Oklahoma Sooners: John Michael McGee

Grading the class: 2012

February, 6, 2014
Oklahoma added 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 last five recruiting classes. On Thursday we begin with a review of the Class of 2011 including recruits who exceeded expectations, recruits who were solid signees and complete busts.

OU landed 11 four-star recruits in 2012, including five members of the ESPN 150, and while it’s relatively early in their careers, several signees, including defensive end Charles Tapper, linebacker Eric Striker, quarterback Trevor Knight and receiver Sterling Shepard, have already made major contributions. The class was ranked No. 11 nationally by ESPN.com.

[+] EnlargeAmari Cooper
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesCharles Tapper (right) was a raw talent when he arrived at Oklahoma, but has developed into an All-Big 12 defender.
Transcendent figures

Defensive end Charles Tapper: He was the rawest signee in the class. Now, two years later, he’s an All-Big 12 defensive end with an NFL future. OU deserves a ton of credit for finding this hidden gem and Tapper deserves just as much credit for pushing himself to greatness and turning his potential into on-field production. Not bad for the nation’s No. 74-ranked defensive end.

Quarterback Trevor Knight: The sophomore quarterback was showing unique traits before he even stepped on campus, organizing fellow recruits and displaying leadership ability before he signed with OU. The No. 22-ranked quarterback in the nation, Knight won the starting job last August and, after some ups and downs during the regular season, lifted up the Sugar Bowl MVP trophy in early January after leading OU to an impressive win over Alabama. OU will build its offense around his talents this offseason and if he plays like he did in the Sugar Bowl, the sky is the limit for the Sooners in 2014.

Receiver Sterling Shepard: As soon as the Under Armour All-American stepped on campus everyone knew Shepard would be a key part of the Sooners’ plans. He was one reason OU went to a four-receiver base package in 2012 as they aimed to get their top 11 players on the field and he hasn’t disappointed with 96 receptions for 1,224 yards and 10 touchdowns in his first two seasons. The No. 60 player in the ESPN 150, Shepard should be Knight’s primary target in 2014.

Linebacker Eric Striker: Sooners running backs were complaining about having to try to block Striker during his freshman year but he rarely saw the field on defense in 2012. That changed in 2013 as he became one of the Big 12’s most feared pass rushers. His acceleration and knack for getting to the quarterback made him a critical part of the defense as a sophomore and earned him All-Big 12 second team honors after stepping on campus as the No. 62 safety in the nation.

Cornerback Zack Sanchez: The No. 64 cornerback in the nation, Sanchez has started every game of his young career and has displayed the competitiveness required to excel at cornerback. He’s already exceeding expectations.


Center Ty Darlington: He could be the anchor of OU’s offensive line as a junior after two quality years behind All-Big 12 center Gabe Ikard. Darlington was No. 148 in the ESPN 150.

Receiver Lacoltan Bester: A late junior college signee, Bester did exactly what he was brought in to do. He provided veteran depth and competition to the receiving corps during his two seasons.

Receiver Durron Neal: His junior year is a big one for Neal. He’s seen spot duty during his first two seasons but needs to step up and secure a spot in the starting lineup this fall. Neal was No. 64 in the ESPN 150.

Receiver Derrick Woods: Woods made an impact on special teams as a redshirt freshman and his Sugar Bowl catch was a glimpse at his potential to make an impact on offense. Woods was No. 137 in the ESPN 150.

Running back Damien Williams: Williams did what he was brought in to do, provide competition and big plays at the running back spot for two seasons. Even though his Sooners’ career ended with his dismissal, he gave the program two productive seasons.

Tight end Brannon Green: Green was a valuable blocker and overlooked key to OU’s running success during his two years in Norman, Okla.

Completely missed the mark

Offensive lineman John Michael McGee: It always was odd for the Sooners to sign McGee, who said he didn’t love football during the recruiting process. Therefore, it really was no surprise when he quit the team before his freshman season even began.

Overall grade: A+

This class has been on campus for two years and already features an All-Big 12 first teamer, All-Big 12 second teamer, a freshman All-American and a Sugar Bowl MVP. Anyone expecting more from a recruiting class that has been on campus for 18 months needs to re-think their expectations.

Sooner Intel: Recruiting news and notes 

January, 3, 2013
Every Thursday, 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:

  • How did OU get involved with its latest offer in California?
  • ESPN 300 ATH talks about his top two

Chatmon's mailbag: Any help on the way? 

