Oklahoma Sooners: Tay Evans

Spring football has come to a close at Oklahoma.

[+] EnlargeDakota Austin
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesOklahoma's Dakota Austin ended the spring as the starter at cornerback opposite Zack Sanchez.
The Sooners' 15 practices answered some questions, but others still remain. Now is the perfect time to update the some of the position battles that made this spring intriguing in Norman, Okla. On Tuesday we took a look at the offense. Today, all eyes turn to the defense.

Cornerback

Pre-spring: A trio of Sooners entered the spring set to battle to replace Aaron Colvin. Sophomores Stanvon Taylor and Dakota Austin joined junior Cortez Johnson in the competition. None of the three entered the spring as the clear favorite to secure the spot.

Post-spring: Austin had the best spring of the bunch, taking the field with the Sooners’ first-team defense in the spring game and holding his own. The sophomore is undersized (5-foot-11, 162 pounds) but good in coverage and has a chip on his shoulder. Injuries hampered Johnson’s spring, and Taylor didn’t make the move you would expect from a guy who stepped on campus with lofty expectations.

Summer outlook: Someone needs to seize the opportunity by taking their game to another level. Austin sent a message with a strong spring, but a few incoming recruits, including Tito Windham and Jordan Thomas, arrive in the summer with an eye on stepping up if nobody else makes it their spot to lose.

Free safety

Pre-spring: Sophomores Ahmad Thomas and Hatari Byrd each saw action as freshmen in 2013. With Quentin Hayes comfortably manning the other safety spot, letting the Class of 2013 signees compete for a starting spot was the plan.

Post-spring: Both guys look like they could be solid, trustworthy options at the position. Thomas has emerged as a player who should see the field regardless thanks to his versatility and athleticism, while Byrd has progressed as a playmaker.

Summer outlook: Depth, not the starters, is the main concern at safety. Thomas or Byrd could do the job, and Steven Parker arrives in the summer with a unique skill set that could make him tough to keep on the sidelines. Though the name of the starter at free safety remains unclear, the position doesn’t look like a potential weak link in the defense this fall.

Linebacker depth

Pre-spring: OU returned its two leading tacklers at the linebacker spot with Dominique Alexander and Frank Shannon, along with pass-rushing dynamo Eric Striker. It was a unit full of playmakers but questionable depth.

Post-spring: The depth questions remain and could get worse if Shannon, whose status is unclear after missing the spring game for personal reasons, does not return. Fortunately for OU, Jordan Evans looks ready to step in and fill the void if needed. Additionally, Devante Bond should provide another option for Mike Stoops’ defense, and defensive end Geneo Grissom even spent time at linebacker this spring. Alexander is a terrific foundation and Evans is unusually athletic at linebacker, so developing more depth is the lingering question.

Summer outlook: Shannon’s status is the main storyline of the summer. If he returns it's a big boost for the Sooners. If not, OU will likely turns to Evans, which is another hit to its depth. Incoming recruits Curtis Bolton and Tay Evans might be called upon sooner than anticipated.

State of the position: Linebacker

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The next few weeks leading into signing day is 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 during these final weeks before signing day on Feb. 5. On Monday, we take a closer look at the linebacker position.

Starters/contributors: Dominique Alexander (So.), Frank Shannon (Jr.)

[+] EnlargeFrank Shannon
AP Photo/Darron CummingsFrank Shannon and the Oklahoma linebackers have a bright future.
Shannon led the defense with 92 tackles and provided a consistent, durable presence in the middle of the OU defense throughout the season, as the faces seemed to change around him with injuries hitting the unit. Playing with injuries of his own, Shannon recorded at least five tackles in nine of 13 games. He was easily OU’s most consistent, durable and overlooked defender in 2013.

Alexander was the surprise of the season on defense. He was thrown into the fire after having to replace Corey Nelson as a starter. Alexander had his ups-and-downs, but his natural instincts and playmaking ability earned Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year honors for the Tulsa, Okla., native. He finished with 80 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and one sack. The sky is the limit for Alexander as a sophomore.

On the cusp: Jordan Evans (So.), Aaron Franklin (Sr.)

Evans' performance against Texas Tech was a glimpse of his tremendous upside. When an injury knocked Shannon out of the game, Evans responded with an eight-tackle performance. It was an amazing game for a freshman who had seen minimal action on defense to that point. His athleticism and versatility will make him a valuable piece at the disposal of the Sooners’ coaching staff in 2014 and beyond.

Franklin has played spot duty for the Sooners for the past three seasons and should provide quality veteran depth as a senior. He has been a core member of OU’s special teams and can fill in at linebacker in a pinch.

On the recruiting trail: Devante Bond (Roseville, Calif./Sierra College), Tay Evans (Allen, Texas/Allen)

Bond is a junior-college signee who can play several spots on OU’s defense. He could fill in at the middle linebacker spots or slide in alongside or opposite Eric Striker as a pass rush specialist in 2014. It wouldn’t be a surprise for the Sooners to use him and Striker on opposite sides in passing situations to terrorize quarterbacks in 2014.

