootout to Texas, then couldn’t get going offensively in the BCS title game vs. Florida, and even then, still had a chance in the fourth quarter. Against Texas, OU lost its defensive captain in linebacker Ryan Reynolds and never recovered. Against Florida, OU, which had the No. 1 red zone offense in college football, was stuffed twice inside the Gator 10.

The ’08 Sooners would have trouble containing Peterson, and most certainly would give up some Jason White passes downfield. But I think the Bradford hurry-up, with all those weapons like Gresham, Murray and slot specialist Ryan Broyles would be too much firepower for the ’04 Sooners to handle.
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 the chat:

Courtney (Little Wing, NM): Could this be the best class of WR recruits in CFB history? At least on paper, so far.

Jake Trotter: Since the advent of recruiting services, it's up there. At least on paper. OU basically is bringing in 4 of the Top 20 WRs, arguably the No. 1 WR from last year, and perhaps the No. 1 juco WR. Remember though, we were calling the 2008 haul the best WR class in OU history. The best of that group turned out to be Dejuan Miller, and he was a career backup. I like the potential of this group much better. But let's wait and see what happens.

(Read full post)

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

Robert in West Columbia, Texas, writes: It seems OU has fallen off in the talent on the defensive side of the ball, what will it take to rebound?

[+] EnlargeDavid Ash
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireOklahoma's Ronnell Lewis chose to enter NFL draft.
Jake Trotter: OU had an inconstant season defensively, but not because of a lack of talent. Ronnell Lewis could be a first-round pick. Jamell Fleming and Frank Alexander were all-conference players. The problem last season was execution. Too many times the defense committed mental errors that resulted in big plays. When the defense was on point, they were dominant (Florida State, Texas, Kansas State). But there is one area where the talent has fallen off: defensive tackle. The Sooners didn’t have a Gerald McCoy or Tommie Harris last season. They probably won’t have one next year, either, though Jordan Phillips is an intriguing prospect because of his athleticism. Maybe he can be a difference-maker up front, which would be a huge asset to the entire defense.


Zach in Claremore, Okla., writes: How do you feel about our chances with athlete Davonte Neal with Tim Kish trying to bring him in?

Jake Trotter: It’s amazing that OU has been able to get in on Neal this late in the process, with all the big-time schools that have been recruiting him for months. But clearly Kish has developed a strong rapport with Neal. At the moment, the chances of the Sooners actually landing him are probably slim. But there might be reason to have cautious optimism if Kish could make Neal give OU a hard look and take an official visit.


Brandon in Texarkana, Texas, writes: What’s the latest with Trey Metoyer? Has he made it to the Oklahoma campus yet? And when he plays next year, would he be considered a freshman or sophomore, since he went to Hargrave last semester.

Jake Trotter: Trey’s dad actually told me Thursday that Trey has been cleared by the NCAA clearinghouse and that he will be on campus before the end of the weekend. Metoyer will be a freshman, since prep school doesn’t count against a player’s FBS eligibility.


Mike in Amarillo, Texas, writes: It seems to me OU has lost its ability to land the top recruits. They still land good quality players and pretty solid classes, but instead of Top 5 they are struggling to stay Top 10. Is the problem with recruiting on the coaches or is it just the recruits themselves?

Jake Trotter:I think you’re being a little harsh. OU had a Top 5 class just two years ago. A class that has already produced numerous starters, including Tony Jefferson, Corey Nelson and Kenny Stills. Recruiting the upper-echelon prospects to Norman isn’t easy. As Bob Stoops says, Oklahoma doesn’t have any beaches to recruit. The Sooners still manage to have Top 10 classes every year. Even if they don’t always land the Adrian Peterson of every class.

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