Oklahoma Sooners: Josiah St. John

During the summer, ESPN.com is taking a closer look at each scholarship player on Oklahoma’s roster in our Crimson Countdown series. Each day, we analyze each player’s impact on the program since arriving on campus, his potential impact this fall, and his long-term projection. Starting with No. 1 Dominique Alexander, the series follows the roster numerically through No. 98 Chuka Ndulue.

No. 55 Josiah St. John, 6-foot-6, 300 pounds, redshirt junior

Impact thus far: None. St. John redshirted during his first season on campus. A junior college signee, St. John was late to arrive in the summer and never really proved himself ready to impact the Sooners in 2013.

Impact in 2014: OU returns two strong starters in Daryl Williams and Tyrus Thompson, so a rise into the starting lineup would be a surprise. But St. John seems poised to be a solid backup option at tackle this fall.

Long term upside: He could contribute as a backup in 2014, then become a starter in 2015.

Evaluation grade for St. John: F. St. John may end up being a terrific evaluation but the reason to sign a junior college player is to get an immediate impact which hasn’t been the case with St. John. But it would be a surprise if this grade remains an F, particularly after St. John’s improvement since the end of the 2013 campaign.

Development grade for St. John: B. Considering the shuffling the Sooners had to do when the injury bug hit the tackle spot last season, St. John clearly wasn’t ready to make an impact in 2013. Thus, a redshirt season was probably better than just throwing him out there and wasting a season of eligibility. Now they could potentially get a full season of production in 2015 and a quality backup in 2014.

Oklahoma held its spring game on Saturday with excitement around the program continuing to build this offseason. Here are some postgame thoughts, offense only, on OU’s spring finale. Check back later today for a defense only post. To be clear, this is an informal collection of my observations after the spring game. For a more formal and general spring game review, check out this post from earlier today.

  • Undoubtedly some Sooners fans left the stadium disappointed with what they saw from Trevor Knight. He finished 5-of-14 for 53 yards with one interception. Yet it’s not time to panic, for several reasons. First, Sterling Shepard was on the sidelines. The junior will be Knight’s go-to receiver and could become one of the Big 12’s best playmakers. Two, Knight was going against a solid and athletic defense while using a relatively vanilla offense. Three, injuries along the offensive line didn’t make things any easier, with multiple projected starters out of the spring game. Finally, Knight's ability to make plays with his feet was taken away with his blue, no-hit jersey limiting his impact in the running game.
  • [+] EnlargeTrevor Knight
    Mark D. Smith/USA TODAY SportsTrevor Knight had a rough outing on Saturday.
    Nonetheless, Knight must play better. Period. Some people have been quick to insert his name among the nation’s best after his Allstate Sugar Bowl performance. He’s still young, relatively inexperienced and has been inconsistent at times early in his career. Let’s wait until he’s consistently efficient before we anoint him as one of the nation’s, or even the Big 12’s, top quarterbacks.
  • Anyone who was surprised by Baker Mayfield’s performance must have missed the rest of the Big 12 in 2013. The former Texas Tech quarterback was the Big 12 offensive freshman of the year for a reason.
  • Mayfield seemed genuinely excited to be a Sooner. He grew up an OU fan and said he would have decided to join the Sooners even if Blake Bell had not changed positions and Kendal Thompson did not transfer. While he is ineligible to play this fall, his presence could pay off big time. OU’s defense will be tested in ways you normally wouldn’t expect from a scout-team quarterback and the Sooners defense should make Mayfield a much better player with its overall talent and playmakers all over the field.
  • Tight end Taylor McNamara had two touchdown catches in the spring game. Could a pass-catching tight end return to OU’s weekly game plans this fall? Maybe. A wait-and-see approach would be wise, as adding a big receiving threat has been a goal for the past two seasons. McNamara and former quarterback Bell, who missed the spring game with an injury, appear to be the most likely candidates at tight end if it does happen.
  • Speaking of receiving threats, true freshman Dimitri Flowers should make an impact this fall. He spent a lot of time with the first-team offense before a hyper-extended knee ended his day. He can block, he can catch and he’s picked up the offense as if he’s entering his junior season. It appears OU has found a hidden gem in the three-star Class of 2014 signee. Don’t be surprised if he emerges as the big-bodied receiving threat OU’s offense has been lacking as his blocking and overall versatility could secure a key role in the offense, allowing the Sooners to adapt on the fly.
  • OU has talented receivers but will miss Jalen Saunders, a likely NFL draft pick. K.J. Young and Austin Bennett, Jordan Smallwood and Derrick Woods each showed flashes of ability but need to develop quickly if the Sooners hope to provide quality receiving options for Knight this fall.
  • Nobody seized the starting running back spot with a eye-opening day. Daniel Brooks led the way with eight carries for 67 yards and Keith Ford finished with nine carries for 29 yards. Alex Ross, who had been praised throughout the spring, added three carries for six yards. The door is wide open for Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine, two ESPN 300 running back signees, to make an immediate impression on the coaching staff and earn carries this fall. The Sooners need someone to step up and make defenses account for them from the running back position this fall. It doesn’t matter who it is.
  • OU could end up looking back at this spring as a critical time for developing depth along the offensive line. Several linemen, including guards Adam Shead and Nila Kasitati and tackle Tyrus Thompson, sat out the spring game, allowing backups such as tackles Josiah St. John and Sam Grant to get plenty of chances. The offensive line struggled at times.
  • The backup quarterback position remains up in the air, but Cody Thomas, a redshirt freshman, looked solid, going 5-of-9 for 52 yards and a touchdown. Justice Hansen, a true freshman, struggled with the speed of the game at times, finishing 4-of-8 for 58 yards and one touchdown but with some good moments.
The final days of spring are rapidly approaching at Oklahoma. Instead of searching for the foundation of its squad, this spring has been a period of tinkering and polishing. Here’s a look at five players who need to finish the spring strong or risk leaving the door open for younger players and/or freshman arrivals.

