Oklahoma Sooners: Danzel Williams

Grading the class: 2011

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

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

Transcendent figures

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

Bull's-eye

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

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

Completely missed the mark

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

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

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

Overall grade: D-

More than half of this class is no longer in the program, including both Williams, Hughes, receiver Trey Metoyer, receiver Kameel Jackson, quarterback Kendal Thompson, linebacker Kellen Jones and defensive back Bennett Okotcha. Only Shannon and a pair of Jordans kept this class from being an F in one of the worst classes of the Bob Stoops era.
Over the summer months, SoonerNation will take a closer look at each scholarship player on Oklahoma’s roster in our Crimson Countdown series. We'll analyze each player’s impact on the program since they arrived on campus, their potential impact this fall and their long-term impact in the daily series. Starting with No. 1 Tony Jefferson, the series will go in numerical order until our final analysis of No. 98 Chuka Ndulue.

[+] EnlargeDanzel Williams
Mark D. Smith/US PresswireFreshman running back Danzel Williams scored the game-winning touchdown in the Sooners' Red-White spring game.
No. 23 Danzel Williams
Running back, 5-foot-8, 186 pounds

Chat wrap: Sterling Shepard's potential

May, 1, 2012
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SoonerNation writer Jake Trotter chatted with readers on Monday about Oklahoma football and recruiting. Here's the full transcript. If you didn't get your question answered, send it to Jake's mailbag.

Here are a few highlights from the chat:

Koby (Camp Lejeuen, NC): Are we getting a Ryan Broyles 2.0 out of Sterling Shepard? He seems very similar to his play style and ability-set. What are the chances that he or Durron Neal starts?

Jake Trotter: I'm not sure we'll ever see another Ryan Broyles. But Shepard has the potential to be an effective player out of the slot. He's shifty, good in finding open space, good hands -- a natural for that position. With Trey Metoyer basically solidifying a starting role, it will be difficult for either Shepard or Neal to start -- but both have a chance to play big roles in the passing game.

Josh (Louisville, KY): Outside of Landry Jones, who is the most draftable on our roster for '13 and where do you see them being taken?

Jake Trotter: Kenny Stills and Tony Jefferson. I could see either being second-round picks, if they had monster seasons and came out early.

ScubaStevieDoobieDoodoo (Norman): JT, Our competition this year looks to be WVU and maybe Texas. Who else will play us tough enough to make it interesting?

Jake Trotter: There has never been as many teams capable of winning the Big 12 as there will be this season. K-State has Collin Klein back at QB, OSU should still score a ton of points even with the freshman QB, TCU has an underrated offense. All three of those teams, plus WV and maybe Tech will be tough outs.

Rainy_Daze (Norman): Any chance Danzel Williams earns some snaps this year, without injuries? Which RB has the best season for OU?

Jake Trotter: I doubt he gets more than spot carries. Too many others ahead of him on the depth chart (Dominique Whaley, Damien Williams, Roy Finch, Brennan Clay). Factor in the Belldozer and Trey Millard getting his 4-5 carries a game, and I just don't see where Danzel fits in, barring injury to somebody.

Every weekday morning, a member of the SoonerNation gives his take on three things happening in the Sooner sports world.

1. Three of Oklahoma's four commits were included in the initial ESPN 150 for the class of 2013, and all four of the Sooners' commits have been evaluated as four-star prospects. Running backs Greg Bryant (Delray Beach, Fla./American Heritage-Boca Delray) and Keith Ford (Cypress, Texas/Ranch), along with defensive end D.J. Ward (Lawton, Okla./Lawton) are Nos. 29, 36 and 93 in the ESPN 150, respectively. As expected, Ward is the state's top recruit of the class. Look for more evaluations of in-state prospects soon.

2. Five-star offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil (Lake City, Fla./Columbia) -- the No. 3 overall prospect in the country -- surprised many by including the Sooners in his top five on Tuesday afternoon. Tunsil has offers from nearly every top program in the nation and included Georgia, LSU, Alabama and Florida as his other favorites. Do the Sooners have a shot here? It's doubtful, but we'll find out soon. Based on how OU offensive tackles coach Bruce Kittle recruited for the class of 2012, he believes the Sooners have a chance with prominent out-of-state offensive tackles like Tunsil.

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Every weekday morning, a member of the SoonerNation gives his take on three things happening in the Sooner sports world.

1. Coming out of the spring, the biggest question answered is the secondary. To me, that was the biggest concern going into the spring, considering the Sooners struggled in several games last season, and then had to replace cornerback Jamell Fleming, who might have been their best DB over the last two years. But the secondary seems to have really responded to Mike Stoops, and other than the jump-ball bomb to Jaz Reynolds, didn't give up any big passing plays in the Red-White game.

