One Week away from another Title Run?
Almost every college football team faces the same situation one week before the first kickoff. At the one week mark, coaches usually transition from 'practice mode' into' game mode.' The annual evolution is brought about by the pressures associated with big-time athletic budgets, salaries, and at places like Oklahoma — expectations built on tradition.
Manifestations of the change are evident by greater anxiety in practices, team meetings and finally on gameday, for not always are 'practice players,' particularly unproven newcomers, true 'gamers.' That one fact alone lets doubt creep in and makes the next seven days a week of uncertainty, fear and insomnia among college coaches and many players. And at Oklahoma, this symptom is even shared by many fans.
Last year, OU played several high-profile, yet untested newcomers. As usual, the response was mixed. While Adrian Peterson had the greatest freshman year in college football history, Marcus Walker had a good freshman campaign and Garrett Hartley saved the surprisingly woeful kicking duties. Several other highly touted first-year players, such as Chijioke Onyenegecha and Remi Ayodele, had what some would consider to be only 'average' first years.
The bottom line is that coaches, ready or not, must now decide on starters and prepare a final gameplan over the span of a few days, and then submit the plan to the team and make sure all assignments and details are understood and practiced in the last five days.
The most glaring necessary step this week was the naming of a starting quarterback.
OB Race - Over or Interrupted?
Although the quarterback race is far from over, Bob Stoops announced that Paul Thompson was the staff's choice to start Saturdays' season opener against TCU on Thursday. While Thompson was named the starter, he wasn't given the position outright as he will have to share a series or two or three or four with Rhett Bomar, who obviously is far more than an ordinary backup, as Stoops said the he will play 'early and often' in the contest.
"We felt, as a staff, that we are going to start Paul Thompson," said Coach Stoops after Thursday's practice. "We feel that he has earned it up to this point. What has really been positive from our point as a coaching staff is how both have competed well together and have remained supportive for one another for the team. That matters to me first — what is good for the team.
"We do believe though that Rhett has played well enough and is close enough that we do intend to get him snaps early in games, as well as late in games. I am not going to be exact on that, as I can't be today. That will be determined how both of them play, but I do believe that he deserves opportunities to continue to grow and work in a system. How that will work its way out, we will see. I can't tell you that today."
"So that is how we are going to go into it — with Paul," said Stoops. "We are going to work Rhett in to some extent and allow them to see how they play, how they do and how productive they are for the team."
Why then, in light of Thursday's announcement, do we assume that the race has not yet been permanently won by Thompson?
Some have said that the decision was a very difficult one for the staff and was almost decided by a coin flip. So in other words, we can assume that the race has not been won, only interrupted by an impending game and a practice schedule that demands an answer, even if temporary.
If it was truly decided, we contend that it would not have been announced that Rhett would play 'early and late' in the TCU contest. For we know that, at least in the past, Stoops and Chuck Long have seldom played a second team QB. For example, even when Jason White and Nate Hybl were fighting it out for the starting position, rarely did we see the second guy.
What we do not know yet is how the QB's will alternate.
Stoops and Long have both said that they dislike a two QB system, but like it or not they find themselves with two. Going by past games, Bob Stoops is a 'gut' guy. He follows his instincts, which are more often right than wrong. Our best guess at this time will be that he will not want to interrupt the flow of either, but Saturday's game may reveal the system, or merely prove one wrong.
In the first quarterback controversy between Jason White and Nate Hybl, the OU coaches decided against playing two quarterbacks. This time around in the battle between Thompson and Bomar, they have decided to play both, and the question is what's the difference in the two competitions?
"We always went into those first seasons wanting to play both quarterbacks if we could," said Long. "I always felt we left it open for the possibility of Jason White or Nate Hybl to get in and play. Sometimes it didn't work out that way. Our intentions were to try and play both. This time around we would like to definitely get Rhett into the game," coach Long said this week.
We contend that the race was 'eyelash close' and that the position is still open for assessment — with 'real-time' game action to be used as the final test. In order too secure the position, either QB will have to move the chains and avoid mistakes, costly turnovers, particularly in OU territory.
Thompson will now get more reps in practice and more work with the one's, but it is not going to be like last year when Jason White got exclusive work with the first unit. Bomar will also get some work with the first unit further keeping him alive in the race.
In reality, we still have a quarterback race. Yes, we have our first stage winner, and it is Thompson. However, if Bomar does play in the first half against TCU and then in the third quarter as well, then his play is more than of a backup quarterback. If he happens to play better in his quality time than Thompson does in his, then he can still be promoted. However, Thompson has more of an opportunity at this point to seal the job and hold on to it for the rest of the year. That is the reward for earning the starting nod.
Last year, Louisville started senior Stefan LeFors, but played freshman Brian Brohm in every game but one in the first half, and in a significant series or two in the second half. And all the Cardinals did was lead the nation in offense, so that system has proven to work and something similar could be used for Thompson and Bomar until this issue become more settled.
The system honors Thompson as a starter, but keeps Bomar in the race and keeps his hopes alive of eventually be the starter — something the OU coaches want to keep alive. However, for now Thompson is their man. That said — if you really want to pick it apart and give the coaches something to chew on, consider that Bomar had a better day at practice Thursday.
