Sooners have major holes to fill at LB and DL

In part one of a three point series breaking down Oklahoma's prospects for the class of 2002, James Hale takes a look at OU's linebacker and defensive line prospects

In just three years at Oklahoma, Bob Stoops and the Sooner coaching staff have returned the Sooners to national prominence. Once again the Sooners are a national power and considered one of the elite programs in college football. The Sooners national championship in 2001 gave the storied program seven titles in all, second to only Notre Dame.

Stoops has quickly become the nations best football coach and his staff is already considered one of the very best in the country. That praise just doesn't relate to their talents on the field, but also on the recruiting front, where the Sooner coaching staff has excelled since arriving in Norman.

In year one, despite working with a full staff for just a little over three weeks, the Sooners landed the 15th best class in the country. Their second recruiting class was ranked No. 1 most of the year and finished fifth in the nation. For year three the Sooners are recruiting off a national championship and are primed once again to land a top five class.

The Sooners are recruiting some of the very best talent in the country. Once again, Oklahoma is concentrating most of their recruiting efforts in Oklahoma and Texas, but the Sooners are once again becoming a national recruiting power. Oklahoma is also spending time in California, Florida, Tennessee, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio. In reality, the Sooners go anywhere where they feel they can sign a top-level prospect.

The Sooners only have 18 scholarships to give, which makes them a very selective coaching staff. This year the Sooners have to recruit to specific positions. Signing top-notch defensive ends, defensive tackles, linebackers and offensive linemen are imperative in this year's class.

As great as the Sooners currently are, they happen to be so thin at all four positions that a true freshman at each spot could come in and help next year.

Finding a great group of linebackers is a must in this class. The Sooners graduate two starters in All-American Rocky Calmus and a very solid Brandon Moore. Steady Teddy Lehman will be the only linebacker returning with any experience. There is not another linebacker currently on the varsity roster that has played a key down of football at OU. Throw in the fact that Sophomore Jimmy Wilkerson has to play defensive end, because of a lack of depth at that position and every great high school linebacker in the country should be looking Oklahoma's way.

The Sooners currently have a verbal commitment from top 100 Big 12 talent Wayne Chambers (6'3, 215, 4.6) of Grandview, Mo. The Sooners have a soft commitment from another top 100 Big 12 standout in Lawrence Pinson (6'3, 246, 4.6) of Jenks, Okla. Pinson says he is a heavy lean to the Sooners, but he still plans to visit with Tennessee, Nebraska, Missouri and Texas A&M.

Oklahoma remains very much in the running for some of the top linebacker talent in the country. All-American Scott White (6'2, 230, 4.58 ) of San Diego Mission Bay, Calif. is very close to committing to the Sooners.

White is leaning heavily to the Sooners over UCLA, Notre Dame and Florida State and he plans to visit the weekend of the Kansas State game.

Aaron Harris (6'0, 232, 4.6) of Mesquite, Texas is at the very top of the Sooners recruiting board. A prototypical inside linebacker, Harris averages close to 15 tackles a game and is ranked as the 91st best player in the country by TheInsiders.com. The Sooners are in a major dogfight with Texas and Texas A&M for his services.

Nate Harris (6'2, 210, 4.5) of Miami Edison, Fla. is a tremendous ball chaser who averages 12 tackles a game. OU is very much in the hunt here as well, but in a major battle with LSU, Miami, Florida and Notre Dame.

Archie McDaniel (6'2, 230, 4.6) of Bay City, Texas is a very physical player that is tremendous at the point of attack. OU is in a tough battle with Texas A&M, LSU, FSU, FLA, Miami and Texas. His teammate, Nurahnda Manning, (6'2, 225, 4.6) is also being heavily recruiting by the Sooners and early has his choices down to OU, Texas A&M and LSU.

Marvin Byrdsong (6'3, 235, 4.5) of Longview, Texas received little preseason fanfare, but now that he is totally healthy has emerged as one of the nations best football players. An injured hand limited Byrdsong to just five games last season, but he averaged 17 tackles a game giving an great indication of just how gifted he is. This season Byrdsong is at full strength and is averaging 15 tackles a game. Byrdsong is a must on any teams recruiting board and his current top six are LSU, Florida State, Texas, Arkansas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma.

Kellen Tillman (6'1, 218, 4.6) of Plano, Texas is a very solid linebacker prospect who did very well in the OU and Florida State summer camps. West Virginia and Colorado have offered at this point, but his top five are Oklahoma, FSU, LSU, USC and Michigan State and those five are still in contact.

A wild card is Jay Davis (6'2, 205, 4.6) of Jenks, Okla. Davis is a tackle machine and the more he plays, the more he impresses college football recruiters.

