Oklahoma Sooners: Mark Andrews

This week, we’ve been examining the most indispensable player for every team in the Big 12. In other words, who is the player each team could least afford to lose to injury?

We’re knocking on wood before we turn in these posts; so no need to worry about a jinx.

We continue with the Oklahoma Sooners.

Most indispensable player: Receiver Sterling Shepard

[+] EnlargeSterling Shepard and Jackson Jeffcoat
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsSterling Shepard's production will be vital to Oklahoma's success in the passing game in 2014.
2013 stats: Caught 51 passes for 603 yards and seven touchdowns.

Why Oklahoma can’t afford to lose him: A strong case could be made for sophomore quarterback Trevor Knight here. He was spectacular in the Allstate Sugar Bowl and has the skill set to be a star in college football. But it’s difficult to slap the “indispensable” label on a player who has only started and finished three games in his college career.

Last season, Oklahoma’s most indispensable player was do-everything receiver Jalen Saunders. This season, the Sooners’ most indispensable player figures to be another do-everything pass-catcher.

Shepard has been a key part of the Oklahoma offense from the moment he stepped on campus. Through two seasons in Norman, Shepard already has 96 receptions for 1,224 yards and 10 touchdowns.

With Saunders now a member of the New York Jets, Shepard will take over as the Sooners’ go-to playmaker at receiver. But unlike Saunders, who had Shepard and Lacoltan Bester alongside him, Shepard won’t have an experienced receiver flanking him. That makes Shepard all-the-more indispensable.

After Shepard, Durron Neal is Oklahoma’s second-leading receiver from last season, and he finished with only 13 receptions. Neal also missed spring practice with knee and ankle injuries.

Elsewhere, the Sooners are loaded with inexperience at receiver. Jordan Smallwood, Dannon Cavil and K.J. Young redshirted last season. Austin Bennett and Derrick Woods have been used sparingly. Mark Andrews, Jeff Mead, Michiah Quick and Dallis Todd are incoming true freshmen.

In fact, outside Shepard, the only two returning Sooners who had touchdown catches last year are fullback Aaron Ripkowski and place-kicker Michael Hunnicutt.

That’s why Shepard is so valuable.

He gives the Sooners an unequivocal tone-setter and leader for its extremely young group of receivers. And he gives Knight that one dependable target every budding quarterback requires.
Since last week we’ve been examining at the strongest and weakest position groups for each Big 12 team going into the fall.

We continue with the Oklahoma Sooners:

Strongest position: Defensive line

Pretty obvious choice here for Oklahoma, considering how this unit played in its greatest test yet against Alabama.

Eric Striker gives the Sooners an All-Big 12 defensive end who still has two years left to get even better. He's a playmaker, and senior Geneo Grissom proved against the Tide, with his two sacks and two fumble recoveries, that he can be, too.

We got to see Jordan Phillips in only four games last fall before he was shut down for the season, but the defensive tackle was one of OU's most promising defenders when he was on the field. The trio of Phillips, Chuka Ndulue and Jordan Wade is potent. Keep them healthy, and they can develop into a fearsome group.

What makes this group really stand out, and what probably gets overlooked, is the depth you don't see. While these starters form one of the conference's best defensive lines, the guys behind them will continue to develop in the background.

Some will be called upon when injuries hit, but having young linemen such as Matt Dimon, D.J. Ward, Dwayne Orso Jr. and Courtney Garnett waiting in the wings will mean an exciting future for this line.

Weakest position: Wide receivers

You can't lose a great talent like Jalen Saunders and key seniors Lacoltan Bester and Jaz Reynolds and not be a little concerned with this group.

The Sooners are essentially working with four experienced receivers going into 2014, led by Sterling Shepard. He can't do it all by himself. Among Durron Neal, Derrick Woods and Austin Bennett, quarterback Trevor Knight is going to need to find a couple guys he can trust. There are some redshirt freshmen waiting for their turn, too.