Running back Alex Ross: The opportunity to play is there for the taking if Ross wants to grab it. He joins Keith Ford as the main competitors for carries this spring. Coach Bob Stoops has singled out Ross as a playmaker in scrimmages thus far but it’s critical for Ross to make a strong impression before February signees Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine arrive in the summer.

“I paid my dues and waited my time,” Ross said. “I felt like I needed time to get acclimated to everything around here. I feel like I’ve matured a little bit just in getting bigger and knowing what to do in my part.”

Defensive tackle Torrea Peterson: The senior played a solid role and contributed to OU’s success in 2013, even starting a game against Iowa State. Oklahoma is looking at one of its deepest defensive line units in years. If Jordan Phillips returns to good health and Jordan Wade continues to develop, OU has one of the best two-deep depth chart in the nation. Add Charles Walker, the star of the scout team last fall, and the defensive tackle spot is getting crowded. If Peterson continues to mature and improve, he could be able to secure himself a role but his margin of error is minimal.

Receiver Dannon Cavil: This spring is the 6-foot-4 Cavil’s chance to shine as the lone tall target in the receivers’ room. That changes this summer when three February receiver signees (Jeffery Mead, Mark Andrews and Dallis Todd) who stand 6-5 or taller will arrive.

Cavil is smooth and athletic and this spring will bring more opportunities than the summer or preseason camp. Now is the time for the redshirt freshman to lock down a spot in before other options begin arriving on campus and limiting his reps.

Cornerback Cortez Johnson: The junior headed into the summer of 2013 as an projected starter opposite Aaron Colvin. His sophomore season didn’t go as expected after Zack Sanchez started in his place due to Johnson’s suspension for the season opener and Sanchez never relinquished the starting spot. Johnson shouldered the blame for his subpar showing, saying he is focused on “taking more coaching and less talking” this spring. It’s important for Johnson to show he’s serious about changing his commitment to getting better because he brings excellent size (6-2, 205 pounds) to the cornerback spot.

“I’m just trying to bounce back from last year,” Johnson said. “I didn’t do so well and I’m just trying to be more consistent.”

Offensive lineman Josiah St. John: The senior is one player who was singled out by Stoops for his improvement during the offseason. A junior college transfer, St. John needs to show he can be solid competition for returning starters Daryl Williams and Tyrus Thompson at the tackle positions with an eye on being a solid third tackle. If he falters, Christian Daimler and Sam Grant are young tackles lurking with three additional tackle signees (Orlando Brown, Joseph Paul and Kenyon Frison) poised to arrive in the summer.
Oklahoma had one of the nation’s best running games in 2013. The Sooners rode their ground game to an Allstate Sugar Bowl win and 11-2 record.