September, 7, 2012
Oklahoma was, um, less than dominant in its 24-7 win over UTEP on Sept. 1. And yet Friday's mailbag is recruiting heavy with questions and answers about the Sooners recruiting along the offensive and defensive lines as well as a couple of basketball inquires. If you have any questions email Brandon Chatmon at bchatmonespn@gmail.com. So without further ado...

ZackD18 (via Twitter) asks: What are the chances the Sooners get some legit OL and DL commits? Maybe the UCLA commits?

Brandon Chatmon: There’s a pretty decent chance the Sooners land defensive tackle Justin Manning (Dallas/Kimball), the younger brother of Demarcus Granger. Manning would be a great get for an OU defense that continues to search for difference makers in its interior.

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John Michael McGee talks OU departure 

August, 20, 2012
For years, offensive guard John Michael McGee was told the same thing over and over. McGee, who grew up a huge basketball fan, never really liked football. But coaches told him repeatedly, “you’ll like it eventually.”

McGee hoped it might happen at the high school level, but it never materialized. And after his first summer camp and couple of days of fall camp at Oklahoma, McGee realized it simply wasn’t going to come.

Instead of wasting any more of his time or the school’s time, McGee, a 2012 Sooners signee who graduated from Texarkana Texas High, elected to leave the Sooners on Aug. 6 and has enrolled at Texas A&M University-Texarkana.

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Preseason losses plaguing Sooners

August, 8, 2012
Oklahoma enters the 2012 season as the Big 12 favorite, but is that slowly changing, injury by injury?

One of the Sooners' biggest strengths was their offensive line, but with two big losses and another departure, the unit has turned into a big question mark.

Center Ben Habern, a three-year starter, chose to leave football after recurring neck and back issues. On Monday, the Sooners announced fellow three-year starter at guard, Tyler Evans, will miss the season with a torn ACL.

Habern had started 30 games entering this season. Evans, 29. All those 59 games of experience are suddenly off the field this season.

Incoming freshman and U.S. Army All-American John Michael McGee also left the team this week. That's a much less impactful loss this season, but McGee could have blossomed into something special.

As for this year's team, colleague Ivan Maisel noted that the Sooners now return just 43 total starts on the offensive line. That ranks eighth in the Big 12.

"Still think the Sooners are a top-five team?" Maisel wrote.

It makes you think for sure.

Quarterback Landry Jones is the biggest returning piece for the Sooners, but the biggest way to negate his effectiveness is to remove big pieces from his offensive line. Just ask Sam Bradford.

Guard Gabe Ikard (who now has to move to center to replace Habern) is the best player on the line for the Sooners, and he's still healthy, but Oklahoma has struggled to get a big push in some high-profile losses the past few seasons. Even 2008's famed line got stuffed on the goal line twice against Florida in the national title game, and 2010's team was stuffed three times in a loss to Texas A&M.

This season's line looked like one that would have the potential to get that push.

It's hard not to immediately draw a comparison to the 2009 team with the preseason injuries already in camp. As the nightmare season wore on, the offensive line got beat up more and more, eventually needing 265-pound tight end Brody Eldridge to start at center ... before he hurt his neck against Nebraska. This season's team isn't as good as that 2009 team that lost All-American tight end Jermaine Gresham and Bradford before halftime of the first game, but this 2012 team seemed to have the ability to win the national title.

With the losses on the offensive line, has that all changed now? We'll find out in the months to come.
Every weekday morning, a member of the SoonerNation gives his take on three things happening in the Sooner sports world.

1. With a torn ACL to Tyler Evans and freshman offensive guard John Michael McGee apparently quitting OU on Monday, the Sooners can most definitely be in the market for an interior offensive lineman. James Patton had been giving the same spiel to a few recruits about how OU was really high on them but had no room. Now? There should be some room. Two names to single out are three-star linemen Rob Boyd (Vian, Okla./Vian) and Zach Hannon (Kansas City, Mo./Rockhurst). Both have visited OU and had a lot of positive things to say about the Sooners despite the lack of an offer.

2. Bob Stoops shrugged off the question Monday, but it has to feel a little bit like OU is snake-bitten right about now. The Sooners looked like they were adding a huge piece to the puzzle in Penn State wide receiver transfer Justin Brown but that has been tempered by what could be a season-ending injury to Evans. And offensive line, which looked like it had some depth, can now ill afford another injury following the losses of Dylan Dismuke and Ben Habern in the last week, too.

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The loss of Tyler Evans is a tough blow for Oklahoma. The senior guard, who started 25 games the past two seasons, would have brought stability and consistency to the Sooners' offensive interior.