The good news is help is on the way, and it might be elite help. The Sooners signed three skyscrapers in Mark Andrews (6-foot-6), Jeffery Mead (6-6) and Dallis Todd (6-5) and then inked a four-star speedster in Michiah Quick on signing day. Three of those incoming freshmen are ESPN 300 recruits with big expectations.

If a couple are ready when they show up in Norman, this group will instantly get a lot better.

2014 Big 12 recruiting draft: Round 3

May, 8, 2014
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Our 2014 Big 12 recruiting draft concludes with Round 3. Earlier this afternoon we posted Round 1 and Round 2.

1. Kansas -- RB Donte Thomas-Williams
Signed with: West Virginia
Brandon Chatmon: I was tempted to go with WR Allen Lazard here but Thomas-Williams is just too tempting to pass up, particularly for a Jayhawks squad that is losing James Sims, a four-year mainstay at running back. His combination of speed and power would fit well alongside Heard in the backfield and also set up open-field opportunities for Tony Pierson and Nick Harwell.

2. Iowa State -- WR Allen Lazard
Signed with: Iowa State
Jake Trotter: The Cyclones still get their No. 1 WR of the future.

3. West Virginia -- C Jacob Bragg
Signed with: Kansas
Chatmon: The Mountaineers lost Pat Eger, who started 27 games during his career, and Bragg seems like the perfect replacement. The Under Armour All-American is talented enough to make an immediate impact on an offensive line that needs quality depth and additional bodies to help coach Dana Holgorsen’s offense get back on the road to success.

4. TCU -- WR Emanuel Porter
Signed with: TCU
Max Olson: The Horned Frogs would take Porter every day of the week and especially on Saturdays. The 6-foot-3 wideout is a big target with a basketball background and serious upside. He flipped from TCU to Texas and then back to TCU last year and should see the field plenty in 2014. The Frogs love his potential and wouldn't pass on him.

5. Texas Tech -- TE Mark Andrews
Signed with: Oklahoma
Trotter: You saw how the Red Raiders utilized Jace Amaro last season. Well, Andrews, who is 6-6 and 220 pounds, is the closest thing to Amaro coming into the league as a big, physical receiving tight end. Kliff Kingsbury knew how to unleash Amaro in the slot, and he would know how to unleash Andrews too.

6. Kansas State — S T'Kevian Rockwell
Signed with: Baylor
Chatmon: Dante Barnett needs a running mate at the safety spot with Ty Zimmerman headed to the NFL. Rockwell seems to fit the bill with his aggressive nature and he clocked a 10.63 in 100-meter dash during spring track, proving his legit track speed. Rockwell and Watson would immediately upgrade the speed and playmaking on KSU’s defense.

7. Texas -- S Kenny Iloka
Signed with: TCU
Olson: Texas came very close to landing Iloka, but his official visit and decision came in the middle of the coaching change. The Horns have two veteran safeties who haven't been consistent and Iloka would've made that group much better. He's an instant-impact transfer who could've enrolled early, learned the defense and perhaps emerged as a starter.

8. Oklahoma State -- OLB D'Vonta Derricott
Signed with: Kansas State
Trotter: With All-Big 12 performer Shaun Lewis gone, Oklahoma State needs immediate help at outside linebacker. Derricott, one of the top juco OLBs in the country whom the Cowboys originally offered, could fill that spot with his ability to cover and chase opposing ball carriers to the ground.

9. Oklahoma -- LB Davonte James
Signed with: West Virginia
Chatmon: This is not a need pick by any stretch of the imagination but Oklahoma is in a position to take the best available prospect. And James is that guy. The Ohio native has terrific potential and could slide right into the versatile defense the Sooners are trying to build under Mike Stoops. He’s tough and athletic making him a perfect addition to the defense.

10. Baylor -- S John Bonney
Signed with: Texas
Olson: Don't be deceived by the fact Bonney was ranked outside of the final ESPN 300. Baylor considered him one of the best DBs in the state, in a particularly good year for DBs, and nearly managed to get him to switch at the last second. With Ahmad Dixon gone, the Bears could use the help at safety and they get a steal here with the final pick of our draft.