[+] EnlargeTy Darlington
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsTy Darlington will take the reins at center for the Sooners in 2014.
OU’s offensive line was the foundation of the team's success a season ago but it will be retooled in 2014.

Gabe Ikard won’t be around to anchor Oklahoma’s offensive line for the first time in four years, but the overall depth and quality of the group could take the unit to new heights.

Injuries at the end of the season have sidelined guard Adam Shead and tackle Tyrus Thompson, both of whom have extensive playing experience, giving several younger linemen the opportunity to get additional practice snaps this spring.

“We’re missing a guy or two but we have some guys that have played a lot of football,” offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. “We have some backups that haven’t played a ton but have seen some action and they’re going to get a bulk of the work in spring ball. It’s an opportunity for them to grow and mature and prove they belong on the football field.”

Tackle Daryl Williams is the experienced veteran of the group and guards Nila Kasitati and Dionte Savage along with tackle Derek Farniok return after starting games in 2013. This spring is the chance for guys like tackles Sam Grant, after a recent move from tight end, and Josiah St. John to make an impression before six offensive line signees arrive this summer.

“I think we’re definitely light-years ahead of where we were last year,” junior center Ty Darlington said. “We’re getting to get a lot of guys reps, which is awesome -- a lot of guys that probably normally wouldn’t get reps are getting reps, and that’s good. I think we’re definitely making some progress.”

As the guy slated to replace Ikard, Darlington is clearly the man in the spotlight. He saw spot duty behind the All-American and three-time All-Big 12 interior lineman during his first two seasons on campus and is excited for the next step in his career.

“I’m excited for the opportunity,” he said. “This is why I came here, to be able to step into a role. Gabe was great to me for two years. He really took me under his wing and taught me everything he knew. He was a great friend on and off the field. Now he’s gone, and I’ve got to step up and fill that void as the center and in a leadership position. I’m excited for it.”

It went largely overlooked but Ikard was the main reason the Sooners could play musical chairs at quarterback n in 2013. The senior handled all the calls and brought a calm and consistent voice to the offense while Trevor Knight, Blake Bell and Kendal Thompson took turns behind center. It’s those areas where Ikard could be missed most.

But Darlington feels his mentorship under Ikard and offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh will pay off as he steps into the starting lineup.

“I’m more confident than I’ve ever been as far as just understanding the whole scheme of football,” Darlington said. “I learned so much in the past year with Coach [Bill] Bedenbaugh. I’m continuing to learn a lot more. From fronts to coverages and blitzes, we’re learning so much as a group. I feel like I’m definitely better than I’ve ever been as far as the mental part of the game.”

If Darlington can step in for Ikard without a letdown, the Sooners offensive line could cement its spot among the Big 12’s best for the second straight season and be the foundation of what might be a special season.

Grading the class: 2013

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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.

Thus it’s the perfect time to look back at OU’s last five recruiting classes. On Friday we end the series with an early review of the Class of 2013 including recruits who exceeded expectations, recruits who were solid signees and complete busts.

[+] EnlargeDominique Alexander
William Purnell/Icon SMIDominique Alexander could be on the verge of becoming Oklahoma's next great linebacker.
After a solid start in the recruiting cycle, OU scrambled to complete its class in 2013 as it came up short on several targets before filling its class with unheralded prospects in the final few months before signing day. The class ended up as the No. 17-ranked class in the nation by ESPN.com.

Transcendent figures

Linebacker Dominique Alexander: The Big 12 freshman of the year looks like a future star in the Sooners’ defense. His unusual maturity, instincts and hunger to improve should make him one of the Big 12’s top linebackers. He had 80 tackles and two forced fumbles in 13 games (8 starts) as a true freshman. The No. 115 athlete in the nation, Alexander is one of the top hidden gems the Sooners have unearthed in the past five years.

Running back Keith Ford: It went largely unnoticed due to the score but Ford was arguably OU’s featured back during a 36-20 loss to Texas. If fumble troubles had not emerged the No. 27 player in the ESPN 300 likely would have cemented himself as the Sooners’ back of the future as a true freshman, having surpassed Alex Ross on the depth chart. Nonetheless he appears set to have a bright future.

Cornerback Stanvon Taylor: The No. 199 player in the ESPN 300, Taylor started his third collegiate game against Tulsa. He played on special teams in all 13 games and will be in the competition to replace All-Big 12 cornerback Aaron Colvin after mentoring under the Sooners’ star for one season.