Offensive Look: Wide Receivers / Tight Ends
Although the QB race got most of the ink, we also have a good picture now of what the rest of the offensive unit will look like.
The Sooners will play rotate seven wide and slot receivers this season: Seniors Travis Wilson and Jejuan Rankins; redshirt freshmen Quentin Chaney and Lendy Holmes; and freshmen Malcolm Kelly, Manuel Johnson and Juaquin Iglesias.
At this time, Wilson and Rankins will start, most likely with Holmes or Chaney as the third receiver. Lendy Holmes will play a major role in the return game and the 6-foot-6 Chaney should provide undersized opposing cornerbacks several sleepless nights and even more headaches on game day. Kelly, who has been slowed by an injury, returned to practice this week and should star when he gets back into 'game mode.'
At tight end Bubba Moses and Joe Jon Finley will likely rotate, with Willie Roberts also seeing considerable action. Freshman Aaron Cummings has come in and been a pleasant surprise and may not red shirt, but that is still yet to be determined. Cummings runs well, has good hands and is already at 240 pounds. Kevin Sumlin said this week that none of his current guys, Moses, Williams or Joe Jon Finley, were 240 pounds when they got here.
"They were all about 220 and Joe Jon was 212. (Aaron) comes in here at 240, runs well and does some good things. We have used him quite a bit in two tight end sets this spring, and hopefully we can bring Aaron along. I think he is going to try to learn the system and get bigger and stronger, but we look for him to get some time later on."
O-Line Almost Set
Here's how the offensive line shakes out heading into the opener with TCU: Davin Joseph — who will anchor the left side of OU's O-line, almost always at tackle, but sometimes at guard; Akim Millington — who has worked hard to nail down the right tackle position; Chris Messner — has always been steady, but not very big, is finally up to a robust 290 and is playing well as the No. 3 OT. Either Duke Robinson and Branndon Braxton could play as the Sooners No. 4 OT if needed, although the coaches would prefer to redshirt both.
At guard, the always tough Chris Chester has also bulked up and looks much stronger. Chester's footwork and strength make him one of the best blockers on the team. We'll start him off at right guard, but he could play center as well. Senior Chris Bush has held OU's line together for half of the Stoops era and will do so a final time this year, most likely spending the season at center if there are no injuries to the guards. Senior Kelvin Chaisson has started for two years and will do so again this season at left guard.
There have been no real surprises on the O-line, but Davin Joseph has been played some at guard as late as this week. As we have reported for several weeks, freshman Jon Cooper or J.D. Quinn should be the first 'inside guys' off the bench in case of injury. A redshirt for Cooper looks unlikely at this time, although if he does not see action early, the coaches may try it. Eventually, Quinn and Cooper will both be future all-star candidates inside.
After speaking with coaches Friday Brandon Keith is now expected to rejoin the team, but coaches say that he won't be rushed back too soon and will almost certainly redshirt. Coaches have suggested giving Brandon plenty of space, and emphasizing his social and academic adjustment should take priority at the moment.
Running Back — A.D. the Cornerstone
Almost overlooked this fall has been 'Super Soph' Adrian Peterson. ESPN's Kirk Herbstreet was in town this week and he could not help but notice that perhaps Trev Alberts may have made a mistake by leaving AD off of his preseason Heisman Top Five candidates list. Herbstreit was visibly shocked to see a bigger, faster version of last year's phenom that rushed for 1,900 yards and finished second in the Heisman race as a freshman.
Not since Georgia's Hershel Walker, over 20 years ago, has a freshman running back created such a sensation. It will be an easy choice to hand off to Peterson for 30 carries a game. OU coaches know that the more they do, the more the opportunities in the passing game will open up. Pity the poor defense that decides to key on Peterson, or the one that chooses to ignore him.
Still, the defensive alignments will determine how many carries AD gets in a game. Some defenses may line up and dare Thompson and Bomar to deliver a long strike. But the Sooners are more likely to counter with slants and short routes that will challenge any defensive coordinator to keep his troupes focused and in position.
The bottom line is that Oklahoma has the best running back in the nation and will use him often.
In another surprising move this week, Dane Zaslaw has moved to the backup spot behind superstar J.D. Runnels.
"With Dane Zaslaw coming on right now, and he and (Matt) Clapp continue to improve, I think we have tremendous depth at the position. Russell Dennison is also a great athlete who has become a tremendous special teams player," coach Kevin Sumlin said this week."
Clapp may also see time, particularly on special teams, and will travel — but Zaslaw's progress has at least given coaches the option of a redshirt.
"Clapp is a big body that can run and do some things. Right now we are approaching it like he is going to play. He is involved in special teams and he getting turns with the one's and two's, so right now today that is kind of the plan. If something was to change in the next week or two I would be surprised, but right now that is the plan," Sumlin added.
Defensive Shuffles and Changes
Larry Birdine's season-ending injury was a huge setback to this team, but it will also provide an opportunity for someone to step up. Remember that a year ago Birdine was the big question at DE. Calvin Thibodeaux was ahead of Birdine yet suffered his season-ending injury at K-State, which provided the opportunity for Birdine. He did and never looked back.