Now, with Evans lost for the season with a torn ACL in his right knee, OU will turn to junior Bronson Irwin to help fill the void. And the Sooners' depth in the offensive interior, which appeared to be a strength on Aug. 1, has become a potential concern in Norman.

Irwin appears prepared to handle the challenge of replacing Evans even though he hasn’t started a game in crimson and cream. He saw spot duty in 2011 after playing himself out of a redshirt season in 2010. He arrived in Norman as a highly regarded recruit from Mustang, Okla., after choosing the Sooners over offers from Alabama, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, Arkansas and others.

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John Michael McGee's tenure at Oklahoma appears to be over. The true freshman guard tweeted Monday afternoon that he was leaving the team.

“Goodluck to OU on the field I'll be watching,” McGee posted on his Twitter account. “It's just not for me.”

Bob Stoops said he gave McGee the day away from the team to contemplate whether he wanted to go ahead and leave.

His departure is another blow to an offensive line that’s been ravaged by injuries this season. Monday, Stoops confirmed that three-year starting guard Tyler Evans has suffered a knee injury and was undergoing an MRI. Stoops feared that it could be a torn ligament. Last week, Stoops announced that veteran center Ben Habern was giving up football because of a bad neck and back.

OU is also without guard/center Nila Kasitati, who underwent a procedure on his heart last week. The ailment is believed to be non-life threatening and offensive line coach James Patton said he’s hoping to get Kasitati back on the practice field in the next few days. Reserve center Austin Woods is still undergoing chemotherapy treatments even as he practices with the team. Woods was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in the spring.

McGee was the No. 12 guard in the country coming out of Texarkana, Texas, according to ESPN. He signed with the Sooners despite having offers from Michigan, Notre Dame and Alabama, among others.

“John Michael McGee is a freak athletically,” Patton said of him in the spring. “He’s not as big as (former OU All-American) Trent Williams, but in terms of a linemen who can move and bend and has quickness and agility – we saw him on tape and they threw a tackle screen to him and he walked in for a touchdown. In terms of his athleticism, he can do a lot of different things for us.”
Updated at 8:10 p.m.: Oklahoma announced Monday night that Tyler Evans suffered a torn ACL in his right knee.

NORMAN, Okla. -- Another day, another Oklahoma offensive lineman goes down. Bob Stoops confirmed Monday after practice that guard Tyler Evans suffered a significant knee injury. Evans is getting an MRI today, and Stoops said could have torn a ligament.

Evans has been a solid performer since winning a starting job his freshman year, with 29 career starts. According to Stoops, Evans injured the knee on the first day of practice.

[+] EnlargeTyler Evans
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireSenior guard Tyler Evans is having an MRI on on his knee today.
One week after losing Ben Habern to a career-ending neck injury, the Sooners are without another significant cog on the line. Bronson Irwin, whom the Sooners coaches have praised the last two weeks, steps into a starting job at right guard. Irwin has filled a reserve role the last two seasons, but really impressed the staff with his work in the offseason. With Gabe Ikard sliding to center to replace Habern, sophomore Adam Shead is in the starting lineup at left guard.

  • The Sooners also might lose another offensive lineman in guard John Michael McGee. McGee was given the day off Monday to reflect on whether he wants to stay part of the team. McGee tweeted several times Monday morning, suggesting he was going back home to Texarkana.

  • Cale Gundy said he has had a chance to watch the newcomers catch punts. Sterling Shepard and Durron Neal could help there. Gundy, who runs OU's punt return units, expects them to make an impact at some point during their careers, but does that mean we should expect to see them back there in El Paso?

    The wildcard is Justin Brown. He's a veteran returner and it's a skill he can step right in and help immediately (i.e. no learning curve within the system). I'd expect Brown to handle most of the return duties with Shepard and Neal providing depth at the position. Regardless, the Sooners return game could take a step up.

  • Guard Adam Shead said the Sooners don't feel snakebitten with the injuries up front. It's a next-man-up mentality and OU will move forward with the same expectations. In a matter of days, Shead has gone from possible starter to the anchor of the Sooners guard position.

  • Running back Brennan Clay is really excited about adding Damien Williams to OU's RB corps. Williams played at a rival high school in San Diego, so Clay knows his talent better than most.

    Gundy, the Sooners running backs coach, also had high praise for Williams and said the junior college transfer has a good chance to earn some touches this season.

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  • The deepest position on Oklahoma’s team is not wide receiver, quarterback or linebacker. It’s the interior of the offensive line.