Linebacker Jordan Evans: Evans stepped in to have an exceptional game against Texas Tech to cement himself as an exciting prospect. The No. 82 defensive end in the nation, Evans could end up being a major contributor for the next few seasons in Mike Stoops' defense.

Bull’s-eye

Guard Dionte Savage: The senior made his first start in the Sugar Bowl and had a solid performance in OU’s win over Alabama. OU signed him to provide depth in case injuries hit and he ended up providing depth when injuries hit, making it an ideal signing.

Defensive end Matt Dimon: The No. 284 player in the ESPN 300 worked his way onto the field as a true freshman and should be in the rotation as a sophomore. He played a special teams role as well including a blocked punt against Kansas.

Defensive tackle Charles Walker: The No. 40 defensive tackle in the nation, Walker redshirted in 2013 but already has been anointed as one of the most impressive redshirting players in the class. Don’t be surprised if he makes an impact as a redshirt freshman this fall.

Receiver K.J. Young: Much like Walker, Young has taken advantage of his redshirt freshman season and seems poised to see the field this fall. He impressed with his ball skills as soon as he arrived on campus but couldn’t play his way out of a redshirt season. Now, with OU looking for playmakers at receiver, Young could make a name for himself this fall.

Completely missed the mark

Tackle Josiah St. John: Junior college players are brought in to play immediately and have an impact in Year 1. The No. 6 player in the ESPN JC 50 did not make an impact despite some injuries at the tackle position.

Overall grade: A

This class has already made a major impact on the Sooners’ program in the 12 months since they signed. Alexander is the star of the class with several other true freshmen consistently seeing the field on special teams. And multiple freshmen who redshirted could earn spots on the field this fall. It’s early but this already looks like a quality class and much better than the No. 17 class in the nation.
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 during these final weeks before signing day on Feb. 5. On Friday, we take a closer look at the offensive tackle position.

Starter/contributors: Tyrus Thompson (Sr.), Daryl Williams (Sr.), Derek Farniok (Jr.)

[+] EnlargeTyrus Thompson
Justin K. Aller/Getty ImagesTyrus Thompson returns to OU for 2014 and will team with Daryl Williams to give the Sooners what could be the Big 12's best tackle duo.
Williams earned All-Big 12 second-team honors and should be the veteran anchor for OU’s offensive line in 2014. He has been an impact player since his redshirt freshman year and could be poised to earn first-team All-Big 12 honors as a senior.

Thompson started the first 11 games of the season before an injury forced him to miss OU’s final two games. He joined Williams to give OU a pair of quality bookend tackles and help the Sooners allow just 14 sacks in 13 games.

Farniok started against Oklahoma State and played in four games for OU as a sophomore. He’s still developing but should be a quality No. 3 tackle for the Sooners as a junior.

On the cusp: Josiah St. John (Jr.), Christian Daimler (RFr.)

A junior college signee in 2013, St. John didn’t have an immediate impact for the Sooners. OU will really need him to step up and provide depth at the tackle spot in 2014.

Daimler redshirted during his freshman season and should jump into the mix to provide depth behind Thompson and Williams this spring.

On the recruiting trail: None

The Sooners have four offensive linemen committed but none of them is an offensive tackle. The Sooners are in hot pursuit of several tackles prospects, including Utah pledge Kenyon Frison (West Valley City, Utah/Granger), along with multiple junior college tackle prospects. OU will need to add one or two tackles to its commit list or shift some players around along its offensive line to set the position up for the future.

Overall Grade: A-

OU might have the best tackle duo in the Big 12 and could go four-deep at the position this fall. Yet the future doesn’t look as bright with Daimler as the lone underclassmen on the roster at tackle. Offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh has some work to do but, at the same time, the future at the position could transform overnight with a position change or two.
NORMAN, Okla. -- For the first time in three seasons, Landry Jones won't take the first snap of the season for the Oklahoma Sooners. The veteran signal caller has moved on to the NFL and will be replaced by the winner of the quarterback competition between Blake Bell and Trevor Knight.

Whoever wins the job will have plenty of talent around him and should be protected by a veteran group of offensive linemen. Yet plenty of potential concerns still remain. Here is a look at three reasons for hope for the Sooners' offense and three reasons to be concerned.