Thibodeaux is back and will now start along with junior C.J. Ah You — giving the Sooners a 'bull rush' DE. The play of Ah You has been a god-send, particularly in light of Birdine's injury. Thankfully, John Williams has also been a pleasant surprise this fall and should be a solid No. 3 guy in a three-man rotation. With Alonzo Dotson being sidelined by academics, the fourth spot falls on redshirt freshman Alan Davis, (6-2, 245, 4.7), who needs to show that he is up to the challenge.
Before you ask if 'X' can be moved to DE, the short answer is 'no.' The lone possibility is starting middle linebacker Zach Latimer, who could rotate over to DE on certain passing downs, particularly when the Sooners are in a nickel or dime package. Coaches will experiment with this combo over the next several weeks.
Coaches do not seem to be alarmed by the future of te DE position, as it's likely that Birdine will return next year to enhance his pro possibilities, and junior college DE Tim Johnson is already committed. Coaches are also optimistic about the future of the two freshmen, Auston English and Brody Eldridge, but neither were recruited to play this year.
It is almost certain that this will put more immediate pressure on freshman Curtis Lofton. Don't be surprised if Lofton and Latimer share the MLB position, almost on a 50-50 basis partly due to the Birdine situation, but also because Lofton has been that dominant in fall drills, and at times is pushing Latimer to start.
Before we leave it, should another injury occur on the d-line, Redshirt freshman Cory Bennett is probably the one 'inside' guy that could be moved to DE and absolutely not give up the 'A' gap, particularly in short-yardage situations. We mention this not to suggest that he will move, but to point out that he has the talent and tenacity to man the position under certain circumstances.
Quarterback is not the only position where a starting job has not been secured. All DB positions are uncertain, and like QB, it's not because players have not stepped up, rather that the play has been encouraging and spirited. Bobby Jack Wright continues to move players around in order to get the best fit at each position.
The latest look has Marcus Walker reclaiming his starting position at the 'boundary' corner, backed by Eric Bassey. On the 'wide' or 'field' side, D.J Wolfe and Chijioke Onyenegecha are fighting it out, with Wolfe holding a slight advantage at the moment.
Coach Wright made several positions changes this week, but the question is will they stick? It's almost a starting eight-man unit, and almost every position is still somewhat heated. The most likely scenario is that eight or nine guys will rotate fairly frequently. We'll know for sure by the UCLA game, but for right now here's how we see the secondary lining up for TCU.
At safety, it's Lewis Baker and Reggie Smith currently neck and neck at SS and Darien Williams and Jason Carter locked in a battle at FS. Keenan Clayton will likely redshirt. Nic Harris will see action at FS and as the 'dime', with Reggie Smith currently the nickel back.
The elevation of younger players has sent Tony Cade, who has had some trouble picking up all the formation changes, into a wait and see situation with the team. He did meet with coaches this week where they encouraged him to continue to play a dominant role in special teams and vie for a starting spot next year. Cade apparently will take a few days to re-evaluate his status this weekend. At this time, his status is 50-50. In a case like this coaches hope the player sticks, if for no other reason than to participate with his teammates and graduate.
However, sometimes dreams die hard. And unlike Mark Bradley, who started only four games at OU yet was and the 39th pick in the NFL draft, many players believe they have to start for several years in order to attract the attention of NFL scouts.
Front Four - One Returns - One Setback
Although Dusty Dvoracek has been cleared for full contact, we expect him to play very sparingly against the Horned Frogs and come back 100 percent against Tulsa on September 10. That may have not been the case a week ago, but with Birdine injury, the coaches are suddenly overly cautious about their DL stars.
Dusty explained to James this week that...
"One of the biggest things that we use is our hands. We have to get our hands on an offensive lineman — that is how we control our man. We have to get our hands on him and push him or throw him. We are using our hands a lot. The doctors are worried about getting it, (bicep), over-extended and me trying to push against somebody, and then somebody pushing my arm the other way. I just want to take the precautions and make sure it doesn't pop back out."
"It is pain free, but the doctor said at the same time that there is still some concern. After another week and a half it will be the full time for recovery, and I will have a smaller chance of re-injuring the arm. There is always a chance of injury just like I injured it the first time, but the percentage has to be smaller than before I had the injury."
And what would Dusty say to those who maintain that the Sooners are now 'hurting' at DE?
"They're dead wrong. As far as talent and just skill guys, we are just as deep at that position as we are elsewhere. Like I said, John Williams, Calvin Thibodeaux, C.J. Ah You and even Alan Davis have been doing a great job. Coach (Chris Wilson) has them playing well and I really think they are going to come together."
And how about the loss of Birdine?
"Was a tough loss, but I think we are going to be OK there. C.J. Ah You is a huge guy and so is John Williams. Ah You has some of the best feet on the team and he weighs 270-plus pounds. He's put together very well, must be that Samoan blood line, because he can really run for a big guy.
"Thibs reminds me a lot of Dwight Freeney, short and small in stature but who gets off the ball better than anybody I've seen at Oklahoma. He is off the ball and at full speed in two or three steps. He is able to maneuver at the line of scrimmage and, because he is short, he is able to get leverage on guys. I think he is going to be big-time."
