When you reach the end, you start thinking about the beginning. The 2012 class for Oklahoma represents the first class I’ve covered from beginning to end.
After dealing solely with Oklahoma high school recruiting for a few years, made the leap to OU recruiting in the summer of 2011.
So a personal walk down memory lane for me, reflecting back on the 2012 class then as recruits and now and where they’ve been, where they are and where they’re going.
Still at OU
Durron Neal (No. 18 WR, No. 105 Scout 300)
Neal was always a great recruit to talk with. He was so insightful, you could tell he took each question seriously. Incredible athletic talent that maybe didn’t have the career we all thought he would in Norman. That respectful demeanor in him never went away, though. Neal was as gracious and open with his time as anybody. A true class act in every sense of the phrase.
Alex Ross (No. 14 RB, No. 120 Scout 300)
Even in high school, Ross had that quirky personality that sort of defines him now. Coming out of Jenks, the question was whether his upright running style would lead to injuries or being effective. Obviously Ross hasn’t found a home at running back but has provided a lot of memories on special teams. Still has that blazing top-end speed, just harder to see it in action now.
Sterling Shepard (No. 27 WR, No. 161 Scout 300)
Where to start with Shepard? Been watching him since he was a freshman at Heritage Hall with running back Barry J. Sanders. Shepard started to emerge as a junior in high school where you got the real feeling he was going to be better than Lil Barry. Since arriving at OU, Shepard has been everything as advertised and then some. He’s gone from a great story about his relationship with Bob Stoops to one of the all-time greats at OU at receiver. Never seen anybody make more competitive catches than Shepard.
Ty Darlington (No. 2 C, No. 264 Scout 300)
In the recruiting process, it was clear Darlington was going to be a go-to guy for the media. He was already so articulate and intelligent. He prided himself on his academics and nothing changed once he arrived in Norman. Darlington might be the best example of anybody when you’re looking for somebody who symbolizes the 2012 class.
Trevor Knight (No. 22 QB)
Knight was always an intriguing one because he was so hard to track down. He never ever wanted to take the spotlight and talk about his accomplishments. He’s still that way. Knight’s selfless acts go way back when as he gave his mid-year enrollee spot to tight end Taylor McNamara. That’s just the person Knight is and has always been.
Charles Tapper (No. 35 DE)
Never ever thought Tapper would survive in Norman. A kid from Baltimore going to Norman with nobody around for support? Seemed like a one-and-done type of deal. Boy was I was wrong. Tapper has been a standout and standup person and player since arriving at OU. Wasn’t much of a talker on the trail, but he’s a go-to guy now and the person I voted No. 1 for the OU media cooperation award.
Sam Grant (No. 45 TE)
One thing I’ll always remember about Grant was visiting OU the weekend after Christmas when essentially no coaches and no players were in town. Still picked the Sooners. Not a huge impact on the field, but you can tell he’s enjoying his time and making lifelong friendships.
Zack Sanchez (No. 55 S)
Remember everybody wondering what’s the big deal about trying to flip a Baylor commit? Sanchez has shown why that was a big deal time and time again. His time might not be up just yet, either, as it’s debatable whether or not he’ll return for his senior season. Sanchez was a late guy on the trail but was always a fun interview.
Eric Striker (No. 61 OLB)
Oh Striker. Never met a high school recruit without a Twitter page or Facebook page, but that was Striker and still is Striker. He spoke well but didn’t have that confidence he has now when addressing the media. Remember the cause of concern was when Brent Venables left and whether or not Striker would leave as well. Phenomenal growth as a player and person in his four years in Norman.
Daniel Brooks (No. 62 WR)
The big thing with Brooks was whether or not he was going to flip to Texas or TCU but that never really materialized. Then the big thing with Brooks was him tearing up his knee at a track meet. That set him back so far. Now the academic probation is another setback. So much speed, just haven’t been able to harness it all yet.
Eligibility is done
Damien Williams (3-star RB)
Chaz Nelson (3-star DE)
Brannon Green (3-star TE)
LaColtan Bester (3-star WR)
Kasseim Everett (4-star CB)
Everett remains one of my favorite stories ever. He picked Texas Tech at the ceremony but never faxed in his letter of intent. OU coaches were so surprised he picked Tech. A few hours later, he did indeed fax his letter of intent to the Sooners and found his niche as a blitzer in the secondary. Bester was a fun mid-spring/early summer addition nobody saw coming. Williams was necessary after all those running back defections and had a pretty solid two years before being dismissed. Nelson and Green, both jucos from Kansas, played their time out in Norman although never made an impact on the field.
Never made it to OU
Courtney Gardner (4-star WR)
Will Latu (3-star OT)
Laith Harlow (No. 53 TE)
Gardner was supposed to be a difference maker but never got it to work out in two years. Harlow was such an interesting case because of his back issue that forced him to quit playing football. OU honored his scholarship but not sure he ever made it to OU. Latu was a hope-and-see case that just didn’t work.
Trey Metoyer (5-star WR)
John Michael McGee (No. 9 OG, No. 167 Scout 300)
Derrick Woods (No. 15 S, No. 198 Scout 300)
Taylor McNamara (No. 19 TE)
Kyle Marrs (No. 38 OG)
David Smith (No. 39 RB)
Gary Simon (No. 60 CB)
Mike Onuoha (No. 75 DE)
You look at that list and wonder what might have been on some of them. Metoyer was considered the can’t-miss prospect. Woods was an exceptional athlete who was going to be a game-changer. Simon was the real deal but couldn’t get it done academically, couldn’t stay focused. McGee just simply never loved football until it was too late. Sooner Dave has found great success with iOHawk hoverboard-like mode of transportation. Always just so interesting to see the names and where they were and where they are.