Under the radar 2016 defense: Jon-Michael Terry

Linebacker was clearly the strength of OU's 2016 class but don't forget about Jon-Michael Terry when discussing the spot.

When you look at Oklahoma’s 2016 class, the Sooners hit a home run at linebacker. It is clearly the strength of this class, and it needed to be.

All the rage is about five-star linebacker Caleb Kelly and fellow Scout 300 prospect Mark Jackson. But it couldn’t just be the outside guys. The Sooners need a key piece in the middle, and it turns out they didn’t need to look very far.

Not much was known and no celebration was really had when Tulsa (Okla.) Victory Christian’s Jon-Michael Terry became the initial member of OU’s 2016 class back on Feb. 15, 2015.

There were some whispers of his talent but nothing that screamed he was a can’t-miss guy. But going back to signing day, and it seems pretty clear that he was viewed as one of those type of guys with the OU coaches.

May be one of the most underrated guys in our signing class,” head coach Bob Stoops said. “Jon-Michael has great size with great speed. He was our first commitment. Since then every major school for the most part has been through his school with offers and trying to get him to visit and show some interest in him.

“And he’s been steady all along. If you knew how many people have been through that school trying to recruit him, people would realize what a special player he is. We’re really excited about the athlete he is.”

Terry was a sack machine as a junior, accumulating 20 sacks. But that’s not the role the Sooners saw for him, and that’s not the role he wanted to play as a senior in high school.

Terry accepted the fact his future was going to be in the middle, and he made about the smoothest transition you possibly could for someone in his position.

He tallied 159 tackles with only four sacks this time around, adjusting to the position. He recovered two fumbles and returned one for a touchdown. For somebody who had never played inside before? Not too shabby.

The numbers only told part of the story. Terry’s recruitment never was in the spotlight because Terry himself never wanted to be in that position.

He ended up No. 15 inside linebacker in the country when you combined his season with his great week of performances in the Semper Fi all-star game.

Loyalty is fickle in recruiting, both with a player to a school and a school to a player. But when Terry said he was committed to OU, he meant it. Coaches from top schools all over the country would make the trip to see him, and Terry would appreciate their interest but wasn’t going to listen.

“To have been so solid all along and committed and never even want to talk,” Stoops said. “He’d tell the coaches and turn down some of the top-10 teams in the country. They’d come to the school. ‘At least let me say hi to him.’ He’d say no, I don’t want to get out class. You appreciate that.”

Perhaps an underrated athlete as well. Terry won’t play offense for the Sooners, but he did have 52 catches for 978 yards and 11 touchdowns as a tight end. He averaged nearly 19 yards per catch and was also a vital member of the basketball team that reached the state tournament.

OU came in early, made the impression and locked him up. Now the Sooners can’t wait to unleash what they have in Terry going forward.

He’s a very talented kid and mature beyond his years,” defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “Really a special person. Like I said: he’s like Gabe (Ikard) and Ty (Darlington) beyond football. He’s a special player and special person. He will excel in this program.”

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