DeMarcus Granger remains a redshirt possibility, although the coaches would prefer to see him play this season. Granger still needs to drop a few pounds and increase his stamina, but is working hard to do so. Brian Simmons will also most likely redshirt.
Don't bet on it
The last time Bob Stoops gave longtime friend Jim Tressel any defensive advice, the Buckeye's went out and claimed a national title. It would be ironic if the Sooners and Bucks would meet up in Pasadena for this year's title game, but it could happen. Before we go on, note that Ohio State coaches have spent many days in Norman this summer and it's safe to say that they weren't here defensing Michigan.
That fact alone should worry Mack Brown and the UT faithful, who are confidant of a Longhorn victory in the Horseshoe. You can bet on this, Vince Young and Texas will not see the perplexing Michigan 'retreat and run' defense when the Horns visit Columbus in a couple of weeks.
Is Stoops being disloyal to the Big XII? No, his family's long standing relationship with Tressel dates back before his days at Oklahoma. In fact, Stoops' uncle and namesake, Bob Stoops, coached with Tressel at Youngstown State and remains close as well.
The BIG NEWS This Week - and Last Week
Myron Rolle - the nation's top recruit, finally lets the world know where he will land this Thursday, with an announcement scheduled on national television live from the Trump Casino in Atlantic City. For Oklahoma, it's been a long three-year chase as Myron was the youngest prospect to ever get an offer when he did so after a tremendous showing at OU's camp after his freshman year.
Myron talked to several hundred OU Insiders on 'Recruiting Chat' last Monday, and told us about his first encounter with an OU coach.
"After a day or so into the camp, I was getting a drink of water. Bobby Jack Wright walked up to me and grabbed me by each cheek. "Son," he said, "You're going to make one heck of a football player."
Ironically, Bobby Jack Wright now coaches defensive backs at Oklahoma. Rolle also talked about meeting another impressive young player, someone by the name of Reggie Smith, who was also having an outstanding camp.
"He was pretty impressive," Rolle said of the current OU freshman.
Within a day or so Rolle had an OU offer from Head Coach Bob Stoops, who said at the time that he didn't really realize that Rolle was only a high school freshman. What did that offer, coming from one of the best defensive secondary coaches in the country, mean to Myron?
"I was so excited. It made the drive all the way back to New Jersey seem like it took 10 minutes. When I got back home, none of my friends believed me."
Obviously, the Sooners are hoping that some of the excitement for Oklahoma will still be there Thursday evening. Other finalists in the Rolle sweepstakes are Florida, FSU, Penn State and Michigan. We'll put OU's chances at close to 50/50.
OU makes Final Four
While Rolle may command the Big News NEXT week, LAST week, however, it concerned yet another player born in the Bahamas, 6-foot-9, 330-pound Ian Symonette from Houston, who is rated among the nation's top two or three offensive linemen.
Symonette, who has spoken very little about recruiting thus far and has offers from every top program in the country, decided to narrow his choices down to a select four schools: LSU, Miami, Texas and Oklahoma.
Symonette, who hails from the Bahamas but moved to the United States last year, said, "I recently narrowed it down. The four I decided on are LSU, Miami, Oklahoma and Texas. And, I will officially visit those four. They cannot be matched."
"I looked at the level of the players, the coaches, the programs, "Symonette explained. "Also, I learned that these four teams are playing on T.V. regularly, going to the biggest bowl games, and are very successful when it comes to putting players in the League. Also, their academics match the level of excellence in athletics. I want a school providing an environment meeting both."
"I am very excited about taking my official visits, but I'm going to concentrate on the task at hand and then I will take my visits after the season."
OK Ian, but can we suggest a side trip to Dallas on October 8?
What Oklahoma hopes for is that their No. 1 target, Myron Rolle, commits Thursday evening and then recruits a fellow Bahamian to Norman. Would that be too much to ask for?
Other OL Recruits
Also narrowing down his list was Los Angeles offensive lineman Jovon Hayes, (6-2, 320, 5.3), from Los Angeles Dorsey. Hayes, who has over 30 offers, favors Arizona slightly over Florida, LSU, Oklahoma and Miami.
"Arizona is recruiting me the hardest," said Hayes. "They really want me and said that I'd be able to play early. I like coach Mike Stoops and he's real aggressive and he'll be turning them around. I expect them to win six or seven games this year."
Arizona is the only school he has visited so far, but he did attend the USC camp.
"I like Florida because they have great tradition and they are good every year. Coach Urban Meyer is really after me and I think that he'll do really well there," said Hayes. "Oklahoma also has great coaches. I really like their offense."
"I'll watch all five teams to see how they do. It will matter a little. I'd like to go to a school that is winning, or at least on the way up. After I take all five of my visits I'll make a decision. I want to visit with all the coaches and see if I can see myself there. How well I fit in will be important. I'll also look at how early I can play and check out their business program."
Indian Head (Md.) offensive lineman J.B. Walton (6-3, 270, 5.2) still favors OU, Penn State, Tennessee, Florida, Ohio State and Nebraska.
