Sooners still on the verge of a top ten class

Despite the recent rash of recruiting losses in the state of Texas, Oklahoma is still putting together one of the top 10 classes in the country.

We are finally to the dog days of recruiting and many OU fans feel that the Sooners are failing in recruiting. No matter how many times I say that OU's recruiting is doing just fine, I still read that the Sooners are not recruiting well.

I think sometimes we all forget that the Sooners aren't just recruiting against one team and just because they have lost a few battles to Texas doesn't mean that the Sooners aren't putting together a good recruiting class. In fact, the general consensus among the national recruiting guru's is that OU is putting together a top 10 class. Yes, I know it may not be number one like Texas, but I can think of about 100 other programs that would trade with OU at this point.

The great Barry Switzer has told me on a number of occasions that there isn't much difference in the number one and number twenty class in the country. Now, of course Barry and every other head coach in America would rather coach the number one class in the country and take their chances with them, but we all know that there have been some great football teams put together from classes ranked 20 or above.

It's important to note that the Bob Stoops' staff could care less about rankings, but appreciate them when other's feel their class is a good one. The OU coaching staff knows how to evaluate talent and their evaluation counts more than anything. If they have offered a player, they really feel he can play, and that is what really counts.

Thus far, our national guys on the network feel the OU class is going to be a very good one. At this point the Sooners have commitments from some headliners and appear to be recruiting to needs as well.

If you want headliners then look no further then at cornerback where the Sooners have verbals from two All-Americans. Michael Hawkins (6'1, 170,4.4) of Carrollton Turner, Texas is the very best corner in Texas and a top ten player in the Lonestar State. The only reason why Hawkins recruitment didn't become an OU-Texas battle is because Hawkins never gave the Longhorns the time of day. It's been well-known that the Longhorns still call Hawkins all the time trying to convince him to visit. Hawkins says the only time he will see the burnt orange of Texas is when the Sooners line up against the Longhorns in the Cotton Bowl.

Jason Carter (6'0, 170, 4.4) of Jenks, Oklahoma is Hawkins equal and the very best in Oklahoma. Blessed with tremendous speed, Carter may also get a shot at going both ways as he is also a very talented wide receiver. Tennessee, Ohio State and Texas also desperately wanted Carter, but he loves the way OU plays in the secondary.

Let's stay in the secondary for another super blue-chip. Brodney Poole (6'3, 193, 4.5) of Houston Westbury, Texas has developed into one of the top safety prospects in the country. After OU offered the Longhorns came begging for a commitment, but Poole knew who really wanted him. Thanks to the Sooners first loyalty, they have one of the top safety prospects in the country.

Oklahoma could really round out this group if they can hold off Arkansas for All-American safety Vickiel Vaughn (6'0, 183, 4.4) of Plano West, Texas. Vaughn loved his December visit to OU and will visit Arkansas on January 25th.

Hawkins and Carter are considered two of the top 100 players in the country and if the Sooners can sign Vaughn they would have three DBs all ranked in the top 100 in the country.

Another super recruiting position for the Sooners is quarterback. Noah Allen (6'4, 215, 4.6) of Pearland and Paul Thompson (6'4, 190, 4.6) of Leander, Texas are top 100 talents in Texas. Thompson a top fifty prospect.

Early on Allen wasn't highly rated early in Texas. OU looked at him and offered him, despite the fact Vincent Young (the state's top player) had an interest in OU at that time. The Sooners felt that Allen was so good that they didn't need to wait and see if Young really had an interest. Then Thompson had an offer on the table from Texas to play wide receiver, however he was having a great year at quarterback and wanted an opportunity to play the position in college. Again, OU looked at tons of film and felt that Thompson could indeed be an outstanding quarterback in college. The Sooners loyalty once again paid off for a big-time recruit.

Both Allen and Thompson had fabulous senior seasons and OU has committed one of the top quarterback groups in the country.

Wide receiver wasn't a top priority early, but when the varsity corp began to show some cracks, OU decided to sign one or two if they were top prospects. Welcome Travis Wilson (6'3, 202, 4.4) of Carrollton Creekview, Texas, who ended the season ranked as the number two receiver in the Lonestar state. Blessed with big play potential, Wilson grabbed just 34 passes, but for 931 yards and 12 touchdowns. That is making something happen with, the football!

OU didn't need to sign a running back in this class either, so when they lost Selvyn Young to Texas the Sooners said, "so what?" Is Young better than KeJuan Jones or Donta Hickson? NO! However, the Sooners decided they did want to sign a fullback type and the state's ultimate winner in J.D. Runnells (6'1, 232, 4.6) of Midwest City Carl Albert was available.

