Every class goes into a school with the intention of winning a national championship. It’d be foolish to think otherwise.
But when you took a look at Oklahoma’s 2012 class, it was a group you really felt could be the catalyst in the chase for No. 8 for the Sooners.
It came close, closer than any other class in recent OU memory, but the group came up just short in losing to No. 1-ranked Clemson in the Capital One Orange Bowl.
They put the wheels in motion for OU’s 2016 team. It will just be a question of whether or not that group can live up to the example the 2012 crop just set because it won’t be easy.
“This is the closest thing that I’ve ever been to like family,” senior defensive end Charles Tapper said. “All these guys are my true brothers. If anything ever went down with these guys, I’m right there with them. Parents die, get married, have babies, I’m gonna be right there for them.
“Next year, I’m gonna try to be at every game I can be at. I hope I’m in the NFL, but if not I’ll be at every game. I love these guys and want to see them succeed in life. I wish them the best.”
The 2012 class was supposed to be special, but we know full well that supposed to in recruiting doesn’t mean a whole heck of a lot.
The group was ranked No. 10 in Scout’s rankings, but the truth of the matter is, a lot of the success didn’t come from the major prospects.
“I think it’s always, which is fair to say, look three, four years down the road and see what guys do because, you know, let’s face it: Nobody was doing backflips over Sam Bradford way back when and look what he did his last few years,” said head coach Bob Stoops back at 2012 signing day. “It’s always a little bit uncertain. I’m sure there will be guys here that maybe aren’t as heralded as others, that people aren’t talking about, that end up lighting it up and are really special players.”
Guys like Trey Metoyer, John Michael McGee, Derrick Woods, all ranked in the top 200, didn’t pan out in Norman.
For a class to be successful top guys have to be as good as advertised and then you have to find some under the radar recruits that develop into your top guys.
Check and check when it came to OU’s 2012 class. Wide receivers Durron Neal and Sterling Shepard both became what was expected. You could make the argument Neal wasn’t as stellar on the field, but you’d also be foolish to not admit what a leader he was off the field.
Shepard leaves the program as one of the most decorated receivers in OU history and no doubt added to the Shepard legacy, while creating one of his own.
Center Ty Darlington was another Scout 300 recruit that delivered on the field, but his most important work was probably all the stuff he did off the field, in the community and in trying to improve student-athlete conditions in the NCAA.
Alex Ross turned into a quality kickoff returner for the Sooners round out OU’s Scout 300 prospects from the class.
Development was big with this group. Tapper was only the No. 35 defensive end and not many schools were interested in his services.
Eric Striker was the No. 61 outside linebacker in the country. The clear consensus was he was too dang small to make an imprint. He was small, but he never let it stop him.
Zack Sanchez was No. 55 at safety and became one of the best cornerbacks at OU, especially in terms of making plays. A three-year starter, Sanchez could have re-written the record books had he stayed for his redshirt senior campaign.
This group came into OU following an uneven season for the Sooners. OU was preseason ranked No. 1 in 2011 and ended with a 10-3 season and victory against Iowa in the Insight Bowl.
They’ve set the bar for future classes and are excited to see what’s to come in the future in Norman.
“Absolutely,” said Darlington about being pumped for next year. “They’re gonna be so much better next year without us. Obviously, there’s a leadership void. Guys are gonna have to step up and guys are gonna have to learn the game better and be able to do what I did as far as that part of it, making the calls and everything. I have confidence in those guys.
“They’re gonna be so good. They’re gonna continue to progress and be great next year. They’ll be the best O-line in the conference.”