"All of the schools in my list are even for me right now. Penn State and Nebraska are the two schools that are recruiting me the hardest right now. I get a bunch of letters from both of those programs and they both make me feel really comfortable with them as well. "
Tampa offensive lineman Daron Rose (6-5, 310, 5.4) has schools from across the country chasing his signature. Rose is still shopping for the five schools he will take official visits to.
"I only know of two schools that I will visit right now Oklahoma and Florida State," said Rose.
At present, here is OU's offer list along the OL — listed in order of signing possibility — as of this date:
Cory Brandon - (16) (6-6 / 255, 5.1), Corsicana, TX; (Committed to Oklahoma)
Curtis Bailey - (Top 25), (6-6 / 350 / 5.6), Dallas Carter;
Ian Symonette - (3), (6-9 / 330), St. Pius X HS, Houston, TX;
Antonio Logan-El - (10) (6-6 / 320 / 5.2), Forestville, MD.
J. B. Walton - (Top 25) (6-3 / 270 / 5.1, Indian Head, MD;
Matt Allen - (UR) (6-3½, / 280 / 5.3), Klein (Collins), TX.
Jim Barrie - (UR) (6-5 / 305), Tampa, FL;
Daniel Wenger - (Top 25) (6-4 / 285 / 5.3), Fort Lauderdale, FL;
Lee Tilley - (15) (6-5 / 321), Springfield, OH;
Maurice Hurt - (UR) (6'3½ / 340 / 5.7), Baldwin, GA;
Kendrick Ellis - (DT - OL) (6-5 / 320 / 5.0) West Palm Beach, FL;
Jovon Hayes - (Top 25) (6-2½ / 320 / 5.3), L.A. Dorsey, CA;
Marcus Gilbert - (UR) (6'6½, 285, 4.9), Fort Lauderdale, (St. Thomas Aquinas), FL;
Butch Lewis - (13) (6'6 / 280 / 4.8) , Denver (Regis Jesuit), CO;
Andre Smith (1) (6-4 / 315), Birmingham, AL;
Matt Carufel - (9) (6-5 / 288) , Saint Paul, MN;
Daron Rose - (6-5 / 310 / 5.4), Tampa, FL;
Steve Schilling (2) (6-5 / 290), Bellevue, WA;
Aaron Brown- (17) (6-6 / 283 / 5.1) OT Cincinnati, (Princeton), OH;
Cruz Barrett - (UR) (6-4 / 315), Daytona Beach, FL;
Phillip Taylor (OT / DT) (6-4 / 340 / 5.1) Brandywine, MD;
Chase Beeler - (UR) (6-3 / 275), Jenks, OK; should get a Sooner offer before the summer is over
Doug Stroud, (6-7 / 345), Shreveport, (Evangel Christian LA); expected to get an OU offer.
Adams, Jeff (6-7 / 300 / ) Cadiz, KY;
OU Offer List - Receivers
In the last two weeks, Oklahoma has stepped up their recruiting at tight end, offering Minnesota prospect Jordan McMichael (6-6, 235, 4.7) two weeks ago and Tampa, Florida TE Trent Pupello (6-3, 255, 4.7) last week. They are also looking at Lexington, Ky. tight end Sam Gardner, but contrary to reports on the Scout network and other places, have not yet extended an offer. The 6-foot-5, 255-pound tight end prospect is also receiving interest from Nebraska, Michigan State, Louisville, Kentucky Cincinnati and Clemson.
Ocean Springs, Miss. tight end Richard Dickson (6-4, 238, 4.7), one of the top tight ends in the south, narrowed his list to ten this week.
"I've got it down to Michigan State, LSU, Florida, Ole Miss, Auburn, Tennessee, Florida, Florida State, Oklahoma and Miami," Dickson said. "I put down my pros and cons on a piece of paper for each school and got it down some. Before I make any more cuts I want to see how these teams do because some of them have new coaches."
At present, here is OU's offer list at WR and TE — listed in order of signing possibility — as of this date:
Adron Tennell - (16) (6-4 / 180 / 4.5), Irving, TX; (Committed to Oklahoma)
Jeremy Maclin - (UR) (6-0 / 180 / 4.4), Kirkwood, MO; (Committed to Oklahoma)
Brandon Caleb (UR) (6-1 / 195 / 4.5), Atlanta, GA; (Committed to Oklahoma)
Terrell Reese - (13) (6-4 / 200 / 4.5), Pflugerville, TX;
Jermaine Gresham - (9 TE) (6-7 / 235 / 4.7), Ardmore, OK;
Jeff Cumberland (4 - WR TE / DE/ LB) (6-4.5 / 221 / 4.47), Columbus, Brookhaven, OH;
Na Derris Ward - (3 TE) (6-5 / 245 / 4.8) Oakland, (McClymonds) CA;
Jordan McMichael - (UR TE) (6-5, 230, 4.7), Minneapolis, MN
Wesley Lyons, (UR WR /DB) (6-5 / 205 / 4.5), Pittsburgh, (Woodland Hills), PA;
Trent Pupello, (UR TE) (6-3 / 255 / 4.7), Tampa, (Jefferson), FL:
Richard Dickson - (UR TE / DE) (6-4 / 238 / 4.7), Ocean Springs, MS;
Damon McDaniel - (UR), WR / RB (6'0 / 195 / 4.4), Virginia Beach, VA;
Tony Wilson - (14 CB) (6-0 / 175 / 4.45), Dayton, Fla.