This seems to be a match made in heaven as the Sooners need a fullback that will knock somebody's head off and Runnells may be the most physical player in the state. Runnells desperately wanted to come to OU and the Sooners created a spot for him. Signing Runnells won't hurt on the recruiting scale either and many national recruiting guru's have him rated very high.

OU has a definite need in the offensive line, but they are filling that need nicely. The first verbal the Sooners received this summer was from Texas top 25 talent Jeff Lebby (6'5, 270, 5.1) of Andrews, Texas. Lebby is one of the top five offensive linemen in Texas and getting his verbal was a great way to start the recruiting process.

Also coming out of that summer camp was a verbal from Steve Taylor (6'7, 320, 5.6) of Purcell, Oklahoma. Many times the best offensive linemen are not those with the highest ratings. OU has three days to work with Taylor and a whole junior year of film to study. The fact Taylor wasn't ranked by anybody didn't bother the Sooners. They saw him with their own eyes and watched how he moved with his great size. OU feels he will be a great one when he is done and that should be good enough for us.

Chris Messner (6'7, 240, 4.8) of Frederick, Oklahoma is regarded as one of the top athletes in the country and a top ten player in Oklahoma. OU was looking for a place to play him and when Messner agreed that he would love a career in the offensive line, the Sooners felt they had committed a Frank Romero clone. I realize that Messner is not as fast as Romero, but "Captain Frank" also doesn't have the skill to play quarterback that Messner has. Athletic ability is a wash between the two and the Sooners have a player with a tremendous upside.

Thus far the Sooners round out their offensive line with Abner Estrada (6'3, 270, 5.2) of Carrollton Turner, Texas. From what I have heard about Estrada, he may be the most determined player the Sooners sign. Nobody will play with a hotter fire in his belly than Estrada. You know he is a good one when Nebraska and Miami both offered him as well.

Robert Whitaker (6-6, 305, 5.1) of Pittsburgh, Pa. Mt. Lebanon is another excellent out-of-state line prospect that says he is 80 percent committed to Oklahoma.

Oklahoma once led for Waco, Texas offensive lineman Lequelan McDonald (6-5, 320, 5.3), but it now appears that he may be a slight lean to Baylor after visiting both the Sooners and the Bears.

The Sooners may add a couple more here before their recruiting is done. Texas top 100 talent Tony Ugoh (6'6, 270, 4.9) of Houston Westfield is a lean to the Sooners over Arizona State and Arkansas. Winston Justice (6'7, 300, 4.9) of Long Beach Poly, California has been hot and cold on the Sooners. At times he says he is visiting January 11 and other times he says he is visiting Fresno State. I guess we will know on January 11th. OU has a better shot at Ugoh than Justice in my opinion.

Kareem Brown (6'5, 280, 4.8) of Miami Norland, Florida and Davin Joseph (6'3, 275, 4.8) of Hallendale, Florida are two defensive linemen that could be great offensive linemen. Brown didn't play a down of football this fall, because of transfer rules, but is still regarded as one of the top forty players in Florida. OU will get a visit in January.

Joseph is rated as a top five down-line talent in Florida and is a lean to OU after visiting in December. Both could be great defensive tackles, ends, or could wind up as super athletic offensive linemen. Jackie Shipp is recruiting both players and both like the Sooner defensive line coach a great deal. You never count Coach Shipp out of situations such as these.

The Sooners had two tight ends on their board for most of the season, but at this point it appears that the OU may not sign a tight end in the this class.
Perry tight end Curtus Justus (6-7, 220, 4.5) shocked the Sooners when he chose Miami and it now appears that St. Paul, Minn. prospect Marcus Freeman (6-3, 230, 4.6) may be a lean to Notre Dame and is waiting for them to hire a new coach before he pulls the trigger.

Tight end was not a priority for this class, but if you can land a top prospect you can't turn him down in this offense. Losing Justus and Freeman may be a blessing in disguise for the Sooners. With the limited number of scholarships available OU can use that ship on another position where more depth is needed. Plus, the Sooners are still stacked at the position for several years to come with Trent Smith (Sr.), Lance Donley (Jr.), James Moses (Fr.) and Chris Chester (Fr.) already on campus.

