2012 class ready to shine

Some of the unknowns from the 2012 class have ended up being the best prospects for OU's 2014 season.

All the talk about Oklahoma and its 2012 class was about the wide receivers. Sterling Shepard, Durron Neal, Trey Metoyer and Derrick Woods – that was one loaded group.

But other guys weren’t talked about nearly as much or at all. In the end, the Sooners ended up with the 10th-ranked class in the nation.

Not all of the guys ever made it to campus. Junior college prospects like Courtney Gardner and Will Latu never qualified. Guys like John Michael McGee and Metoyer never really panned out. Tight end Laith Harlow’s career was over before it started because of injury.

And some of the recruits who weren’t noted as game-changers have become the cornerstones of OU’s 2014 team and a big reason why the Sooners are a consensus top five-ranked team by several media outlets.

“I definitely think this class is a group of underdogs,” cornerback Zack Sanchez said. “We’ve heard how the 2010 class is the best class to come in for years. We’re always having that argument, but we know we’re the best overall athletic class.

“We’ve always had that chip on our shoulder. The 2012 class is not a weak class whatsoever. We want to leave a legacy here.”

Sanchez epitomizes what the class is all about. Committed to Baylor for most of his recruitment, it wasn’t until Mike Stoops returned that OU started to look in his direction. After his official visit, he flipped to the Sooners.

But the reaction wasn’t a huge one from OU fans. Flipping somebody from Baylor wasn’t supposed to be the cause for celebration, not for somebody who was ranked No. 55 at safety for 2012.

There was the fear of the unknown. Who in the world was Charles Tapper? A defensive end from Baltimore when OU has never gone to Baltimore?

Eric Striker has a cool name, but what position is he going to play? He’s too small to be a linebacker and not versatile enough to be a safety.

“We always talk about the class that was before us,” Tapper said. “Trevor had Landry (Jones). I had David King and R.J. Washington. All those guys were people to look up to. It was always if we could ever be the caliber of that class.”

Now the talk isn’t about comparing to other classes but living up to a tradition created by players from years past.

“You look at all the guys on these walls,” Tapper said. “A big guy I’ve been looking up to is Tommie Harris. To play on the same field as Tommie Harris is a big deal.”

Notable 2012 class players

4-star prospects

Alex Ross (No. 14 RB)

If this isn’t the year for Ross, it might never happen. The redshirt sophomore is set to have the biggest opportunity of his career. We’ll find out soon enough what he does with it.

Derrick Woods (No. 15 S)

Woods is in a huge fight for playing time at wide receiver, but he has done everything necessary to put himself in the best position. Made a huge play in the Sugar Bowl that he hopes to build on.

Durron Neal (No. 18 WR)

From all reports, the light bulb has turned on for Neal. Off the field issues have troubled Neal, but has his life in order and is ready to be that electrifying target everybody thought he would be.

Sterling Shepard (No. 27 WR)

Perhaps the biggest star of the 2012 class so far, Shepard has carried his name well at OU. Expected to be the No. 1 wide receiver and punt returner this season, the best could be yet to come.

3-star prospects

Taylor McNamara (No. 19 TE)

His redshirt year gave him questions he had never had to answer before. Now comfortable with Norman and with the offense, McNamara should be headed to his biggest season at OU.

Trevor Knight (No. 22 QB)

An uneven redshirt freshman year has been wiped away by the incredible outing against Alabama. Now the face of the program, Knight has said and done all the right things. All that’s left is to produce on the field.

Charles Tapper (No. 35 DE)

From being torn between basketball and football to now being among the best defensive ends in the nation, Tapper has come a long way. But his goals are even loftier for this season.

Zack Sanchez (No. 55 S)

It was baptism by fire last season for Sanchez, playing opposite of Aaron Colvin. Now he’s one of the leaders of the OU secondary and a potential all-conference performer.

Eric Striker (No. 61 OLB)

Coming off a stellar showing against the Crimson Tide, the expectations have never been higher for Striker. Have schools adjusted to his quickness off the edge? We’ll find out soon enough.

Daniel Brooks (No. 62 WR)

A leg injury during the spring of his senior year in high school set Brooks back, way back. But the spring game was a glimpse of what he can do in open space. He won’t be featured all the time, but he’ll get his shot.

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