Hope

[+] EnlargeGabe Ikard
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesSenior Gabe Ikard, with 37 career starts, anchors an experienced offensive line for the Sooners.
Veteran offensive line: The Sooners' offensive line, led by ESPN.com preseason All-American Gabe Ikard, is a great place to start as offensive coordinator Josh Heupel looks to build his offense. Even with the loss of top-five NFL draft pick Lane Johnson, OU returns five players who have combined to start 85 career games, including Ikard's 37 starts. And the kicker is, Ikard and right tackle Daryl Williams might be the only guys considered locks to start, given the added depth the Sooners brought in with junior college transfers Josiah St. John, Tony Feo and Dionte Savage, along with superb sophomore center Ty Darlington.

New offensive approach: Whoever wins the quarterback job will bring a running aspect to the quarterback position that was never a factor with Jones under center. There will be times this season when receivers are covered and the Sooners' quarterback will make the defense pay with his feet. It brings an added element to the offense that Big 12 defenses will have to prepare for and should mean additional big-play opportunities for the Sooners' skill players.

Depth at the skill positions: OU will enter the season with a veteran group of playmaking running backs alongside youthful talent at the position, one of the Big 12's most explosive, and a group of talented, yet somewhat inexperienced, receivers. Running backs Damien Williams and Brennan Clay should be one of the league's top running duos, and Jalen Saunders proved he can make game-altering plays in 2012.

Concern

[+] EnlargeBlake Bell
AP Photo/Alonzo AdamsA key weapon as the "Bell Dozer," Blake Bell has not been tested as an every down quarterback.
Inexperienced quarterback: Bell has thrown 20 career passes during his first two seasons in Norman, and Knight has zero career pass attempts. Even though Bell has had plenty of success as the “Bell Dozer” in OU's short-yardage packages, nobody knows how he or Knight will respond when counted on regularly to make plays and protect the football. The Sooners' coaches are looking for a playmaker who will limit mistakes. What if neither player can prove they can make big plays without making big mistakes?

Unknowns at receiver: There is a bunch at talent at receiver but limited experience. Inside receivers Saunders and Sterling Shepard are proven playmakers, but OU needs playmaking at outside receiver as well. Trey Metoyer might be the most talented candidate but needs to mature into a consistent producer. Durron Neal has ability, and Lacoltan Bester is one of the most competitive receivers on the roster. OU has receivers with the potential to produce, but that means nothing until they actually make plays on Saturdays.

Inability to run the ball when needed: The Sooners averaged 4.83 yards per carry in 2012 yet struggled to run the football at key times. According to ESPN Stats and Info, OU averaged 2.65 yards per rush against teams that won 70 percent of their games last season (losses to Kansas State, Notre Dame and Texas A&M). OU is looking to regain the toughness and ability to run the football whenever they want that propelled the Sooners into the BCS title hunt in recent years. For example, the Sooners averaged 3.94 yards per carry against teams that won 70 percent of their games during the 2008 season, the year of OU's last BCS title game appearance.
It’s midway through Oklahoma’s preseason camp, so there’s no better time to update the position battles that could define the Sooners season.

[+] EnlargeBlake Bell
Alonzo Adams/USA TODAY SportsBlake Bell remains favored to start at quarterback for the Sooners, but the competition is far from over.
Quarterback: Blake Bell remains the favorite to start the season opener, but the quarterback competition rages on in Norman. Bell continues to work on playing mistake-free football, while redshirt freshman Trevor Knight has been impressive in the preseason even though he hasn’t knocked Bell out of his favorite status. The Sooners’ coaching staff has been diligent about keeping the competition open, and nobody has stepped up and won the job at this point. This competition could continue into the season, particularly with Kendal Thompson set to return early in the year.

Left tackle: Quite frankly it appears this was more of a competition last August than it is this August. Tyrus Thompson is the clear favorite to replace Lane Johnson after battling Johnson to start at left tackle during last year’s preseason camp. Thompson brings versatility and immense talent to the table, making him difficult to supplant. Derek Farniok and Josiah St. John are in the mix at the position and are looking to join the Sooners’ tackle rotation alongside Thompson and starting right tackle Daryl Williams.

Safety: The coaches really like Gabe Lynn's veteran presence at safety and have Quentin Hayes, another player with at least three years on campus, at the other safety spot. But both players will have to hold off a strong push from true freshmen Hatari Byrd and Ahmad Thomas. The duo arrived on campus with college-ready bodies and undoubtedly will see the field as freshman. Don’t be surprised if one or both show up in the starting lineup at some point this season.