We realize at that we are the first and only site to say that Michael Williams (6'4, 225, 4.6) of Lindale, Texas is committed to OU. However, this reporter may be the only person that Williams called to say that he is committed to OU. He has told our associate David Garvin at Heartland Recruiting that he is 90 percent certain that he will sign with OU.

We aren't stupid, so we realize until Williams tells everybody that he is going to Oklahoma there might still be some recruiting to be done by the Sooners, but then again he has told us he wants to be a Sooner and that counts with us. Until he tells me that he isn't committed to OU, we say he is. If he does indeed sign with OU then the Sooners have a top 20 player in Texas.

Calvin Thibodeaux (6'1, 240, 4.78) of Houston Westbury, Texas is a Cory Heinecke clone that just seems to want to win more than anybody else on the field. Notre Dame, LSU and Michigan also thought he was pretty good before learning that he had committed to the Sooners.

Larry Birdine (6'5, 245, 4.65) of Lawton Eisenhower, Oklahoma is ranked as a top five player in state and an outstanding football player. Brown could fit in here at defensive end, but the Sooners are hoping to add Zach Latimer (6'4, 210, 4.4) of Aurora Gateway, Colorado. Latimer has taken all of his visits, but still can't decide between OU, Miami and Colorado. This one is to close to call right now. Latimer could play linebacker or defensive end, but says he believes that he will be a defensive end in college.

Oklahoma still needs to add a linebacker if they can. OU has signed JUCO All-America Pasha Jackson (6'3, 232, 4.5) of San Francisco City College, Californiam who played strongside linebacker in junior college, but will try to play inside at OU. He played inside in high school and has grown big and strong enough to play inside.

Wayne Chambers (6'3, 235, 4.5) of Grandview, Missouri is a definite inside linebacker with tremendous ability. Many feel he is the best pure inside backer in the old Big Eight area.

Latimer might fit in here, but OU would feel very good about their linebacker situation if Rufus Alexander (6'2, 215, 4.45) of Baton Rouge Christian Life, Louisiana commits to the Sooners. OU is awaiting word from Alexander if he wants to be a Sooner, Longhorn or possibly an LSU Tiger.

Throw in Josh Roberts (6'0, 165, 4.6) of Malta, Montana, the nation's best place kicker, and already the Sooners have a very good recruiting class.

The Sooners still have shots at three outstanding skill guys. JeJuan Rankins (5'11, 160, 4.4) of Windsor-Bertie, North Carolina is regarded as one of the top 100 players in the country and has his choices narrowed down to OU and Georgia. Most like Rankins as a wide receiver, but he could also play somewhere in the secondary.

Edorian McCullough (5'11, 190, 4.3) of North Garland still plans to visit the Sooners in January. Texas A&M, Texas and Miami are also in the picture.

Kyle Brown (6'1, 195, 4.4) of West Bloomfield, Michigan is trying to decide between OU, USC and Michigan State. He won't decide until mid-Januarym after he visits Georgia Tech. Brown is rated as one of the top 100 players in the country, but is currently in rehab for a surgically repaired ACL.

I realize the reason why so many Sooner fans feel that the sky is falling is because OU is losing out on some top Texas kids to the University of Texas. All Sooner fans know that a big key to the Sooner football success is the signing of blue-chip talent out of Texas. When OU loses out to the Longhorns on top Texas talent, then many feel the Sooner's are doomed.

The Sooners losing recruiting battles on Tulley Janszen, Aaron Harris, Garnett Smith, Larry Dibbles, Justin Blalock, Rodrique Wright and Selvyn Young to Texas can send a Sooner fans head spinning. Then throw in the fact that the state of Oklahoma's top prospect, Bryan Pickryl, of Jenks committed to the Longhorns and then things can really look bad, if you don't really think through the situation.

Sure, the Sooners would love to sign each and every player listed above, but they won't so they move on. Remember OU has won recruiting battles against Texas for Thompson, Hawkins, Williams and Poole, and never really had a great shot at Pickryl.

I still say the loss that hurts the worse is JUCO middle linebacker Lance Mitchell to Florida.

OU is not going to sign the top players in Texas this year, but getting the top cornerback isn't bad and they have four others ranked in the top 50 and two more in the Texas top 100.

Four players are ranked among the top 100 in the country and OU signed one of the top twenty junior college players in the country in Jackson.

Yes, I know that Texas may have the top recruiting class in the country, but the Sooners will probably wind up in the top ten. A top ten class for the top coaching staff in the country is a combination that every program in the country would trade for.

So are things really that bad in recruiting? I say not, just look at the big picture and you will see that OU is doing just fine in recruiting.

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