OU's defensive recruiting state of mind

Entering mid-December, OU knew it needed help defensively in recruiting. DeBerry, Haughton, Gallimore, Campbell - yep, OU addressing the need.

Forty-eight points against Baylor. Thirty-eight points against Oklahoma State. Thirty-seven points against TCU. OK, point proven, this wasn’t exactly the banner defensive year for Oklahoma that it was supposed to be.

The Sooners allowed 30 or more points in six regular season games, including all four losses. Though there were issues with the offense, it did average a shade under 39 points per game in the regular season.

OU needs help, but it has to start on defense. It will for spring ball, but it has taken a dramatic leap on the recruiting trail. OU’s last four commitments have all been top defensive targets.

Not just defensive players, but the top of OU’s board defensive players. No backup plans. No Plan C. These are the guys OU wanted. And in the last month, these are the guys OU has been able to snag.

It started Dec. 19 with a defensive combo pickup that made some OU fans forget about blowing a 14-point fourth quarter lead in Bedlam. The morning started with the commitment of Mechanicsburg (Va.) Atlee five-star linebacker Ricky DeBerry and ended with the pledge of Waco (Texas) Midway four-star safety Kahlil Haughton.

Star ratings aside, winning these head-to-head recruiting battles are a necessity for OU and something has been lacking from time to time in recent years.

DeBerry released a final eight during the season, and OU was able to snatch him away despite schools like Penn State, Virginia Tech, Virginia, Alabama and Texas A&M wanting land his commitment.

Haughton picked OU despite being in Baylor’s backyard. Schools like Arkansas and Texas Tech were both squarely in the mix as well.

It gave OU a lot of momentum heading into the Russell Athletic Bowl against Clemson. Somehow that momentum didn’t disappear after an uninspired 40-6 shellacking at the hands of the Tigers. It was a season-low for OU in points scored and the second most allowed during the season.

Again, defensive recruiting would be key for the Sooners. The good news continued Jan. 3 at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. In front of a national audience on NBC, Canada Prep four-star defensive lineman Neville Gallimore picked the Sooners instead of Ohio State and Florida State.

Yes, the Seminoles played in the college football playoff and the Buckeyes were just coming off the huge win against Alabama, but it was OU that was chosen.

Then just three days later it was time for Yazoo City (Miss.) defensive lineman Gabriel Campbell to make the call to OU. A high three-star prospect, his rating is clearly irrelevant for the Sooners. And it has been clear for a while OU wanted Campbell badly at defensive end.

Ole Miss and Mississippi State have not given up the fight for Campbell, who is expected to visit each school in the next two weeks. Campbell said last week OU fans have nothing to worry about. We’ll find out soon enough.

OU entered Dec. 19 with just one Scout 100 player in mid-year enrollee offensive tackle Bobby Evans. DeBerry and Gallimore make that number three now.

So what is OU getting with this quartet?

DeBerry

Schools saw his potential at so many different positions. Grow to be a defensive end or put on enough weight to be a defensive tackle. OU is going to let him roam as an outside linebacker and let him be in the mold of Eric Striker. It’s what DeBerry said he sees for himself, and OU’s 3-4 scheme is one thing that helped the Sooners in this battle.

Haughton

He was a top target before his senior season, but he emerged as OU’s No. 1 safety target during the season. Haughton had a great senior year and showed ability to cover in space as well as come up to the line of scrimmage and help in the run game. He was overshadowed by DeBerry committing on same day, but getting Haughton was a huge win for Sooners.

Gallimore

These first three all got to know each other on official visits to OU in September, and OU zeroed in with Gallimore before, during and after the visit. His size says defensive tackle, but OU is very open to the idea of Gallimore being a defensive end in the 3-4 system. OU winning over his family played a big role in things.

Campbell

Campbell just keeps growing and is now the optimum size for what Montgomery loves in his defensive ends. Campbell said he is now around 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds. SEC schools are going to keep knocking, but Campbell has been quick to say for months that OU is his dream school. Until he says otherwise, sticking with it.


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