Oklahoma Sooners: Gerald McCoy
With his latest hire, which the school finally announced Tuesday, head coach Bob Stoops showed again he’s hoping to bring better players up front to Norman. And he’s hoping that Montgomery -- and new offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh -- will be the ones who can close the deal on blue-chip line prospects the Sooners have come up short on in recent years.
Not long after he accepted Stoops’ offer, Montgomery was on the phone with ESPN Watch List defensive ends Da'Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge) and Andrew Williams (McDonough, Ga./Eagles Landing Christian Academy) and talking to them about Oklahoma.
Landing players the caliber of Hand and Williams won’t come easy. They have impressive offer sheets, both holding offers from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Ohio State and USC. Yet to become nationally relevant past October once again, signing such line blue-chippers is almost a requirement.
The Sooners got by last year up front as they shared a Big 12 title. But against the likes of Notre Dame and Texas A&M, the Sooners were exposed for what they have been: a finesse team ill-equipped of playing dominant, championship-caliber football in the trenches.
That trend was going the wrong way, too, as OU whiffed on almost all of its top offensive and defensive tackle targets in the 2013 recruiting class.
Stoops is banking that Montgomery will help reverse the trend. At Michigan, he quickly gained a reputation as one of the Wolverines’ most prolific recruiters. Montgomery had a hand in Michigan landing all three of its 2014 commitments, and he had already developed relationships with some of the nation’s top rising high school seniors such as Hand and Williams.
Montgomery arrives in Norman not a day too soon, either. Over the weekend, OU already lost out on two of its top defensive tackle targets for 2014 as Zaycoven Henderson (Longview, Texas/Longview) committed to TCU while Tashon Smallwood (Fresno, Calif./Central) chose USC.
Sooners fans are clamoring for those days to be at an end. And that with Montgomery on board, the school of Lee Roy Selmon and Tony Casillas and Gerald McCoy will become a bastion of championship line play again.
Jackie Shipp, Stoops’ longtime defensive tackles coach, will not be returning to Sooners’ staff in 2013, multiple sources confirmed to ESPN.com.
The Shipp news comes on the brink of Monday’s announced departure of offensive line coach James Patton, who exited the OU staff to take an assistant job with Indiana.
Shipp is OU’s fourth coaching change in the last two years. Last year, Mike Stoops replaced Willie Martinez as defensive backs coach, and then after defensive coordinator Brent Venables bolted for Clemson, Mike Stoops’ former Arizona assistant Tim Kish was brought in to coach linebackers.
Unlike Patton, Shipp had been with the Sooners since Stoops’ first season in 1999. He recruited and developed two of the best defensive tackles in Big 12 history in Tommie Harris and Gerald McCoy, who both went on to be first-round draft picks.
But in the last few years, the level of performance at defensive tackle has dipped. The Sooners have had not had a first-team All-Big 12 defensive tackle since McCoy in 2009. And underscoring the defensive tackles’ lack of disruption this last season, the Sooners ranked 94th in run defense and 104th in tackles for loss.
Who will be round two? Which school will win round two? Here is a look at five more potential in-state prospects that OU and OSU could target in the Class of 2014:
LB Gyasi Akem (Broken Arrow, Okla./Broken Arrow, 6-2, 210)
Texas A&M has shown a strong interest in Akem, and he made an unofficial visit to College Station a few weeks ago.
Akem is friends with Thomas so he could be swayed by playing with a teammate if the Sooners start showing more interest. But he has also made it clear he grew up an OSU fan so if the Cowboys come in strong, they will be in great position.
ESPN Watch List DE Deondre Clark (Oklahoma City/Douglass, 6-4, 235)
By July, Clark had an offer from both the Sooners and Cowboys. He dominated at OU’s camp in June to earn an offer, while OSU had already liked what it had seen before its summer camp.
Clark’s childhood connection is with the Sooners because his cousin is former OU great Gerald McCoy. But his recent connection could be with OSU because of his brother.
Clark’s older brother, Stevie, is an ESPN 100 point guard prospect for 2013. OSU is considered the favorite to land Stevie Clark, who is tentatively set to sign in the spring.