The Sooners did it too without one of the their covermen in Aaron Colvin (shoulder), who figures to move to cornerback in the fall to fill the void left by Fleming. With budding stars like Colvin and Tony Jefferson and a lock-down corner in Demontre Hurst, the secondary looks like the strength of the defense.

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Roundtable: Spring game predictions

April, 13, 2012
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Which Sooners will stand out in Saturday's Red-White spring football game? The SoonerNation staff gives its predictions.

[+] EnlargeDemontre Hurst and Tony Jefferson
Jackson Laizure/Getty ImagesOklahoma's Tony Jefferson and Demontre Hurst are taking on leadership roles this season.
Offense player of game: Everyone wants to talk about Blake Bell and the Belldozer, but few remember Drew Allen was one of the offense MVPs of the last spring game. With an added year in the offense, count on Allen to shine again and remind everyone why he’ll be a factor in the QB derby of 2013.

Defensive player of the game: In a Red-White windstorm four years ago, Dominique Franks picked off three passes, including one for a touchdown. With the weather expected to be poor again, fellow cornerback Demontre Hurst might be in for a big day, too.

Top newcomer: Uh, is it even debatable? Freshman wideout Trey Metoyer has been the story of the spring. Look for him to make the same splash Kenny Stills did two years ago in the Red-White game.

Most impressive redshirt freshman: Often overlooked because of a stocked backfield that includes Roy Finch, Brennan Clay, Dominique Whaley and junior-college transfer Damien Williams, Danzel Williams has quietly had a strong spring. While he might be a year or two away from regular carries, Williams figures to get plenty of work this Red-White game. Look for him to make the most of it.

-- Jake Trotter


Offensive player of the game: Receiver Kenny Stills has the opportunity to thrust his name amongst college football’s top pass catchers with a strong spring game. His talent is unquestioned and receivers coach Jay Norvell has praised his increased maturity since the Insight Bowl. Saturday is his first chance to show he’s ready to take his game to another level.

Defensive player of the game: Safety Tony Jefferson seems poised to be a leader and difference maker on the Sooners defense. And he should have the opportunity to make plays and show his versatility from his free safety spot on Saturday.

Top newcomer: Receiver Trey Metoyer has to get the nod here. His ball skills, competitiveness and playmaking ability have made him one to watch on Saturday. Wearing No. 17, Metoyer seems to have that “it factor” coaches are constantly searching to find.

Most impressive redshirt freshman: Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips has impressed this spring and should get plenty of chances to impress on Saturday with several of OU’s veteran defensive tackles hampered by injury. Hype and potential are only important when followed by production. Phillips should get his chance on Saturday.

-- Brandon Chatmon


Offense player of game: A man of many nicknames, but one thing you cannot question is how versatile Trey Millard has become for the Sooners. Call him “Slash,” “Fat Daddy,” “Fat Back,” -- it doesn’t matter, just call him valuable.

Defensive player of the game: If any player had any reason to quit, pack up his bags and go home it was safety Javon Harris after last season. Instead, Harris has found a new life with Mike Stoops and that continues with a solid outing Saturday.

Top newcomer: No doubt Trey Metoyer will be the talk of the town, but look out for tight end Brannon “Moose” Green. The position is up for grabs, but it definitely looks like Green has the edge at this point.

Most impressive redshirt freshman: Going to go with linebacker Frank Shannon. He has had a solid spring and seems to gel with Coach Tim Kish.

-- Bob Przybylo


Offensive player of the game: I think Saturday's game could cater to the receivers as both Drew Allen and Blake Bell continue their battle for the backup quarterback job. I could see freshman wideout Trey Metoyer having a huge day and playing a ton of snaps in his debut game with the Sooners.

Defensive player of the game: Look for linebacker Corey Nelson, one of the most underrated players on the team, to have a dominant spring game as he fills Travis Lewis' void. Nelson played out of position at times last season, but should fit right in at weakside linebacker.

Top newcomer: Metoyer is the most logical choice, as I mentioned above. But what about one of the new tight ends, Brannon Green or Taylor McNamara? With a strong spring game, both could stabilize the position in the fans' eyes.

Most impressive redshirt freshman: Running back Danzel Williams will likely get a lot of work in with the Sooners' severe lack of spring depth. After not practicing for most of 2011, Williams could have a lot of carries and impress the Sooner faithful.

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

Bret in Reno, Nev., writes: Have you heard anything about Courtney Gardner's arrest affecting his status with the Sooners?