Evans is a solid prospect who probably could use a redshirt season to maximize his impact. He has the good size and athleticism, but the depth at the position provides a roadblock between Evans and immediate playing time.

Overall Grade: A

Alexander and Shannon could be the Big 12’s best duo in 2014. Add Striker and Bond, and OU could have a linebacker group that rivals any in America. Strong starters, good depth and a solid future earns this group an A.

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.

Recruiting season is about to kick into high gear. As soon as Bedlam is over on Dec. 7, Oklahoma will hit the recruiting trails hard looking to secure the future.

[+] EnlargeDominique Alexander
William Purnell/Icon SMIOU didn't offer Dominique Alexander a scholarship until last October. Now he's a starting linebacker.
OU has been superb at finding late hidden gems in recent seasons, with cornerback Zack Sanchez, a redshirt freshman from the Class of 2012, and linebacker Dominique Alexander, a true freshman from the Class of 2013, already making an impact on the program after getting relatively late offers from the Sooners.

Here are some priority spots for the Sooners to address in their 2014 class during the final two months of this recruiting cycle. Keep in mind, this list has everything to do with the young players on campus at each position, not necessarily the guys who are playing at that position each Saturday in 2013.

Offensive tackle: Derek Farniok and Christian Daimler are the lone underclassmen at offensive tackle. OU badly needs depth at the position and should be aiming to land at least two offensive tackle prospects in this class. If redshirt freshman tight end Sam Grant ends up at tackle, that would help the cause and lessen the urgency, but its a high priority position in this year's class. Worse yet, there doesn't seem to be a lot of hope at the position with top prospects mentioning OU on their lists. Finding a hidden gem in December could be the top priority for offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh.

Defensive tackle: This position looks a lot better right now than it did a year ago with the early play of Jordan Phillips, a sophomore, and the emergence of Jordan Wade, a redshirt freshman. Nevertheless, there is no such thing as too many quality defensive tackles. The Sooners have one commit in Irving (Texas) Ranchview's Brandon Glenn, but that's not enough. OU needs to secure at least one more defensive tackle prospect to join Glenn and redshirting freshmen Matthew Romar and Charles Walker as the future at the position.

Linebacker: OU rallied to bring in two quality linebackers late in last year’s recruiting cycle with Alexander and Jordan Evans. Each committed to OU late in the process and became impact freshmen this fall. The Sooners need to supplement that duo with a least one more playmaker to join Allen (Texas) linebacker Tay Evans and Murrieta (Calif.) Vista Murrieta linebacker Curtis Bolton on their commit list. Several linebackers could be in play and keep in mind the Sooners did secure Alexander and Evans late in the process.

Running back: You can never have too many running backs. And OU loses three quality ball carriers in Brennan Clay, Roy Finch and the recently dismissed Damien Williams. Redshirt freshman Alex Ross has a good size/speed ratio, true freshman Keith Ford has terrific upside, and commitment Samaje Perine (Pflugerville, Texas/Hendrickson) is a member of the ESPN 300. But the Sooners need to add another quality runner into the mix. Oakley (Calif.) Freedom running back Joe Mixon, No. 72 in the ESPN300, would be an outstanding addition to this class.

Receiver: Even though the Sooners seem to have some solid youngsters already on campus, they don't have a proven game-breaking receiver outside of Sterling Shepard returning in 2014. But, and this is critical, they can't just use a scholarship to bring in another guy. With Tulsa (Okla.) Union receiver Jeffery Mead and La Mirada (Calif.) receiver Dallis Todd already committed, receivers coach Jay Norvell should think elite receiver or bust. Norvell should join Mike Stoops in doing whatever it takes to land Michiah Quick (Fresno, Calif/Central East), then fight for him to end up on the offensive side of the ball.

Weekend recruiting wrap: Big 12 

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With five November commitments, good fortune has come Oklahoma's way on the recruiting trail.

The Sooners picked up a commit last week and also offered a rising junior wide receiver. We’ll take a look at those two players and discuss a big performance by a future Longhorns running back in this week’s Big 12 recruiting weekend wrap.

Biggest commitment: This goes to Oklahoma and the verbal pledge it received from outside linebacker Devante Bond (Roseville, Calif./Sierre College). Bond was the third commitment in a two-day span for the Sooners, who have five commitments this month and 19 overall. OU wasn’t in dire need of outside linebacker help with a pair of three stars on board in Tay Evans (Allen, Texas/Allen) and Curtis Bolton (Murrieta, CA/Vista Murrieta). But Bond solidifies the group's depth for the next couple of seasons, while also showing the country that Oklahoma isn’t afraid to go the junior-college route if need be. Bond also had offers from Nebraska, Cal, Fresno State, Memphis, Ole Miss and West Virginia.


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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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Big 12 recruiting storylines: Sept. 5 

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College football is in full effect, but high school football opened with a bang as well. From SportsCenter-worthy catches to conflicting reports about a Big 12 commit -- or decommit, depending on which side you believe -- the weekend is expected to provide a lot of enthusiasm and excitement.