Defensive end: With Chuka Ndulue moving to defensive tackle, OU is looking to replace both defensive ends. Geneo Grissom started the Cotton Bowl and appears solid at one defensive end slot. At the other position, Charles Tapper has been running with the starters but will have to hold off a strong push from other talented youngsters, including true freshman Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, who is drawing rave reviews for his pass-rushing skills.

Receiver: Jalen Saunders and Sterling Shepard are locked in as playmakers for the Sooners' offense. Both players can be difference makers with the ball in their hands and should get the majority of the snaps at inside receiver. On the outside, Lacoltan Bester is making a strong push this preseason to be in the starting lineup in the opener. Trey Metoyer could be the most talented of the bunch, and Durron Neal displayed playmaking ability in the spring game. Even though Neal and Metoyer have more fanfare, Bester is setting himself up to see plenty of playing time as a senior.
Damien WilliamsAP Photo/Cal Sport MediaSenior Damien Williams is one of a deep stable of Oklahoma running backs that are capable of making an impact for the Sooners this season.
It's an unusual role for Bob Stoops' program as Oklahoma prepares for 2013 season with minimal expectations to insert itself into the BCS title hunt. The Sooners have several talented, deep position groups and other position groups full of uncertainty. Here's a look at OU's position groups ranked from strongest to weakest.

NORMAN, Okla.--Tyrus Thompson won’t talk about it but the pipeline from starting left tackle at the University of Oklahoma to NFL roster has been pretty strong in recent years.

2012 starter Lane Johnson was the No. 4 overall selection of the 2013 NFL draft by the Philadelphia Eagles, 2010-11 starter Donald Stephenson started seven games for the Kansas City Chiefs as a rookie and 2009 starter Trent Williams earned his first Pro Bowl berth in 2012 as a member of the Washington Redskins.

[+] EnlargeTyrus Thompson
Justin K. Aller/Getty ImagesTyrus Thompson returns to OU for 2014 and will team with Tyrus Thompson to give the Sooners what could be the Big 12's best tackle duo.
“I am not so much focused on the NFL right now,” said Thompson, the favorite to replace Johnson in the starting lineup. “I’m focused on here at Oklahoma, winning a national championship, winning all our games. You know I’m just focused on my time here right now, do the best I can here and when that time comes, that time comes. I'm just taking it day by day.”

It’s a good stance to take as the Sooners signed junior college tackle Josiah St. John in February, largely to ramp up the competition at both tackle spots and ensure Thompson isn’t just sliding into Johnson’s spot without winning the job on the practice field.

This is nothing new to Thompson. The redshirt junior had a heated battle with Johnson to man the position in 2012 before the eventual top-five NFL draft pick beat him out for the starting job.

Thompson had a solid 2012 campaign anyway, playing in all 13 contests, starting five games including starts at left and right tackle. Even though he wasn’t listed as the starter for the majority of the season at either position, he gained valuable experience that the Sooners hope will pay off this fall.

“I have had a lot of good reps,” he said. “I would say that experience really does help a lot, but once again every position is a battle right now. No one is handed anything.”

St. John is likely Thompson’s top competition at left tackle during preseason camp with Jake Reed and Derek Farniok also figuring into the mix. St. John didn't arrive in Norman until days before preseason camp but Thompson doesn’t feel like he has the starting left tackle spot already locked up.

“Everyone is competing for a job right now so I shouldn’t say that but I do have a lot of confidence in myself,” he said.

When the injury bug hit the offensive line last season, Thompson slid in seamlessly at right or left tackle. That opportunity to playing multiple positions and his overall game experience makes it hard to imagine Thompson standing on the sidelines when the Sooners’ first-team offense takes its initial snap of 2013.

“One big thing that I learned last year is that if you make a mistake, don’t hold on to that mistake because it’s going to mess you up for future reps,” said Thompson, who has played in 18 career games in two years at OU. “You let that mistake go and you keep playing, just like they tell [defensive backs]. That would be the one big thing I took from last year.”

Even if St. John, Farniok or Reed don’t emerge to push Thompson during preseason camp, the Pflugerville, Texas native has plans to push himself to further heights. Even though he won’t admit thinking about his NFL dreams, he has eyes on pushing himself to become the best tackle he can be, which could, ultimately, place his name alongside Johnson, Stephenson and Williams on a NFL roster.