Jake Trotter: Bret, I don’t believe Gardner’s “misdemeanor” arrest will affect his status with the Sooners. He might have to run a few stadium steps when he gets to campus, but that’s about it. If it had been a felony arrest, things might be different. Obviously, Gardner has academic hurdles to clear before enrolling at OU, and I view that as a bigger obstacle to him getting to Norman than the arrest.

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Every weekday morning, a member of the SoonerNation gives his take on three things happening in the Sooner sports world.

1. It's a big day in the Sooners' recruiting world as Oklahoma's lone quarterback offer Max Browne (Sammamish, Wash./Skyline) is set to make his college announcement at about 10 p.m. CT. Based on the timing of his decision, Browne -- who is coming off a weekend visit to USC -- is expected to pull the trigger and verbally commit to the Trojans. But it wouldn't be surprising if he chose OU because of his outstanding relationship with quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel. If he chooses USC, the OU coaches are sure to get the ball rolling soon on one of their other signal-caller targets.

2. The forgotten man in Oklahoma's backfield received some praise from after last night's practice. Redshirt freshman Danzel Williams, who sat out all of last season with a shoulder injury, has been progressing nicely, according to his teammate Tyler Evans. Can Williams, who was the No. 64 recruit in the 2011 ESPNU 150, make an impact next season? It seems unlikely at this point, but no one was talking about a walk-on named Dominique Whaley at this time last year.

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Oklahoma will be the fourth Big 12 team (TCU, Texas, Texas Tech) to open spring camp when practice begins later Monday.

Here's a closer look and an idea of what to watch for.

Schedule: Oklahoma kicks off the first of its NCAA-allowed 15 practices Monday, leading up to the spring game on April 14. Practices are closed to fans and media.

What's new: The Sooners made the biggest Big 12 offseason acquisition when they brought back Mike Stoops as co-defensive coordinator. He dropped the "co-" after longtime coordinator Brent Venables took the DC job at Clemson after 13 years on Bob Stoops' staff in Norman. The Sooners will miss his presence, but hopes are high that Stoops can revitalize an Oklahoma defense that paved the way for the Sooners' last national title back in 2000, coordinated by none other than Stoops. He was fired by Arizona in the middle of the 2011 season, his eighth at Arizona.

New faces: Stoops is obvious, but Oklahoma is also welcoming six freshman or junior college transfers this spring to get practice time in before the 2012 season. Tight end Taylor McNamara and 2011 signee Trey Metoyer highlight the group. McNamara was the nation's No. 2 tight end and Metoyer was the nation's No. 8 receiver and No. 51 overall prospect in the 2011 class. He enrolled in military school after failing to qualify last fall, and could help boost a receiving corps in need of reinforcements. Junior college transfers Kass (pronounced "KAHss") Everett, Brannon Green and Chaz Nelson join 2011 signee Jordan Wade on campus this spring, too. Tight ends McNamara and Green should have some impact. Oklahoma returns no tight ends from its 2011 team, thanks to injuries and player exits.

Big shoes to fill: Kenny Stills. Ryan Broyles tore his ACL late last season, and the Sooners' receivers disappointed in the absence of the FBS all-time leader for receptions. The offense was punchless in an embarrassing blowout loss to Oklahoma State with the Big 12 title on the line. Especially without Jaz Reynolds (kidney) this spring, Stills need to prove he can be a reliable, top-tier receiver for Oklahoma's Big 12 title dreams to come true in 2012.

On the move: Safety Tony Jefferson. How will Jefferson be used in Stoops' defensive scheme? It's a big question for the Sooners. Jefferson's one of the team's most talented players, but he moved around a lot in 2011, seeing time at nickel back and moving to traditional safety after Javon Harris had some high-profile struggles in the loss to Baylor. Jefferson can play and excel at both spots. What the rest of OU's defense looks like depends on where he plays.

Question marks: What does OU's running back spot look like? Dominique Whaley is still rehabbing after breaking his ankle midseason, an injury that birthed the Belldozer formation. Backup quarterback Blake Bell rushed for 13 touchdowns in the second half of the season, but look for Oklahoma to try and find a way to run between the tackles more traditionally this spring. Who can be the man? Brennan Clay, Roy Finch and Danzel Williams are the only healthy scholarship running backs for the Sooners. Will we see fullback Trey Millard get some run, too?

All eyes on: The defense. Quarterback Landry Jones actually played well in a loss to Baylor, but Oklahoma's defense was clearly the weak link in losses to Texas Tech, Baylor and Oklahoma State that turned a year with national title aspirations into an average 10-3 season that finished in the Insight Bowl. The defense played well in the bowl win over Iowa, but Iowa's offense is nothing like what awaits the Sooners in the always-dangerous Big 12. Mike Stoops' work is cut out for him.

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