Sooner Recruiting Class Packs Punch

The Sports Xchange explains why it's more about quality than quantity this year for OU.

INSIDE SLANT

The thing that gets you is the size.

Oklahoma's 2011 recruiting class is small.

Because the Sooners had so few seniors last season and other classes had not suffered much attrition, OU signed only 17 prospects on National Signing Day. Still, the experts tended to like the Sooners' class.

National Football Post had OU No. 14, Rivals had OU No. 13, ESPN had OU No. 11. Most agree on the quality of the class and take issue with the quantity, of which the Sooners could do little about.

There is no telling how much difference any one recruiting class can make or how quickly it can make it. But last season was testament to how much difference a class can make in a hurry. Running back Roy Finch, fullback Trey Millard, wide receiver Trey Franks, cornerback Aaron Colvin and nickel back Tony Jefferson all played important roles.

The Sooners filled their needs in that they added depth all around.

"We feel it is obvious by the way people have respected our class with all the different rankings, to know that there are only 17 players and it's still regarded as one of the better ones in the country," OU coach Bob Stoops said. "I think again it speaks of the quality of players. I feel we've met all our needs with big guys on O-line, D-line, speed positions, receivers, a defensive back, running backs. You know all those guys and then you got the linebackers and tight ends, those guys in the middle. They're all our style of players."

Twelve of the 17 are from Texas, two are from Oklahoma, two are from the Kansas City area, one is from Sioux Falls, S.D.

Three are already enrolled: quarterback Kendal Thompson, the son of ex-Sooner Charles Thompson, from Southmoore High School in Moore, Okla.; defensive tackle Marquis Anderson from Cibolo, Texas; and running back Brandon Williams from Brookshire, Texas.

The Sooners believe they have the guys they need to keep rolling.

"We like the depth and versatility of this class," Stoops said. "It's a talented, athletic group that will contribute in a lot of different

positions."

TOP OF THE CLASS

OT Jordan Phillips (6-6, 290 pounds, Circle HS, Towanda, Kan.) -- A five-star recruit by Scout.com and the No. 4 OT prospect in the nation by Rivals.com, he already has the size required to step in immediately and the athleticism to do many different things. Who knows if the Sooners will find more uses for him, but he ran the ball and caught the ball in high school while also handling punting chores.

RB Brandon Williams (6-0, 190 pounds, Royal HS, Brookshire, Texas) -- A five-star recruit by Rivals.com and Scout.com, both of which rated him the No. 3 RB prospect in the nation after he ran for 2,438 yards and 33 touchdowns his senior year of high school. If he's as good as advertised, it's easy to see him sharing most of OU's running duties with Roy Finch for the next three seasons.

WR Trey Metoyer (6-2, 185 pounds, Whitehouse HS, Whitehouse, Texas) -- A five-star recruit by Rivals.com, which rated him the No. 2 receiving prospect in the nation, and Scout.com, which rated him the No. 1 WR prospect in the nation. Caught 108 passes for 1,540 yards and 23 TDs last season. The star system often proves unreliable, but for historical purposes, Metoyer is the Sooners' very first five-star receiver.

NOTES, QUOTES

--No news may be good news most of the time, but the Sooners received great news when LB Travis Lewis and then WR Ryan Broyles both decided to come back for their senior season at Oklahoma. Broyles already holds every Oklahoma receiving record, and with 266 receptions for 3,429 yards and 35 touchdowns and coming off a 131-catch, 1,622-yard, 14-TD catch season, he has a realistic chance to become the greatest statistical wide receiver in college football history. Meanwhile, Lewis is the anchor and (vocal) leader or the defense. A three-time All-Big 12 selection, he has 360 tackles through three seasons, including 47.5 tackles for loss.

--The coaching shuffle began when offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson took the head coaching job at Indiana. First, Stoops named Josh Heupel and Jay Norvell offensive co-coordinators but still had a hire to make. That hire came in the form of Bruce Kittle. A lawyer by trade and a former law professor and minister, Kittle began coaching in 2006. He was an assistant on the Cedar Falls (Iowa) High staff for the 2009-10 season before becoming OU's on-campus recruiting coordinator last year. He will coach OU's tight ends and offensive tackles. He played with Stoops at Iowa.

SPRING SNAPSHOT

Practice begins/ends: March 8/TBD (Spring Game: April 16)

Practice priorities: A year ago, it was about beefing up offensive line after a season in which OU had to move players from other positions to play there in midseason, the numbers were so low because of injury and defection. But this time around, almost nothing is pressing. The Sooners will return many more starters than they lost. The place that could stand the most improvement is likely the run game. OU struggled in short-yardage situations last season and had trouble running consistently against good defenses. Also, coach Bob Stoops would love for a kicker he can have total confidence in emerge. That hasn't happened since Garrett Hartley was doing the kicking.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "A little bit of everything makes him special. I think everybody has watched him. I'm always amazed when I watch him play where he'll have two or three guys surrounding him and he goes up and gets the ball. He's one of those guys that has those incredible hands that if you get the ball within 10 yards of him he's going to get it, but then you look at the speed and athleticism with it and the great size, he has a chance to be a really special player." -- Bob Stoops on new recruit Trey Metoyer

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

KEY LOSSES: The player OU will miss the most is DE Jeremy Beal. An All-American, he was OU's biggest disruptor. David King was No. 2 on the depth chart at the spot, but don't be surprised if the starting DEs next season are Frank Alexander, a returning starter, and Ronnell Lewis, who was moved from SLB to DE last season. Also gone is running back DeMarco Murray, making returning sophomore Roy Finch the go-to guy in the run game. Also gone is playmaking safety Jonathan Nelson. Javon Harris backed him last season, yet with nickel backs Tony Jefferson and Joseph Ibiloye both back, the starting secondary could get a makeover.

PLAYERS TO WATCH IN 2011:

QB Landry Jones -- Completed 405 of 617 passes for 4,718 yards and 38 TDs against 12 interceptions last season. On numbers alone will be a preseason Heisman candidate.

WR Ryan Broyles -- Probably the best player on the team and best and most productive receiver in Oklahoma history. Will be the preseason frontrunner for the Belitnikoff Award.

RB Roy Finch -- Missed Fiesta Bowl with stress fracture in his left foot after running for 398 yards on 85 carries and leading the Sooners at 4.7 yards per attempt.

DE Ronnell Lewis -- Two years ago he was a terror nobody could miss in kick coverage. Last season he was No. 1 on the depth chart at SLB for most of the season, only the Sooners played their nickel package most of the time, leaving him out of the mix. Moved to defensive end late in the season, he was reportedly coming along and did make some plays in limited opportunities. Everybody's always believed in his potential. It could be a breakout season.

PLAYER NOTES

--OU picked up some help in the running game when former Iowa Hawkeye Brandon Wegher transferred into the program in January. He did not play last season but ran for 113 yards in Iowa's 24-14 Orange Bowl victory over Georgia Tech.

--WR Kenny Stills was arrested on a driving under the influence complaint. With him was DB Tony Jefferson, who was arrested for interfering with an official process. The arrests occurred at 2:30 a.m. Jan. 22.


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