OU spring position battles: No. 3

February, 26, 2014
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Spring football provides the opportunity for players to put themselves in the driver’s seat when it comes to position battles. Several Oklahoma Sooners will have the chance to make a statement and make themselves the favorite to start or become a significant contributor during spring drills with several starting spots open heading into 2014. This week we’ll review the top five position battles to keep an eye on this spring, continuing with receiver.

No. 3: Receiver

Why it’s important: Trevor Knight is going to need options when he drops back to throw the football. Sterling Shepard is a bona fide playmaker, and has been proving it since he stepped on campus in the summer of 2012. Yet the junior is the lone known playmaker returning to the receiving corps in 2014. OU needs two or more receivers to step their game up in the spring and show they’re ready to be on the receiving end of Knight’s spirals.

Competitors

Junior Durron Neal: Neal arrived on campus with Shepard but hasn’t made a similar impact. He’s shown potential but he needs to become more consistent and earn the coaches trust if he hopes to fulfill the expectations placed upon him when he signed in the Class of 2012.

[+] EnlargeDerrick Woods
Crystal LoGiudice/USA TODAY SportsWR Derrick Woods has shown huge upside (see his acrobatic catch in the Sugar Bowl) but can he put it all together this spring and earn a starting spot?
Sophomore Derrick Woods: One of the best athletes on the team, Woods is starting to apply that athleticism to the receiver spot after playing multiple positions in high school. His leaping catch in the Sugar Bowl was a glimpse at his upside but will he seize the opportunity to become a starter?

Redshirt freshman K.J. Young: A smooth slot receiver who had a terrific redshirt year and is looking to show he will be a playmaker this fall. A strong spring could cement himself a role in the offense heading into the summer.

Redshirt freshman Jordan Smallwood: A physical presence with terrific ball skills, Smallwood appears poised to make an impact after a foot injury forced him to redshirt in 2013.

Redshirt freshman Dannon Cavil: He brings great height (6-foot-5, 214 pounds) and the spring gives him the opportunity to get a leg up on the competition before a freshman class that features three guys over 6-4 will arrive in the summer.

Sophomore Austin Bennett: Easily the most overlooked freshman receiver and the only one who escaped a redshirt season in 2013. This spring is his chance to show why for this intriguing slot receiver.

Summer arrivals

Freshman Michiah Quick: The ESPN300 signee is an exceptional playmaker who is dynamic with the ball in his hands. Don’t be surprised if he forces his way onto the field as a true freshman.

Freshman Dallis Todd: The California native has the size and speed to be ready to pounce if any of the receivers currently on campus aren’t ready to play.

Freshman: Jeffrey Mead: A raw talent who could become a matchup nightmare for Big 12 defenses as he starts to focus on football after starring in three sports in high school.

Freshman Mark Andrews: Another big body (6-6, 220) who could overwhelm defenders with his size and ball skills.

Potential outcomes

Best-case scenario: Neal or Woods emerge as a trustworthy sidekick alongside Shepard and one or more of the young receivers on campus show they are ready to take advantage of the one-on-one opportunities the Sooners’ offense will create. If at least four of the receivers currently on campus try to secure themselves a spot in the starting lineup with strong performances this spring, the Sooners offense has a chance to be scary.

Worst-case scenario: None of the receivers on campus look like different players in the spring. They continue to perform the way they have to this point in their careers forcing the Sooners’ coaches to know they may have to lean on one or more of the true freshman to play immediately this fall. It would really handicap the offense if Shepard is the only trustworthy receiver on the roster heading into August.

Top overall position classes in 2014 

February, 21, 2014
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With national signing day in the books, RecruitingNation is looking at which programs compiled the nation's best overall position classes in 2014. For the full top position classes series, click here.