Here’s a look at some of the Big 12 storylines:


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Summer recruit wrap: Oklahoma 

July, 23, 2013
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As summer wraps up and Oklahoma turns its focus to the 2013 season, we've learned plenty from the Sooners during the summer recruiting cycle. OU has 11 commitments, including four ESPN 300 prospects, yet there continues to be concern among Sooner Nation about the state of recruiting in Norman, Okla. Here are five things we learned during the Sooners' summer months on the recruiting trail.

1. Bill Bedenbaugh is relentless


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Make no mistake, Oklahoma recruits are looking forward to playing Texas. The Sooners’ rivalry with the Longhorns brings anticipation and excitement to the minds of several OU commitments.

Yet it has very little to do with their feelings about their burnt orange brethren in Austin.

“The rivalry is a great rivalry,” said Marcus Green (Cedar Hill, Texas/Cedar Hill), the Sooners’ three-star defensive back commit. “They play it down here at the Cotton Bowl. I went to see it and it’s great, the atmosphere, you can tell its a big rivalry between Oklahoma and Texas.


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LEANDER, Texas -- Around this time last year, when the Cedar Hill (Texas) High School talented tandem of LaQuvionte Gonzalez, Quincy Adeboyejo and Brandon Harris were putting on a show, 2015 propsect DaMarkus Lodge was taking a back seat, patiently waiting his turn.

No matter how good you are -- or how good you’re expected to be -- it’s tough as a sophomore to get top billing over two SEC signees and a Big 12 signee. Add in Nevada signee Travis Wilson, and Lodge knew he’d be lucky to get touches early. Collectively, the four signees caught 191 of Cedar Hill's 210 completed passes and helped it advance to the Texas Class 5A Division II championship game in 2012.


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All in the Evans family for Sooners 

July, 12, 2013
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For every recruit, there is a moment of realization when he finally figure out what school he wants to attend and play college football.

It can happen at a camp or an unofficial visit. Or if you’re Allen (Texas) High linebacker Tay Evans, it can happen when you’re young.

Evans, a three-star outside linebacker, said he knew Oklahoma was the place for him the first time he watched the Sooners play on television.


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Sooners get another Evans pledge

July, 10, 2013
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One Evans is nice. Two are even better. Class of 2014 three-star linebacker Tay Evans (Allen, Texas/Allen) committed to Oklahoma last week on an unofficial visit. His younger brother did the same Wednesday.

Bobby Evans, a Class of 2015 tight end, pledged to the Sooners while both brothers were on an unofficial visit to campus.

Tay Evans couldn’t contain his excitement, letting the world know on Twitter his younger brother is going to follow him to Norman. Bobby later confirmed to SoonerNation the tweet was accurate.

Bobby Evans, who is 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds, was also hearing from Baylor and attended Texas’ junior day in the winter.

Bobby Evans is the second commit for OU’s 2015 class, joining offensive guard Joshua Wariboko (Oklahoma City/Casady), who pledged two weeks ago.

It’s only natural for the Evans brothers to end up as Sooners. Their father, Bobby Sr., played basketball for OU. And though the initial interest wasn’t as strong by the Sooners for either one of them compared to some other schools, it became clear that OU was the school to beat when it did start to show interest.

The Sooners' raid of Allen High might not be done, either, as OU still has its targets set on three-star linebacker Christian Sam.
Oklahoma fans can relax a little bit. There is no doubt linebacker recruiting has been a sore spot for the Sooners, but OU is on the board for the Class of 2014.

Three-star outside linebacker Tay Evans (Allen, Texas/Allen) confirmed he has committed to OU while on an unofficial visit to campus Tuesday.

Evans picked the Sooners over offers from Stanford, Boise State and Kansas State, among others.

Evans, who is 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, visited OU in March for junior day and was hoping to get the offer at that time. It didn’t happen.

OU linebackers coach Tim Kish visited Allen High during the spring evaluation period, and everybody thought the offer would happen. It didn’t.

Evans admitted afterward that he wasn’t sure the offer was ever going to come. Instead of dwelling on it, Evans said he was going to move on and focus only on what he could control.

But following OU’s camps, more offers were doled out. Evans was among the first to be notified of some good news. Evans said before the offer, he was contemplating a commitment to Stanford. The OU offer, however, was a game-changer.

He had thoughts about committing on the spot but said he wanted to visit the campus one more time and then make the call. Tuesday was that occasion.

Evans is the son of former OU basketball player Bobby Joe Evans, and Tay Evans has not been shy to say how much he loves the Sooners.

Once the Sooners reciprocated the love, it was only a matter of time. OU had some concerns about his health as Evans had shoulder surgery following the season. The OU coaches eventually agreed they were satisfied with Evans’ progress and made sure to let him know how big of a priority he is.

Evans is OU’s 11th commit for the class and the first linebacker. He is the No. 38 outside linebacker in the nation.
There are some positions where Oklahoma doesn’t need any help with in its Class of 2014. But then there are others where OU’s targets should be dead-set on trying to improve.

Here are the top five positions of need for OU’s recruiting for the 2014 crop:


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NORMAN, Okla. -- On the last Tuesday of every month, SoonerNation is going to examine Oklahoma's defensive 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.

Defensive End (2)

Committed: None


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