Markeith Summers (UR) (6-4 / 190 / 4.6), Olive Branch, MS;
Konrad Reuland (2 TE) (6-6 / 240 / 4.7), San Juan Capistrano, CA
Andrey Baskins - (UR) (6-4 / 200 / 4.6) Camden, N.J.;
Jarred Fayson - (8 WR) (6-0 / 195 / 4.4) Tampa, FL;
Defensive Back offer list - OU expected to take four
Waco defensive back Perrish Cox (6-0, 170, 4.45) is very high on OU's list and has set up an official visit to Norman next month for the K-State game.
"At this point, Oklahoma and LSU are still my top two teams over Oklahoma State, Nebraska and Baylor," said Cox.
"Right now Oklahoma State is recruiting me the hardest. They send me text messages and letters pretty much every day, and I'm in contact with their entire coaching staff. I really don't know how I feel about their program though. I should figure out more on them on that official visit in January," he said.
Cornerback Devin Ross (5-11, 180, 4.4) from Rancho Cucamonga Calif. remains completely open, but says he'll be narrowing down his list soon.
"I'm still pretty open right now. I'll have my top five by the end of August. I'll be looking at how well the team gets along and how they all interact with each other," said Ross. "Right now I just need some time to think about everything. There are so many schools I like, but I can only visit five, so it's an important decision."
Ross has already set up an official visit to Nebraska for September 20th. "They were one of the first schools to offer me, so I decided to go up there and check them out. I'm curious to see what it's like there. I may also visit Washington, Oklahoma, Oregon, Arizona."
Ross has a bit of work to do academically, but should qualify.
Another Californian, running back/defensive back C.J. Gable (6-1, 190, 4.5), said USC now has shot in front of Washington, Miami, LSU, Florida and Oklahoma.
"Right now, they've got a big lead, and if I had to say it, there's about an 80% chance that I'll be going there," he said. "Washington has really started to climb in there as well. I'd say that they're my #2 school right now, and Miami is #3. I like the way they run everything there, and I like their 'man' defense. If I were to go there, I'd probably play defense. I'm still interested in LSU, Oklahoma and Florida. I haven't set up any official visits yet, but I'm in the process of getting it done. I'd like to get them all set up before the first game of the season," (Sept 9).
OU's offer list at defensive back — listed in order of signing possibility as of this date:
James Henry - (7 - S) (6'2 / 205 / 4.5), Schertz (Clemens), TX; (Committed to Oklahoma)
Jonathan Nelson - (13 CB) (6'0 / 175 / 4.4), of Mansfield, TX; (Committed to Oklahoma)
Myron Rolle - (1 overall / 1 - S) (6-2 / 210 / 4.5), The Hun School, Princeton, NJ;
Perrish Cox - (5 CB) (6'0 / 175 / 4.4), Waco, Texas:
Terrance Anderson - (UR) (5-10 / 161), Houston, (Aldine Nimitz), TX;
Jashaad Gaines - (UR) (6'0, 198, 4.5), Las Vegas High, NV;
Jai Eugene - (1 CB) (5-11 / 185 / 4.4), Destrehan, LA ;
A.J. Wallace - (UR) (6-1 / 195), Pomfret, MD.
Reshad Jones - (13 - S) (6-2 / 177 / 4.5), Atlanta, (Washington), GA:
Jonas Mouton (4 S) (6-2, 212, 4.6), L.A. CA;
Devin Ross - (2 CB) RB / CB (5-11 / 180 / 4.4), Rancho Cucamonga, CA;
Darian Hagen - (4 CB) (6-1 / 186), L.A. CA;
C.J. Gable - (6 RB) RB / DB (6-1 / 190 / 4.5) - Sylmar, CA;
OU Offer List - Defensive Line
With three DL commitments in the bag, Oklahoma has three slots open. Obviously, OKC Southeast product Gerald McCoy tops the Sooners wish list, and you can bet OU will hold one here.
Defensive tackle Phillip Taylor (6-4, 340, 5.1) is yet another Maryland prospect, and one we've not talked too much about, but the Sooners are still on his radar screen.
"I have a top five or six and a top three that is sticking out the most to me right now. My top three are Maryland, Penn State and Virginia Tech, following them are Florida, Tennessee and Oklahoma. As of right now, I don't have a No. 1 team. I have a top three, but all six schools still have a good chance to sign me."
"The thing about Oklahoma that I like is that they have the No. 1 offensive line in the nation, yet they always have great defensive lines as well. Oklahoma is a great linemen school. I want to visit Oklahoma, but I have to talk that over with my parents. I have a serious interest in OU, but I have to check things out with my parents and see what their thoughts are."
Muskogee's Derek Burton will probably choose between his family's school, OSU, and a newcomer Oklahoma.