Quarterbacks: Florida
The Florida Gators had a major need at quarterback in the Class of 2014, and Will Muschamp and staff more than filled it, signing two of the nation’s top signal-callers. Third-ranked dual-threat prospect Will Grier (Davidson, N.C./Davidson Day School) is already on campus and preparing for spring practice, while No. 7 dual-threat prospect Treon Harris (Miami/Booker T. Washington) was a huge signing-day flip from Florida State. Both prospects are great athletes who are accustomed to operating up-tempo offenses. This should also help newly hired offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, who will install a similar scheme in Gainesville.

Spring football is just over the horizon.

Oklahoma is coming off a banner 2013 campaign featuring an 11-win season and a Sugar Bowl victory over SEC power Alabama, yet the Sooners have several position groups they need to address if they hope to make a national title run in 2014. This week, we’ll take a closer look at the top five position groups that need to improve during OU’s spring practices. On Thursday, we continue the series with the Sooners receivers at No. 2.

The breakdown

[+] EnlargeDurron Neal, Sterling Shepard
Alonzo Adams/USA TODAY SportsOklahoma needs Durron Neal (5) to become a reliable playmaker at receiver opposite Sterling Shepard.
On campus: Sterling Shepard, Jr.; Derrick Woods, So.; Durron Neal, Jr.; Austin Bennett, So.; Dannon Cavil, R-Fr.; Jordan Smallwood, R-Fr.; K.J. Young, R-Fr.

Summer arrivals: Mark Andrews, Fr.; Jeffery Mead, Fr.; Michiah Quick, Fr.; Dallis Todd, Fr.

Summary: The Sooners appear on the cusp of having a receiver selected in the NFL draft for the third consecutive season if Jalen Saunders hears his name called in May, following the footsteps of Ryan Broyles and Kenny Stills. Yet if OU hopes to make a national title run, its receivers will have to be much more productive in 2014 than they were in 2013. Fortunately the receivers room is overflowing with talent, so the competition to play should be fierce and force everyone to raise their overall level of play.

Shepard, who had 96 receptions for 1,224 yards and 10 touchdowns in his first two seasons, could have an all-conference season as Trevor Knight’s top target and the most experienced receiver on the roster as a junior. He’s competitive, tough and athletic. Spring is his first opportunity to show he can handle being “the man” in the passing game, but there’s no reason to think he’s not ready to carry that burden.

It’s an important season for Neal, who stepped on campus as a highly regarded recruit but hasn’t made as big an impact as Shepard, a fellow Class of 2012 signee. The junior has shown signs of being a playmaker but hasn’t forced his way into the lineup the way Shepard did during their first two seasons. Spring is his chance to show he deserves a bigger role in the offense.

Woods is coming off a redshirt freshman season in which he made an impact on special teams with limited duty on offense. As the former high school quarterback gets more comfortable as a college receiver, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him make a major jump from his freshman to sophomore season. Spring will be the first glimpse of his readiness to be a factor at receiver.

Bennett was the lone freshman receiver to escape a redshirt in 2013, playing on special teams. He can be the playmaker in the slot that the Sooners need, particularly with Saunders out of the picture.

At 6-foot-5 and 214 pounds, Cavil brings unique size and good speed. Unlike most 2013 signees, he’s been on campus for a full year, so Cavil should be comfortable with the demands of playing college football and ready to show if he can be an impact player as a redshirt freshman.

There’s been a buzz about Young since his arrival last summer. Comparisons to Broyles have begun thanks to his ball skills and quickness in the slot. The first step for Young, however, is to have a great spring and start proving he can turn his potential into production.

Smallwood might have played as a true freshman if he hadn’t injured his foot before the season began. The coaches love the physicality he brings as a receiver, so this spring should be his first chance to show what he can do in crimson and cream.

Don’t be surprised if Quick makes an immediate impact, even though he could use a year in the Sooners’ strength and conditioning program. A lack of bulk never held Saunders back, so there’s no reason to think Quick won’t use his exceptional talent to overcome any size limitations just like Saunders did.

Andrews has the athleticism and ball skills to be a matchup nightmare for defensive backs. How well he transitions to Big 12 receiver will ultimately decide how quickly he sees the field.