“I am pretty confident in myself, but you can improve everything,” Thompson said. “No one is perfect in anything, even Joe Staley for the 49ers, as great as he is, I’m sure if you ask him, there’s things that he can improve on.”
The Sooners have one big shoe to fill at left tackle, as Lane Johnson was recently picked fourth overall in the 2013 NFL draft. The Sooners signed the No. 1 junior-college offensive tackle in Josiah St. John to help ease the sting.

St. John checked in with SoonerNation earlier this summer to talk about Johnson, his native country and what he wants to accomplish at Oklahoma:

SoonerNation: What jersey number are you wearing?

Josiah St. John: 55. I’ve worn it since high school. It’s the number I’ve been wearing since I’ve played offensive line. Like it, staying with it.

SN: What have the coaches told you about your potential role this fall?

St. John: They’ve told me that I can come in and compete and try to win a job. If not, I’ll be a backup and in the rotation.

SN: Which side of the line?

St. John: I’ve been playing on the left side, but I’m going to try and play both. I feel like I can play.

SN: What will you be working on before you get on campus?

St. John: Strength and stretching, those are two thing I’ve been working on.

SN: What was missing spring football like?

St. John: It felt weird. You try to work out with the same intensity, but it’s kinda weird being on your own, not being involved. I’m ready to be around a team again.

SN: When did you know in your heart OU was the place for you?

St. John: My dad, brother, mom, we were weighing my options. The tradition OU brings, the competition you face every day, the history with offensive tackles, it was a good school for me. I grew up watching teams like Texas and Oklahoma, so to be able to play at Oklahoma and face Texas, that will be crazy.

SN: What player do you look up to on the current OU team?

St. John: I watched a whole lot of Lane Johnson. I watch Jammal Brown, too. Lane has that athleticism, speed. He looks like an athlete playing tackle, that’s exactly what he is. He’s fast, stays on blocks, gets to the second level.

SN: What are you going to major in?

St. John: Right now, marketing. But I’m thinking of switching that.

SN: What’s it like to be believed to be the first Canadian to play football at OU?

St. John: It’s crazy. Knowing that I’m the first Canadian. I got to represent now. I want to give a good impression, so they can go back and get some more Canadians. There’s a lot of good players up there.

SN: Since you’re Canadian, are you a hockey fan, too?

St. John: No, I’m into basketball. A lot of my friends like hockey. I never played, and I can’t skate. When people are talking hockey, I don’t know what they are talking about.

SN: But you’re a Raptors fan, right?

St. John: I am. Right now we’re struggling, so I’ve been a LeBron fan. I’ve been on that bandwagon.

SN: You might want to keep that quiet in Oklahoma City.

St. John: I know, I know. But I’m a LeBron dude.

SN: When you leave OU, what do you want your legacy to be?

St. John: I want to be remembered as a great player. My thing is go hard 100 percent. I want to be one of the great O-linemen, be a great player to come out of Canada, a great role model, great person with kids. That’s what I want people to say when I leave.
DALLAS -- The Sooners had their turn at Big 12 media days Tuesday. Here are five things we learned:

1. Starting quarterback to be named later

On the opening question of his press conference, coach Bob Stoops took issue with a reporter assuming Blake Bell would be named OU’s starting quarterback.

[+] EnlargeAaron Colvin
AP Photo/Tim SharpOklahoma cornerback Aaron Colvin had high praise for the Sooners' young defensive backs on Day 2 of Big 12 media days.
“You're kind of making assumptions if you think he's the guy right now,” Stoops said. “We've got a number of guys in the competition.”

Stoops waited until the week before the opener before naming Sam Bradford the starting quarterback in 2007. He hinted that he would follow a similar formula this preseason.

“We’ve never been real excited,” Stoops said, “about naming a guy too early.”

2. The offensive pace could be slowed

Since 2008, the Sooners have featured one of the most up-tempo offensive attacks in college football. That could change this season.

With a stable of dynamic running backs and a veteran offensive line, Stoops confessed the Sooners will consider going slower offensively and chewing up more clock on the ground to help their defense.

“It's something to consider, definitely, how fast you are going, how effective it is, how it is affecting the defense,” Stoops said. “It's something to look at.

“So hopefully we can stay on the field, eat some clock. Even if we are going no-huddle sometimes, there's opportunity to still use up some of the clock.”