"I only have eight official offers and I don't want to cut anybody right now. I have been offered by Tulsa, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, and Tennessee."
"My dad went to Oklahoma State, so I have been Orange and Black for a long time. I like watching them play. Then Oklahoma is always winning something and I love watching them play. Oklahoma is a great program and those two teams are probably my favorite teams."
Brandon Antwine (6-0, 271, 5.1), the Garland, Texas DT did not make it to Norman this summer as planned.
"I was supposed to make some unofficial visits to Oklahoma and Texas Tech this summer, but we had some family things come up and I wasn't able to get out and make those visits."
Antwine has just over 50 offers but already has a short list.
"My top three schools right now are USC, Florida and OU," and adds that Tennessee and Wisconsin follow the top three. "I really won't know what separates those three top schools until I take my visits. I plan on taking all five of my visits, but rigt now I'd say that USC leads."
At present, here is OU's offer list at DT and DE — listed in order of signing possibility — as of this date:
Pryce Macon - (Top 30 DT) (6-1 / 261 / 4.7), Corpus Christi, TX. (Committed to Oklahoma)
Jeremy Gibbs, (JC DT) (6'4 / 285 / 4.8) , Northeastern A&M, OK; (Committed to Oklahoma)
Tim Johnson - (JC DE) (6'5 / 265 / 4.7), Northeastern A&M, OK; (Committed to Oklahoma)
Gerald McCoy - (2 DT) (6-4 / 280), OKC Southeast;
Derek Burton - (Top 25) (6-3 / 250), Muskogee, OK;
Chaz Washington - (Top 25 DT) (6-3 / 288 / 5.0), Destrehan, LA;
Ugo Chinasa (13 DE) (6-5 / 230), Richardson, TX;
Brandon Antwine - (14 DT) (6-2 / 270 / 4.8) , Garland, TX;
Louis Holmes - (JC) (6-6 / 270), Scottsdale, AZ;
Jeff Miller - (UR DE) (6-6 / 235) Westlake Village, CA;
Ellis, Kendrick (DT - OL) (6-5 / 320 / 5.0) West Palm Beach, FL;
Greg Banks - (UR DE) (6-5 / 260 / 4.8) , Denver, CO;
Jared Odrick (19 OL / DL) (6'6, 290, 4.9), Lebanon, Pa (also listed at OL)
Jermaine Cunningham - (14 DE) (6-4 / 220) Stone Mountain, GA;
Lamar Houston - (10 DT) (6-4 / 257 / 4.8) , Colorado Springs, CO
Aleric Mullins - (15 DT) (6-2 / 295 / 4.9) Wendell, N.C.
Phillip Taylor, (UR DT) (6-4, 340, 5.1), Brandywine, MD;
Audie Augustine - (UR TE / DE), (6-3 / 226 / 4.6), Ft. Lauderdale, FL;
Josh Minton - (10 DE) (6-4 / 247) Pulaski Co, KY.
Adam Patterson - (UR) (6'3 / 260 / 4.6), Columbia, South Carolina
OU Offer List — Running Back
Virginia running back Evan Royster (6-0, 190, 4.45) now maintains his top five schools are Oklahoma, Nebraska, Florida, Tennessee and Alabama. He has visited once, and returns to Norman Friday for an official visit.
"Oklahoma and Nebraska are recruiting me the hardest right now. I just get more text messages from them and letters as well. I also call those coaches on a regular basis. I went to OU for an unofficial visit before I set up that official and had such a great time that I decided to go back there for another night or two for an official. They've got some great players and I got to meet a lot of them already. And their coaching staff is also really cool too," said Royster.
"Nebraska's unofficial was pretty good. It was everything I expected out of a big football city and more. I also really like all the new things they're adding to their stadium and to the program."
Chris Brown, from Alexandria High School in Louisiana, is one of the top running backs in the South and, as former teammate Nic Harris warned, is starting to gather national attention.
"My top three are Alabama, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. Those three are all equal right now. I also like Mississippi State," Brown added.
He discussed his three favorites this week.
"I have never visited the Alabama campus, but everyone around here tells me I need to take the Alabama offer. They have had a lot of good running backs go through there before. Everyone has said how nice the community in Tuscaloosa is and how I would really like it."
Arkansas: "When I went to their camp I thought they had nice facilities. I met Coach Houston Nutt and he seemed very interested in me. Oklahoma has a good running back program. They have lot of young backs right now. One of my former teammates [Nic Harris] plays free safety there. I have talked to the coaches and they have said all my favorite schools are great schools. They said it will come down to the community and players I like the most. They have said they believe I will like it more at Oklahoma."
When asked the time-frame for his decision Brown responded, "I haven't set a deadline or anything. I want to wait until after the season. The season is over in November unless we play for the state championship in December. Hopefully, I will decide in December."
Las Vegas running back DeMarco Murray (6-1, 185, 4.5), has been at the top of OU's board for several months, and apparently the feeling — at the moment — is mutual. This week Murray said he favors Oklahoma, slightly over Florida, USC, Miami, Michigan, Texas A&M and South Carolina.