If Stevie lands in Stillwater, it's not a stretch to see Deondre follow his brother. LSU is also going to be in the mix for the ESPN Watch List defensive end.
QB David Cornwell (Jones, Okla./Jones, 6-5, 215)
Cornwell was known by absolutely nobody coming into this season. That’s not the case anymore as he has developed a relationship with OU quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel and OSU quarterbacks coach Todd Monken.
He has already seen OSU in person this season and is hopeful he can attend Saturday’s Bedlam contest at OU.
Cornwell has offers from Auburn and Indiana, has visited Michigan and Alabama and is receiving numerous letters from LSU and Alabama. When it comes to Cornwell, it might not just be a Bedlam battle.
RB Lawrence Evitt (Wagoner, Okla./Wagoner, 5-8, 165)
Another prospect that has emerged this season is Evitt. An admitted huge OSU fan, it was OU and running backs coach Cale Gundy that made the first move.
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But it’s not the first time.
The Sooners and Irish have gone head-to-head for recruits several times in the past decade. A closer look at some of those battles:
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Jake Trotter: We saw what happened with the ’04 Sooners when they were matched up against an offensive juggernaut in the Orange Bowl against USC. Sure, there were some turnovers that helped ignite the rout. But OU was overmatched.
Not once were the ’08 Sooners ever overmatched. They lost in a shootout to Texas, then couldn’t get going offensively in the BCS title game vs. Florida, and even then, still had a chance in the fourth quarter. Against Texas, OU lost its defensive captain in linebacker Ryan Reynolds and never recovered. Against Florida, OU, which had the No. 1 red zone offense in college football, was stuffed twice inside the Gator 10.
The ’08 Sooners would have trouble containing Peterson, and most certainly would give up some Jason White passes downfield. But I think the Bradford hurry-up, with all those weapons like Gresham, Murray and slot specialist Ryan Broyles would be too much firepower for the ’04 Sooners to handle.
Here are a few highlights from the chat:
Courtney (Little Wing, NM): Could this be the best class of WR recruits in CFB history? At least on paper, so far.
Jake Trotter: Since the advent of recruiting services, it's up there. At least on paper. OU basically is bringing in 4 of the Top 20 WRs, arguably the No. 1 WR from last year, and perhaps the No. 1 juco WR. Remember though, we were calling the 2008 haul the best WR class in OU history. The best of that group turned out to be Dejuan Miller, and he was a career backup. I like the potential of this group much better. But let's wait and see what happens.
Robert in West Columbia, Texas, writes: It seems OU has fallen off in the talent on the defensive side of the ball, what will it take to rebound?
Zach in Claremore, Okla., writes: How do you feel about our chances with athlete Davonte Neal with Tim Kish trying to bring him in?
Jake Trotter: It’s amazing that OU has been able to get in on Neal this late in the process, with all the big-time schools that have been recruiting him for months. But clearly Kish has developed a strong rapport with Neal. At the moment, the chances of the Sooners actually landing him are probably slim. But there might be reason to have cautious optimism if Kish could make Neal give OU a hard look and take an official visit.
Brandon in Texarkana, Texas, writes: What’s the latest with Trey Metoyer? Has he made it to the Oklahoma campus yet? And when he plays next year, would he be considered a freshman or sophomore, since he went to Hargrave last semester.
Jake Trotter: Trey’s dad actually told me Thursday that Trey has been cleared by the NCAA clearinghouse and that he will be on campus before the end of the weekend. Metoyer will be a freshman, since prep school doesn’t count against a player’s FBS eligibility.
Mike in Amarillo, Texas, writes: It seems to me OU has lost its ability to land the top recruits. They still land good quality players and pretty solid classes, but instead of Top 5 they are struggling to stay Top 10. Is the problem with recruiting on the coaches or is it just the recruits themselves?
Jake Trotter:I think you’re being a little harsh. OU had a Top 5 class just two years ago. A class that has already produced numerous starters, including Tony Jefferson, Corey Nelson and Kenny Stills. Recruiting the upper-echelon prospects to Norman isn’t easy. As Bob Stoops says, Oklahoma doesn’t have any beaches to recruit. The Sooners still manage to have Top 10 classes every year. Even if they don’t always land the Adrian Peterson of every class.