3. A Kendal Thompson package?

Stoops didn’t shoot down the idea of using a backup quarterback package again this season, similar to the one the Sooners used the last two years with Bell operating out of the Belldozer. Only this time, it would utilize the speed of Kendal Thompson and/or Trevor Knight instead of the power of Bell.

“You put Kendal or Trevor back there to run it, they're faster,” Stoops said. “So you've got more options there of what you're able to do with them. Or if they happen to hit a crease, they're not likely to be caught very soon. So there's some of that to consider, and it gives (Bell) a break or gives him an opportunity to avoid taking too many hits.”

4. Russell, St. John update

Stoops didn’t refer to defensive tackle Quincy Russell or offensive tackle Josiah St. John by name, but he did seem optimistic OU’s two missing junior-college transfers ultimately would make it to campus before the start of fall camp, which starts next weekend.

“They’re still working things out,” Stoops said. “We’ll see.”

Russell would bolster a defensive line short on experience and bodies. St. John would have a good chance to be OU’s third offensive tackle behind starters Tyrus Thompson and Daryl Williams.

5. Young DBs impressing

Cornerback Aaron Colvin reiterated what other program insiders have been saying this summer. True freshmen defensive backs Hatari Byrd, Ahmad Thomas, Stanvon Taylor and L.J. Moore could help the Sooners right away.

“They're very mature,” Colvin said. “There aren't many things you have to say to them twice. You tell them one time and they fix it -- that's the sign of a great player.”

Colvin himself played as a true freshman in 2010, even starting the Texas game after starter Jamell Fleming was injured the week before. He said he sees similar attributes in Taylor, also a corner.

“I stay on Stanvon hard, because I expect great things from him,” Colvin said. “He's eager to learn; he wants to be the best. There aren't too many things I need to say in order to get him riled up.”
You’ve seen them while prepping your fantasy football team. Or reading ESPN Insider Chad Ford while getting ready for the NBA Draft. The “tier system” is an effective way of making sense, differentiating and analyzing a cluster of players. Everyone from pro sport general managers to college coaches out on the trail recruiting employ this method.

With this is mind, SoonerNation has parsed out Oklahoma’s roster into 10 separate tiers. Here they are:

Tier 1: The Elite (Guys who could play for almost anyone)


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Every Friday, 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:

  • OU's top running back target is trying to make it to Norman soon
  • Texas running back has OU and Alabama on top
  • Have the Sooners contacted an in-state tailback?
  • Offensive line signees get acquainted with their new coach
  • There's no pressure on one legacy on being a Sooner
  • Elite Texas wideout wants to make it to OU junior day
  • In-state receiver is staying patient with the process

Read the Sooner Intel after the jump.


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Coaches' corner: OT Josiah St. John

February, 19, 2013
2/19/13
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After recruiting them for several months, Oklahoma's coaching staff was finally able to talk publicly about the players the Sooners added to the program on signing day. Over the next week or so, SoonerNation will review some of the key things coaches had to say about the players signed at each position group during their signing day webcast on Soonersports.com.

With Lane Johnson moving on to the NFL, the Sooners needed to bring in some immediate competition at the tackle position. Junior college signee Josiah St. John (Athens, Texas/Trinity Valley Community College) fits the bill perfectly. At 6-foot-7, 300 pounds, St. John brings size and athleticism to the Sooners offensive line.

"We were looking for an older mature guy who can play tackle and help us at that position," co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell said. "That was an area of need with Lane Johnson leaving the program. He gives us maturity, gives us length and incredible depth at the position."

Tyrus Thompson, who saw extensive time at right tackle and spot duty at left tackle in 2012, could have stepped right in at left tackle with Daryl Williams at right tackle, but St. John will provide quality competition for both players, making nobody's starting spot secure under new offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh.

"Josiah St. John is a big tackle, all of 6-foot-6, 305 or so pounds and is an excellent athlete at that position," Sooners coach Bob Stoops said.

The Sooners fully expect St. John earn playing time this fall, with Stoops saying the Sooners don't bring in junior college players unless they anticipate immediate impact. Across the board, OU's offensive staff seems to believe St. John, the No. 6 player in the ESPNJC 100, could become a key contributor in 2013.

"Josiah St. John is somebody we expect can come in and help us immediately," running backs coach Cale Gundy said.

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