    [+] EnlargeBen Habern
    Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesOklahoma center Ben Habern is sitting out the spring with a neck injury.
    What Oklahoma has: The Sooners possess an embarrassment of riches at guard and center. Ben Habern is a three-year starter at center. Gabe Ikard, who can play guard or center, has started the last two seasons. Senior-to be Tyler Evans has been starting at right guard since his freshman year, and he’ll have to play well to fend off Adam Shead, who might be the best run blocker on the entire team.

    Bronson Irwin and Nila Kasitati could start for a lot of teams in the Big 12, and make the position even deeper.

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    Offensive line coach James Patton weighs in on Oklahoma’s offensive lineman signing class:

    • G John Michael McGee: “John Michael McGee is a freak athletically. He’s not as big as Trent Williams, but in terms of a linemen who can move and bend and has quickness and agility – we saw him on tape and they threw a tackle screen to him and he walked in for a touchdown. He can probably play tight end. He’s just 6-3 and 265 pounds right now. He’s going to need to get his weight and strength up, but in terms of his athleticism, he can do a lot of different things for us.”

    • C Ty Darlington: “He was number one in his class, he’s been coached by his dad at Opapka High School, he’ll be the Valedictorian of his class. He’s a great kid with toughness, he’s a leader and I can say enough about him. He’s a kid in the same mold as Ben Habern and Jon Cooper and those guys. He’s a quick-thinking guy. His mom was a cheerleader here and they were a Midwest City family and he grew up watching Sooner football for a long time.”

    • OT/G Kyle Marrs: “Kyle’s a big, right tackle. He’s 6-6, 300 pounds and he looks great. I saw him last week. He’s a physical run-blocking guy. He probably is in the same mold of Bronson Irwin who played tackle in high school. He’ll probably be a good guard on the inside.”

    • OT Will Latu: “Physically he’s a big, wide guy. He fills up half of this door here. He’s just a big-shouldered, wide, with a big back, arms, hands – he’s got a thick lower body.”

    • On the offensive ine class as a whole: “We lost two with Stephen (Good) and Donald (Stephenson). We get two more (than that) coming in, and you know how it is with line play. We can be thin, but other guys can play other positions. If a guy gets hurt the next guys steps in. In next year’s class we’ll lose Habern, we’ll lose Tyler Evans, we’ll lose Lane Johnson. So these guys coming in that will probably redshirt – maybe Latu has the best chance to play early – those other three will get a chance to redshirt and develop.”
    You can’t win them all, but Oklahoma is faring well here down the stretch to national signing day. The Sooners failed to land ESPNU 150 offensive tackle Zach Banner (Lakewood, Wash./Lakes) on Monday, but it’s not doom-and-gloom as OU was able to get junior college tackle Will Latu (St. Petersburg, Fla./College of the Canyons) on Sunday.

    Banner chose USC over the Sooners and Washington on Monday afternoon at a ceremony at his high school. Banner had an official visit to OU in September that went as good as it possibly could have. However, an official visit to USC last weekend put the Trojans in the driver’s seat.

    [+] EnlargeZach Banner
    John Albright/Icon SMIOffensive tackle Zach Banner chose USC over Washington and Oklahoma on Monday.
    Banner was so confident about things that he canceled in-home visits last week because he knew where he was going.

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    video As National Signing Day approaches on Feb. 1, Brandon Chatmon is breaking down every commitment and signee in the Sooners' 2012 recruiting class. View all of our profiles here.

    Name: John Michael McGee

    Position: Offensive guard

    Height, Weight: 6-foot-3, 275 pounds

    Hometown/School: Texarkana,Texas/Texas

    Committed: June 23, 2011

    Scout grade: 80. Four-star prospect.

    (Read full post)

    The center is supposed to be the leader of the offensive line, the anchor of the offense.

    It’s a role that Oklahoma verbal commit Ty Darlington (Apopka, Fla./Apopka) said he is looking forward to when he plays for the Sooners.

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    With less than a month until National Signing Day, Oklahoma’s prospects on offense look a lot better than on the defensive side of the ball. The Sooners have been able to nab several top targets and have one of the best offensive classes in the country.

    But the search is still far from over as OU is still in play for a lot of top kids on their board.


    Committed: Trevor Knight (San Antonio/Reagan). The Sooners cannot ask for a better signal-caller than Knight. Since switching his commitment from Texas A&M to OU in July, Knight has quickly and rightfully become a favorite among OU fans and fellow commits.

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