The sky is the limit for Mead, a three-sport star at Tulsa (Okla.) Union, as the recent signee could develop into a major contributor once he starts to focus on football in the fall. He has terrific size and athleticism with plenty of room to grow as a receiver.

Todd (6-5, 210) moves like a much smaller man. His quickness and speed will surprise defenders, yet he maintains the strength expected of someone his size. His unique combination of skills could help him earn a role early in his OU career.

The list

No. 3: Cornerbacks
No. 4: Running backs
No. 5: Tight ends

Top position classes: TEs 

February, 13, 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 Big 12)
Oklahoma addressed many needs with its top-15 recruiting class, and that certainly includes the tight end position. Coach Bob Stoops and his staff signed a trio of tight ends, including ESPN 300s No. 277 Carson Meier (Tulsa, Okla./Union) and No. 295 Mark Andrews (Scottsdale, Ariz./Desert Mountain), as well as three-star junior college prospect Isaac Ijalana (Mount Holly, N.J./Pierce College). All three players have terrific size of at least 6-foot-5, and Meier and Andrews possess the frame to add mass and strength. Meier has good initial burst and above-average ball skills, while Andrews has excellent hand-eye coordination and the ability to beat linebackers and safeties with regularity.

The Sooners had the nation’s best tight end class; here’s which schools had the best in each of the remaining power conferences:


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State of the program: Receiver

January, 15, 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. This series, called State of the Position, will look at the playmakers, up-and-comers and current commitments or targets at each position for the Sooners as recruiting really heats up before signing day on Feb. 5. On Wednesday, we take a closer look at the receiver position.

Starter/contributors: Sterling Shepard (Jr.)

The lone major contributor returning at receiver, Shepard has the skills to be one of the Big 12’s bests in 2014. He finished with 51 receptions for 603 yards and seven touchdowns as a sophomore. His toughness, quickness and competitive nature will make him part of the foundation of OU’s offense next season. But he’ll need a teammate or two to emerge or risk seeing double coverage for the majority of his junior season. He’s a special player who takes his game to another level in big games.

On the cusp: Durron Neal (Jr.), K.J. Young (redshirt freshman), Derrick Woods (So.), Jordan Smallwood (redshirt freshman), Trey Franks (Sr.)

The Sooners will need a few of these young, talented receivers to transform into productive, skilled playmakers. Neal has yet to emerge as the player he was expected to become when he signed in 2012 but has had moments that displayed his potential.

Woods is one of the better athletes on the squad and contributed on special teams. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him emerge as a receiving option.

Young was one of the stars of the scout team last fall. His hands and quickness have likened comparisons to Sooners’ legend Ryan Broyles, so if Young can continue to develop during the spring and summer he could make an immediate impact.

Smallwood might have played himself out of a redshirt season in 2013 if he hadn’t broken his foot. He’ll bring much needed size and ball skills to the receiver spot.

Dannon Cavil (redshirt freshman) and Austin Bennett (So.) join that foursome as potential impact players. Bennett gives OU another quick slot receiver and Cavil has unmatched size (6-foot-5, 214 pounds) .

Franks brings a veteran presence to the receiving spot but saw limited time at receiver in 2013 after a stint at safety.

On the recruiting trail: Dallis Todd (La Mirada, Calif./La Mirada), Mark Andrews (Scottsdale, Ariz./Desert Mountain), Jeffery Mead (Tulsa, Okla./Union)

Todd, the No. 265 player in the ESPN 300, is another big receiver (6-5, 210) who could create mismatches with his size and athleticism. He has terrific feet and surprising speed which could earn him a spot in the rotation, particularly with so many spots to fill.

Much like Todd, Andrews has unusual feet and ball skills for a player his size (6-6, 220). The No. 295 player in the ESPN 300, Andrews could provide another big target in the passing game.

Mead (6-5, 179) is very similar to Todd but more of a raw talent. A three-sport star in high school, Mead’s ball skills could help him become a nightmare matchup on third downs and in the red zone. He has the talent to play immediately but it could be a tough transition into a full-time football player.

