It has been said often, but it bears repeating how the failure of Oklahoma’s 2011 class has put the Sooners in a rough spot the last couple of seasons.
You can hit on a recruiting class and not win a conference or national championship, but it’s rare that you can miss on a class and still be the cream of the crop.
Nineteen signees, only five remain, excluding former defensive tackle Jordan Phillips, who is now playing for the Miami Dolphins.
Two of those five are at linebacker in P.L. Lindley and Frank Shannon. You don’t have to remind them about the 2011 group – they’re all too aware.
“We always talk about that all the time,” Shannon said. “How there’s only like five of us left, what happened to our class? We got to stick together. We have to do good for our class so our class won’t be forgotten.”
Lindley and Shannon both were pretty dang close to being forgotten heading into the 2015 season. Shannon was the team’s leading tackler during the 2013 season but was expelled from the university following a Title IX investigation and was even enrolled at OU for the 2014 school year.
Lindley, on the other hand, stayed the course for him that has included playing almost every position you can play with defensive line, linebacker and special teams.
He’s never griped about his role on the team. He obviously would have loved to have earned more playing time, but he doesn’t regret the way things have worked out in Norman.
“It hasn’t been too hard,” Lindley said. “It’s about having an attitude of doing whatever is needed to help the team accomplish its goal. All you can do is wait for your moment because you never know when you’re going to come in.”
The moment has come for the two elder statesmen of the OU defense. With injuries to Devante Bond and Jordan Evans, last Saturday was a reminder of perseverance paying off.
Starting at linebacker was Lindley and right by his side was Shannon in OU’s emphatic 63-27 victory against Texas Tech.
Nothing was a guarantee regarding Shannon when it came to the 2015 season. When he was going through his rough time last season, Lindley was always there to help out in whatever way he could.
It was nothing new, Shannon said, as the two had been roommates for two years and have developed a deep friendship.
“I definitely talked to Frank a lot,” Lindley said. “We were just waiting for him to come back, encouraging him any way we could. We all knew he would come back.”
Coming back is one thing and playing is another. The team Shannon returned to when camp started was a lot different than the one he left back in New Orleans after OU’s win in the Sugar Bowl.
It wasn’t like his spot was just there waiting for him. The emergence of Jordan Evans in Shannon’s absence gave the team great competition at the middle linebacker spot. With Evans hobbled, Shannon took full advantage against the Red Raiders.
He was back to his old tricks, leading the team with 13 tackles and also adding one of OU’s four interceptions.
“I was happy for Frank,” defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “It’s been a tough first half of the year just not being able to get on the field as much as he’d like. The situation really hasn’t presented itself the right way – that’s why you have great players. They make each other better and push each other.”
Shannon has been known as a playmaker for OU’s defense. Lindley is a bit different. Quiet and humble off the field, it’s true you can go a whole game and not realize Lindley is out there.
He’s effective, though, and his teammates and coaches sure appreciate the work he has put in and his dedication to his craft.
“P.L.'s been awesome,” head coach Bob Stoops said. “He’s kind of one of our most valuable players because he can play so many spots. Last week with Jordan being injured, we even repped him inside at the inside linebacker position.
“Then of course he’s played the outside backer position really well in the last few weeks, and then if we needed him to, he could go in there and play a 4-technique.
“He can do about anything. Very smart player, understands it, gets it, plays always with great leverage and strength and tackles well.”
Shannon and Lindley are well aware about how they’re part of the few from the 2011 class. A lot of people will deem the class as a major disappointment. They understand that.
It has been a wild, crazy five years in Norman for both of them, but it’s clear they’re looking to end it in style.
“It’s the bond you make with teammates,” said Lindley about what he’s going to remember. “All the exciting games we’ve played. The times we’ve shared together and getting closer on and off the field. It has been great and great to play with your best friends.”