"I'm not sure whether I'm really a running back or a defensive back in college. I prefer running back and most all the schools that have offered me, want me for running back," said the gamebreaker from Bishop Gorman High School. "Michigan is the only school that seems to want me for defense. They seem to like my size for the secondary. But they've also said I could help them on either side of the ball.
"I would say that Oklahoma is a very, very small leader. I've been to their campus, as well as to Florida's and USC's. Those are the only schools I've been to so far. But I do have family that lives down around A&M and I know my parents would probably like to see me go there for that reason. But that won't be a big factor with me.
"I have a close relationship with (Bob) Stoops and (Cale) Gundy at Oklahoma," he said. "Stoops is a great coach who knows about the game. I can see myself getting along with them and playing there.
"I will probably announce my decision as the Army All-American game (sponsored by Scout.com). Even if I decide earlier, I'll wait and announce it then. It'll be good to do it that way," he explained.
Many wonder why Murray is so highly ranked, but his weight room numbers tell the story, as says he bench presses 265, squats 465 and has a 39-inch vertical.
At present, here is OU's offer list at RB — listed in order of signing possibility — as of this date:
DeMarco Murray - (8) (6-0 / 180 / 4.5), Las Vegas (Gorman), NV;
Chris Brown - (UR) (5-11 / 195 / 4.4), Alexandria, LA;
Evan Royster - (UR) (6-0 / 190 / 4.4), Chantilly, VA;
Knowshon Moreno - (10) (6-0 / 195 / 4.5), Middletown, NJ;
LeSean McCoy - (2) (5-11 / 206 / 4.4), Harrisburg, PA;
Stafon Johnson - (3) (6-0 /200 / 4.5), L.A. Dorsey, CA;
C.J. Gable - (6) (6-1 / 190 / 4.5), Sylmar, CA; (also a top DB)
Javarris James - (Top 25) (6-1 / 205 / 4.5), Immokalee, FL.
Mon Williams - (UR) (6-1 / 190 / 4.5), Mesquite, TX;
Linebackers — OU expected to take three
The trend in both college and high school football is for more speed at the linebacker position. This has resulted in more top-rated linebackers checking in at 6-0 or 6-1 and somewhat lighter weights than the average LB prospect three or four years ago.
Oklahoma is certainly after several of the somewhat smaller 'speed' guys, but a couple of big prospects are also high are on their board. One big LB recruit is Brandon Spikes (6-4, 230) of Shelby, N.C.
About his college choices, Spikes says; "I am really wide open and I am looking for a school where I can play early. If I have an opportunity to play early, then I would consider that school. I know I am mentally ready for college football, all I need is an opportunity. I am looking at Tennessee, Oklahoma, Florida, N.C. State, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Virginia, LSU, Georgia Tech and Clemson."
"I like OU a lot. I just want to get out to Norman and check them out and see what it is like. Location isn't really factor or me or distance, but I just want to see what Norman is like — what the campus is like and to check out their program. I love Coach (Brent) Venables. I really like him a lot and know that he is one of the best linebacker coaches in the country. I think I will take an official visit to Oklahoma."
Toryan Smith (6-0, 241, 4.8) of Rome, Ga. has been described by recruiters as a 'very solid - safe choice,' as he always knows where to position himself and rarely makes mistakes from his MLB position.
On recruiting Smith says; "I haven't narrowed down my choices yet, but I am going to a bunch of different games. I want to see those games before I start to narrow my choices down. I am going to attend games at LSU, Tennessee, Michigan, Oklahoma, Florida, Nebraska and Notre Dame, maybe a couple of others."
The Sooners get the first shot, as Smith will head to Norman Friday for the TCU contest.
"There are seven or eight teams that I am still looking at, and I would say that Oklahoma is one of my top three teams. I think they have a great linebacker program and I think I can come in and play during my early years. I like Coach (Brent) Venables and Coach (Bob) Stoops. I think they have a great program."
Still, Morgan, Lewis, Spikes, Bradford and Tatum still top OU's national shopping list.
OU's offer list at linebacker — listed in order of signing possibility as of this date:
Mike Morgan - (Top 25) (6-3½, / 185 / 4.6); Dallas (Skyline);
Anthony Lewis - (17) (6-2½, / 220 / 4.6), Haltom City, TX;
Brandon Spikes (12) (6-4 / 230 / 4.6), Shelby, NC
Allen Bradford (1) (6-0 / 222 / 4.5), Colton, CA.
Joshua Tatum (4) (6-2 / 220 / 4.5), Oakland, CA;
Toryan Smith (UR) (6-0 / 241 / 4.8) , Rome, GA;
Morrice Richardson - (UR) (6'1½ / 228 / 4.7), Atlanta (Westlake), Georgia;
Mark Johnson - (10) (6-3 ½ / 230 / 4.4), Los Angeles Dorsey
Jarrell Miller (9) (6-3 / 235), Highland Springs, VA;
Navorro Bowman - (15) (6'2 / 218 / 4.6), Forestville, (Suitland), Maryland.
Marcus Ball (7) (6-0 / 208 / 4.4), from Stone Mountain, GA.
Bo Harris - (18) (6-2 / 210 / 4.65); Conyers, GA.
OUInsider Weekend Wrapup (8/27)
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