Overall Grade: B-

Shepard is the only reason this grade is not much lower. The junior should become one of the Big 12’s top receivers during his third year on campus, so that’s a terrific foundation to build upon. Yet Jay Norvell’s meeting room will be full of inexperienced players who haven’t proven they can excel in Big 12 stadiums. But there are several unique talents on the roster and if two or three of those players develop into playmakers the combination of size, quickness and ball skills among this group could challenge defenses in ways no other Big 12 squad can match.

Recruit and return: Oklahoma Sooners 

January, 3, 2014
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Oklahoma did what many thought couldn’t be done -- it shocked two-time defending BCS champion Alabama and ended its 2013 season with a 45-31 victory in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The Sooners, a two-touchdown underdog entering the game, finished the year with an 11-2 record and left the Mercedes-Benz Superdome with one of the biggest wins in the program’s history.

Recruiting season has now hit Norman, and the Sooners hope to build off this win to find stars in the 2014 class. There are a couple of voids to fill from this year’s squad.


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Most important targets: Big 12 

October, 22, 2013
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video

Not surprisingly, Big 12 programs have filled their rosters with ESPN 300 recruits. But, as we’ve come to learn, success on the field doesn’t always come down to how many stars you acquire each recruiting cycle. It’s about filling needs with the types of players coveted by that particular program.

Here is a look at the most important target for each Big 12 school, which features some highly ranked recruits and other recruits with no ranking at all.


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OU-Texas: 2014 recruiting tale of the tape 

October, 10, 2013
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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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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's latest feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: Da'Shawn Hand changing his visit schedule up is good news for Wolverine fans and bad news for Alabama fans; Arizona, Arizona State, Oklahoma and Texas A&M fans can see big pieces of their 2014 recruiting classes on television Friday night; and one of the top juco recruits in last year’s class is going to redshirt at Kansas.

Looking good for the Wolverines
Five-star defensive end Da'Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge) was set to visit Florida on Oct. 4 for its game against Arkansas and Alabama on Nov. 8 for its game against LSU with national title implications on the line. However, the SAT is on Oct. 5, causing Hand to alter his schedule. Hand is still ironing out the final details, but it looks like he will visit Alabama on Oct. 25 when its hosts Tennessee, and he'll trip to Florida on Nov. 8 when the Gators host Vanderbilt. He’s already taken a visit to Michigan and will announce his decision on Nov. 14. The Wolverines have been his leader for quite some time with Florida and then Alabama next in line. Some observers have long-worried what a visit to Alabama for what could be the game of the year would do to Hand’s process. But a college coach close to the situation believes the change now gives Michigan a major edge and puts Bama clearly third in the pack. “I would say this puts it at about 80 percent for Michigan,” the coach said. “The biggest question left is whether or not Florida can wow him enough right before his announcement to get him to change his mind.”

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Weekend recruiting wrap: Big 12 

September, 9, 2013
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The talk of the Big 12 circled around the meltdown of the Texas defense, which ultimately led to the dismissal of defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. While that went on, Baylor put up 70 points and a school-record 781 total yards against Buffalo, and Oklahoma topped West Virginia in the only interconference battle of the week.

While Big 12 teams had their storylines, a few conference recruiting targets also managed to make headlines. Here are some of the highlights from the weekend.


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Oklahoma’s ability to span the country for recruits, particularly on the West Coast, has been on full display.

First it was ESPN 300 wide receiver Dallis Todd (La Mirada, CA/La Mirada), who committed on April 15. Earlier this month ESPN 300 tight end Mark Andrews (Scottsdale, AZ/Desert Mountain) gave his verbal pledge to the Sooners.

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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.

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Oklahoma State Upsets Oklahoma In OT
Oklahoma State scored 17 unanswered points and stunned No. 20 Oklahoma 38-35 in overtime.
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BIG 12 SCOREBOARD

Saturday, 12/20
Monday, 12/22
Tuesday, 12/23
Wednesday, 12/24
Friday, 12/26
Saturday, 12/27
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Tuesday, 12/30
Wednesday, 12/31
Thursday, 1/1
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