Then you have the continuing saga of Garnet Smith (6'4, 217, 4.4) of Arlington Lamar, Texas, who committed to the Sooners, then to the Longhorns and now says the Sooners are back in it. This one will be interesting to watch until signing day.

While signing linebackers is a must, it is just as important that the Sooners land some prime time defensive ends in this class and the Sooners are chasing among this group the top player in Texas.

Larry Dibbles (6'3, 275, 4.62) of Lancaster, Texas is one of the most impressive athletes that I have dealt with in some time. A tremendous athlete, who is very intelligent that certainly has his life planned out to the fullest. Football isn't the only important thing in his life and the type of academic program will have as much to do with Dibbles signing with a certain club as the teams exploits on the football field.

Dibbles is this year's Tommie Harris and has the same kind of upside to whatever college program he signs with. To say he is at the top of the Sooners recruiting board would be an understatement, but he is at the top of most recruiting boards. Dibbles has taken unofficial visits to Texas, Oklahoma and Notre Dame, Florida State, LSU, Miami and Purdue could also get into the picture.

However, listed right with Dibbles is Bryan Pickryl (6'5, 232, 4.5) of Jenks, Okla. Pickryl is an Insider.com top 100 player. Regarded as the top player in the state, Pickryl seems to be leaning to OU more-and-more as the weeks pass. Because of his status and ability it's very important the Sooners sign Pickryl on the dotted line. However, Pickryl is a national recruit and despite now leaning to OU, he is still expected to visit Texas, UCLA and Missouri.

Another TheInsiders.com top 100 player is outside linebacker/defensive end Zach Latimer (6'3, 218, 4.48) from Aurora, Colo. Latimer has played seven different positions in high school, but most feel he will beef up into a prototype defensive end in college.

Blessed with great speed, Latimer is awesome coming off the edge. Both of his parents went to Miami and right now the Hurricanes and Sooners are his top two choices. Latimer has friends that already attend OU.

Bryan Andrews (6'5, 232, 4.6) is another prospect from Lima, Ohio who could play either defensive end or linebacker. You figure once he gets into a collegiate weight program that he will play at 255 or 260 pounds. Andrews has an offer from Ohio State and now Oklahoma, and the Sooners are very much in the hunt. Michigan State, Ohio University and Iowa are also in the chase.

Remi Ayodele (6'3, 240, 4.6) of Grand Prairie, Texas is a raw talent that still needs his academics. However, he is a dynamic player and one that the Sooners are watching very closely. Ayodele likes OU, but had a brother that started at Purdue.

Ed Jackson (6'3, 213, 4.7) of LaMarque, Texas is being recruited both as a linebacker and defensive end. Jackson finished with 96 tackles and 12 sacks a year ago. Jackson says he is wide open between LSU, Baylor, USC, Oklahoma, Kansas and TCU.

OU also lacks depth at defensive tackle and never seem to have enough. The Sooners prime-timer here is Rodrique Wright (6'5, 325, 4.9) of Alief (Hastings), Texas and is rated as the 24th best player in the country by TheInsiders.com. Wright has been slow to warm to the Sooners, but OU continues to grow on him and are now in his top four. Texas is a slight leader over Texas A&M, OU and LSU.

Manuel Wright (6'7, 315, 4.9) is a defensive tackle from Long Beach Poly, Calif., and is another TheInsiders.com top 100 player in the country. The Sooners have some work to do to really get into the hunt for this big guy as he is leaning towards Miami with FSU, Florida, USC, Washington and possibly Oklahoma in the picture.

The Sooners are also hustling to get into the hunt for big Fred Matua (6'5, 300, 4.9) of Wilmington Banning, Cali. Matua has been consistent in talking about USC, Washington, OU and Nebraska and insists he doesn't have a leader.

Dave Ligon (6'4, 255, 4.8) of Germantown, Tennessee suffered a broken leg this season. However, this preseason All-American still has offers on the table from Tennessee, Florida, OU, Georgia Tech, Auburn, Alabama, Memphis and Clemson.

Ali Likio (6'3, 290, 5.0) of Euless Trinity, Texas is a mountain of a man and still has the Sooners very much in the hunt with several other schools at this time.

Darrian Billups (6'5, 290, 5.1) of Arlington Bowie, Texas missed all of last year due to transfer rules and he has yet to play this season. His first game will be the fourth weekend of the season. Billups has committed to SMU, but he is still considering USC, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Tulsa, New Mexico and OU. The Sooners have offered a visit.

Dale Dixson (6'3, 270, 4.8) of Garland, Texas is a top 100 player in Texas. Texas A&M, OU and Notre Dame are in a dead heat right now.

Brandon Fails (6'3, 268, 5.0) of Coffeyville Heritage, Texas has visits set to Kansas State (12-7), LSU (12-15) and S.W. Texas (Dec.). Fails is also talking with OU, NEB and UT and waiting to see if they offer.

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